In a major step to check stubble burning during the paddy season, Punjab on Thursday decided to permit certain categories of industries to install paddy straw-fired boilers to claim fiscal incentives.
Punjab annually generates 20 million tonnes of paddy straw and this is normally set on fire to quickly clear the fields for the next crop, resulting in choking of the National Capital Region (NCR) in October and November.
The industries which can get this benefit include sugar mills, pulp and paper mills, and any industry having boiler installation with steam generating capacity more than 25 TPH.
New and existing units of distilleries or breweries proposing replacement of old boilers or expansion with installation of new boilers will also have to mandatorily use paddy straw as fuel in boilers, it was decided by the cabinet at a virtual meeting chaired by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
The Cabinet also decided to provide cumulative fiscal incentives of Rs 25 crore to the first 50 existing industries on ‘first-come, first-serve’ basis for using paddy straw as fuel in boilers.
It has also okayed for non-fiscal incentives to industries in terms of availability of panchayat land for storage of paddy straw with lease agreement up to 33 years with rate of increase in lease at the rate of six per cent per annum.
Apart from this, balers would be made available on priority in areas where paddy straw is used as fuel in boilers.
The move would help in tackling the menace of stubble burning during harvesting of Kharif crops, thus also conserving the fertility of soil and saving the beneficial micro-organisms.
The decision assumes significant in view of the challenge of managing crop residue. Post-harvesting, where the wheat straw is used as fodder for the livestock, paddy straw in the fields is set on fire by the farmers to quickly clear their fields for the next crop.
Due to field fire incidents from October to November, the problem of air pollution is widely prevalent in and around the rural area, causing major health effects. Due to the climatic conditions, the air quality in the NCR also deteriorates, with contribution from various local sources such as domestic, vehicular, industrial and municipal solid waste dump fires.
However, farm fires in the neighboring states are also blamed for air pollution in the NCR. Paddy is cultivated in 31.49 lakh hectare area in Punjab, resulting in the generation of about 20 million tonnes of paddy straw.
This is the latest in the series of measures taken by the Punjab government to tackle stubble burning, including provision of crop residue management machines to the panchayats, cooperatives and individual farmers for in-situ crop residue management, use of paddy straw as energy resource for biomass based plants, monitoring and enforcement stubble burning, as well as awareness campaign in the farming community.