The AAP Punjab government is working hard and smart to reduce stubble burning in the state of Punjab.
Stubble burning in states of Punjab and Haryana are a big contributor to air pollution in North India, and especially in the national capital, in the months of October and November. After harvesting paddy, farmers set their fields on fire to quickly clear the crop residue before cultivating wheat and potato. Punjab produces roughly 185 lakh tonnes of paddy crop residue every year. Of this, 49% is managed in-situ (mixing the residue in the soil) and ex-situ (used as fuel) methods and the rest is set ablaze.
Current State of Stubble Burning in Punjab
According to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Punjab reported 71,304 farm fires between 15th Sep and 30th Nov in 2021, and 83,002 farm fires in 2020. As per studies, last year, as a result of crop stubble burning in the states neighbouring Delhi, the share of farm fires in Delhi’s PM 2.5 pollution had peaked to 48% by 7th Nov 2021.
According to an analysis by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, people in the national capital breathe the worst air between 1st and 15th Nov every year, as unhelpful meteorological conditions trap the pollution – pollutants from local sources as well as the smoke from the stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana.
Delhi and Punjab governments collaborate to find a solution
In July 2022, the Punjab and Delhi governments had together proposed a scheme to give Punjab’s farmers ₹2,500 per acre as an incentive for not burning crop residue during the kharif harvest season. On 27th July 2022, the Punjab government had sent the proposal to CAQM – Commission for Air Quality Management.
“The Punjab government has sent a proposal to the CAQM to give cash incentives to farmers in the state for not burning stubble. The proposal says that Delhi and Punjab should give ₹500 each and the Centre should provide ₹1,500. The Delhi government will do whatever is needed to curb air pollution.” – Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief Minister (Link)
However, the Central govt refused to contribute to the proposal. As a result, the incentive, which was initially set at ₹2,500 per acre, is likely to come down to ₹1,000 per acre.
“We had sought a support of ₹1,125 crore from the Union government in the total outlay of ₹1,875 crore while ₹375 crore each was to be contributed by Punjab and Delhi governments. Now, we have received a communication from the ministry of agriculture that our proposal has been rejected.” – VK Janjua, Punjab Chief Secretary (Link)
The governments of Punjab and Delhi are now working on finalising the monetary incentive for farmers. The Punjab government had kept an outlay of ₹200 crore in its budget this year to check the menace of stubble burning.
Solutions proposed by AAP Punjab govt
A> Distribution of Machines
The AAP Punjab government will distribute 56,000 machines for in-situ management of stubble this season, taking the total tally of machines to 1,46,422 machines. (90,422 machines were already given to farmers during the period 2018-2022.)
The program of machine distribution is significantly different from previous years – now small farmers would also get machines like super seeder, happy seeder, zero drill etc.
500 such equipment will be sent to 154 blocks of state.
A 15 days deadline has been extended for farmers to apply for subsidy on the Happy Seeder so that the maximum number of farmers can plant wheat and avoid stubble burning through use of the Happy Seeder. The marginal farmers are being allowed the use of the Happy Seeder machines free of cost.
B> Bio-decomposer solution to dissolve the stubble
As a pilot project, the Agriculture Department will also spray 5000 acres with the D-decomposer solution that will dissolve the stubble and cause it to get absorbed in the soil.
C> Field Visits for sensitizing farmers
From 15th Sep 2022, all the officers and employees of the Agriculture Department would be doing visits to fields. They will conduct a door-to-door program aimed at sensitising the farmers against stubble burning.
D> Consultation with experts
The AAP government under the leadership of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann is looking for effective ways to find ways to use straw as fuel and make it a source of income for farmers.
On 19th Sept 2022, four top cabinet ministers of the AAP Punjab Bhagwant Mann government on Monday got together with experts to formulate a joint strategy to deal with stubble burning and safeguard the environment. The Ministerial Group emphasized the need to find urgent initiatives to conserve stubble besides encouraging the use of stubble as fuel and preparation of stubble as compost without burning.
The meeting was attended by Dr. Sukhpal Singh Chairman of the Farmer Commission, Prof. Adarsh Paul Punjab Pollution Control Board Chairman Vig and Karunesh Garg Member Secretary Engineer, Dr. SS Gosal Vice Chancellor Punjab Agriculture University Ludhiana, Dr. Arvind Vice Chancellor of Punjabi University Patiala and Jaspal Singh Sandhu Vice Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar, Arpit Shukla ADGP and Gurvinder Singh Director Agriculture suggested vital ideas for handling paddy straw without burning and using it as fuel.
E> Power Generation from stubble straw
On 15th Sep, Environment, Science and Technology Minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer distributed Rs 3 crores to farmers who had sold paddy straw for generation of electricity instead of burning it. This will significantly encourage commercial use of paddy in electricity generation. With this, farmers can earn upto Rs. 3000 per acre through the conversion of straw from a problem to an income source.
F> Stubble Straw mandatory in Brick Making
The AAP govt is also considering making it mandatory for a certain percentage of the raw material used for making bricks in brick kilns to be paddy straw. This will be eco-friendly, income-generating and sustainable in the long term.
G> Bio-CNG from Stubble Straw
Verbio India recently commissioned a Bio-CNG project of 33 TPD capacity in Punjab which is a great way to solve the problem of stubble burning. Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann has invited Mr. Claus Sauter, Founder and CEO of Verbio AG, to the Progressive Punjab Investors’ Summit to be held on 23rd and 24th Feb 2023 to explore the viability of more such Bio-CNG projects in Punjab.
H> Mega Awareness Campaign
On 19th Sept 2022, four top cabinet ministers of the AAP Punjab government – Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, Higher Education and Environment Minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer, New and Renewable Energy Minister Aman Arora and School Education Minister Harjot Bains – chalked out a comprehensive plan for a “Mega Awareness Campaign” across the state to make farmers aware of the ill effects of paddy stubble burning and its management.
The massive awareness drive to encourage the farmers to wholeheartedly adopt in-situ crop residue management is planned in the rural belt of Punjab in September and October with the help of the officials of rural development and panchayat, environment departments, NGOs, students of schools and colleges and others.
I> Education as a driver for curbing stubble burning
On 13th Sept 2022, the Punjab School Education Department together with the State Educational Research and Training Council organized a special lecture through Eduset to disseminate information among teachers and students about the adverse effects of stubble burning.
(Updated till 22nd Sep 2022)