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Punjab submits State Action Plan & District Plans to deal with stubble burning

By TIOL News Service

NEW DELHI, SEP 27, 2023: WITH the aim of significant reduction in incidents of paddy stubble burning in Punjab through enforcement of the State and District Action Plans including effective utilization of the crop residue management (CRM) machineries, the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR & Adjoining Areas (CAQM), has comprehensively reviewed the preparedness of the Punjab Government on 21st September, 2023.

During the latest meeting, State Government Secretaries In-charge of Departments concerned including Department of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) and District Collectors (DCs) concerned assured the Commission to take all necessary steps, actions and measures in right earnest to effectively implement the State Action Plan and District Action Plans to achieve significant reduction stubble burning incidents during the current paddy harvesting season. The State Action Plan envisages at least 50% reduction in fire counts in Punjab during 2023 compared to last year. The plan attempts elimination of paddy stubble burning cases this year in 06 Districts namely Hoshiarpur, Malerkotla, Pathankot, Rupnagar, SAS Nagar (Mohali) and SBS Nagar.

As per the State Action Plan of Punjab, the total area under Paddy is estimated to be about 31 lakh hectares and paddy straw generation is expected to be around 20 Million Tonnes (MT), this year. The paddy straw generation from non-basmati crop is about 16 MT. Efforts are being made to use the paddy straw for various industrial and energy generation projects. It is estimated that in 2023, State envisages to manage around 11.5 MT of paddy straw through In-situ management and about 4.67 MT of paddy straw through Ex-situ management. Sizable quantity of straw will also be used as cattle fodder.

The Commission asked for a detailed mapping of the available Crop Residue Management (CRM) machines and their optimal utilization and availability, particularly for small/ marginal farmers. Punjab currently has 1,17,672 CRM Machines and around 23,792 Custom Hiring Centers (CHCs) have been established in Punjab. The State has further planned to procure more than 23,000 machines during 2023. Further, mobile apps like i-Khet (for facilitating farmers to have access to the agriculture machinery/ equipment for In-situ management of crop residue), and “Cooperative Machinery Tracker” are in place to ensure availability of CRM machines.

In Ex-situ management, the paddy straw generated is to be used in:

- Briquetting/ Pelleting plants [Punjab Govt. has issued notifications u/s 5 of Environment (Protection) Act for mandatory co-firing of 20% coal with paddy straw based pellets in Brick Kiln w.e.f. 01.05.2023];

- Bio-ethanol plants;

- Biomass based power plants;

- CBG Plants;

- Cardboard factories etc.

The State Government has also identified land parcels for enhancing straw storage capacity.

In the review meeting held on 21 st September, 2023, DCs of Punjab assured that mechanisms are in place towards management of straw in their respective districts through In-situ and Ex-situ management. State Govt. plans application of Bio Decomposer in 8,000 acres of paddy area.

Various IEC activities are being conducted in Punjab to spread awareness towards substantial reduction of paddy residue burning during the current harvesting season. IEC activities include painting of walls in the villages with slogans, print media advertisements, hoardings and panels at prominent places, publicity/ awareness message in the villages, awareness/ educative programs in schools, pamphlets and leaflets to farmers, awareness Jingles on Radio Channels, display boards, etc.  Progressive farmers will also be felicitated and asked to sensitize other farmers to ensure ‘no burning' of paddy straw.

As per the data of 2022, the five districts of Punjab where maximum crop burning incidents reported were Sangrur, Bathinda, Firozpur, Muktasar and Moga, which recorded about 44% of total fire counts of State.

Four meetings have already been held by the Commission to firm up the action plan and to review the preparedness and implementation of State and District Action Plans for the current paddy harvesting season. This year, CAQM has also sought specific District-wise Action Plans along with the State Action Plan. The Commission has also issued Statutory Directions for strict implementation of the Action Plans.

State Government representatives including PPCB and DCs have assured that all preparations are in place to bring down the cases of stubble burning in the State.  With the State Action Plan for control on paddy stubble burning in place including dedicated District-level plans, it is expected that Punjab will witness substantial reduction in the paddy stubble burning cases 2023.