Farm fires in Punjab and Haryana increased drastically in the past 24 hours and the share of stubble burning in Delhi's air pollution may touch this year's peak value now, the city government said on Tuesday.
The stubble plume from northwest regions has become one of the significant factors adversely affecting Delhi's air quality, it said in a statement, issued along with NASA satellite imagery and stubble burning-related projections of the Ministry of Earth Sciences' air quality monitor, SAFAR.
Latest NASA images show a drastic spurt in crop residue burning in the two neighbouring states, which has severely affected Delhi's air quality, the Delhi government said.
"The effective stubble fire counts in Haryana and Punjab have increased from 1,654 to 2,577 in the past 24 hours, which is a matter of extreme concern for the residents of Delhi," it said.
The government said the transport-level wind direction was north-westerly on Tuesday, which might increase the share of stubble plume in Delhi's pollution.
"As per SAFAR model, the stubble share may touch this year's peak value now," it said.
Punjab and Haryana have recorded an increase of at least 2,400 farm fires, a major contributor to the air pollution, till October 27, according to government data.
The number of farm fires surged despite the central government issuing strict directions to Haryana and Punjab last week to stop stubble burning completely.
SAFAR on Tuesday predicted that the share of smoke from stubble burning in Delhi's PM 2.5 concentration is likely to jump to 29 percent on Wednesday. It was 25 percent on Monday.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to Punjab and Haryana to take concrete steps against stubble burning to prevent the national capital from becoming a "gas chamber".
The period between October 15 and November 15 is considered critical as maximum number of stubble burning incidents take place in this span in Punjab and adjoining states.
Despite a ban on stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, farmers continue to defy it because of lack of financial incentives.
State governments have been providing 50-80 per cent subsidy to farmers and cooperative societies to buy modern farm equipment for in-situ management of paddy straw, and running a massive awareness campaign against stubble burning.
The governments have also been issuing challans against farmers found burning crop residue based on the size of land they own under a 2015 order of the National Green Tribunal.
However the Punjab and Haryana High Court's September 19 order, staying the recovery of fine from farmers found violating the ban on stubble burning, has subdued the effect of challans, a Punjab government official told PTI.