The Punjab government has submitted its state action plan and district-wise action plan for the current paddy harvesting season to the Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjacent Areas (CAQM). The state is committed to reduce the incidence of paddy bird burning through effective implementation of these comprehensive schemes.
On 21 September 2023, CAQM conducted a thorough review of Punjab’s preparedness to tackle the issue of paratha burning. During the meeting, key representatives from various government departments including the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) and District Collectors (DCs) pledged to take all necessary steps to implement the state and district action plans. . Diligently
The state action plan has set ambitious targets, aiming to reduce fire incidents in Punjab by at least 50 percent during 2023 compared to the previous year. Additionally, the plan outlines strategies to completely eliminate paddy bird burning incidents in six districts, namely Hoshiarpur, Malirkotla, Pathankot, Rupnagar, SAS Nagar (Mohali) and S. BS Nagar.
According to Punjab’s State Action Plan, about 3.1 lakh hectares are under paddy cultivation, resulting in an estimated 20 million tonnes of paddy straw production this year. Notably, efforts are underway to reuse this straw for various industrial and energy-generating projects as well as for use as livestock feed. In 2023, the state aims to manage about 11.5 million tonnes of paddy straw through in-situ management and about 4.67 million tonnes through ex-situ management.
To ensure effective use of Crop Residue Management (CRM) machines, especially among small and marginal farmers, CAQM has called for detailed mapping of these machines. Punjab currently has 1,17,672 CRM machines and has established 23,792 Custom Hiring Centers (CHCs) across the state. There are also plans to acquire more than 23,000 additional machines in 2023. Mobile apps like I-Khet and ‘Cooperative Machinery Tracker’ have been deployed to facilitate farmers’ access to CRM machines.
Depending on the management of the former, paddy straw will be used in various applications, including briquette/pelleting plants, bioethanol plants, biomass-based power plants, compressed biogas (CBG) plants, cardboard Factories, and more. The state government has also identified parcels of land to increase straw storage capacity.
During the review meeting on September 21, 2023, the District Collectors assured that their respective districts have straw management procedures through in-situ and ex-situ methods. The state government plans to install bio-decomposers in 8,000 acres of paddy fields, further underscoring its commitment to sustainable practices.
To create awareness and promote reduction in paddy residue burning, Punjab has initiated a series of Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) activities. These include mural paintings with slogans, print media advertisements, hoardings and panels at prominent places, awareness campaigns in villages and schools, pamphlets and booklets distributed among farmers, radio jingles, display boards, etc. Progressive farmers are also being recognized and encouraged to educate others on the importance of not burning paddy straw.
In 2022, five districts—Sangror, Bathanda, Ferozepur, Muktsar, and Moga—accounted for about 44 percent of the total number of fires in the state. To comprehensively address the issue, CAQM has held four meetings to finalize the action plan and review preparations. This year, the Commission called for specific district-wise action plans apart from state action plans and issued statutory directives to strictly implement them.
Representatives of the state government, including the PPCB and DCs, have assured that all necessary preparations are in place to reduce the practice of paratha burning in Punjab.
First Published: 26 Sep 2023, 21:26 IST