In a major step to check stubble burning during the paddy season, the Punjab government on Thursday decided to permit certain categories of industries to install paddy straw-fired boilers to claim fiscal incentives.
The industries which can get this benefit include sugar mills, pulp, and paper mills, and any industry having boiler installation with a steam generating capacity of more than 25 TPH (tonnes per hour).
New and existing units of distilleries proposing the 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 today by the Cabinet in a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
The Cabinet also decided to provide cumulative fiscal incentives of Rs 25 Crore to the first 50 existing industries on a ‘first come first serve’ basis for using paddy straw as fuel in boilers.
It has approved 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 a rate of increase in lease at the rate of six percent 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 the soil and saving the beneficial micro-organisms.
The decision assumes significance 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 during the month of October-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 region 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 (2020) in Punjab, resulting in the generation of about 20 million tons of paddy straw.
An official spokesperson said there is a need to further encourage the use of paddy straw as fuel in industries for promoting ex-situ management options.
Some industries in the state have been able to successfully utilize paddy straw for their industrial operations into their boilers.