Steps to stop stubble burning

Punjab has come out suo motu to tackle the burning issue of crop stubble fires with a long-term initiative costing it Rs 10,000 crore.

Air Pollution is a hydra-headed invisible djin that no magic wand can shoo away. Nor is there a single cure to deal with all its deadly viruses that find their way into our very lungs and innards, making normal breathing a matter of life and death. It's not just the mega cities like Delhi, Kolkata, and Bengaluru that are in the thick of it, but smaller cities could be equally in its grip.

Every city, state or the wider region has to do its share of work to tackle pollution which is assuming epidemic proportions with schools being ordered to cut down open air games and activities and doctors advising people to stay indoors for as long as possible. Delhi for instance, has had its worst early winter spells for over 50 days, with some reprieve in sight thanks to the wind and sun in the last few days.
Delhi, Haryana and Punjab have had their slanging matches blaming each other for pollution clouds with the central government watching from the sidelines. However, one state, namely Punjab, has come out suo motu to tackle the burning issue of crop stubble fires with a long-term initiative costing it Rs 10,000 crore. It is putting its money where its mouth is, while other states are still busy with talks and photo opportunities.
The Punjab government led by Captain Amarinder Singh is setting up 400 plants in a time-bound manner to make use of paddy and other crop stubble which is traditionally burned, causing air pollution and other health problems. In a path-breaking move, the state government has inked an agreement or MOU with an engineering company to establish these plants over the next ten months, well in time before the next crop stubble season at a cost of Rs 10,000 crores.
The multi-plant construction project is led by Dr T Shivakumaran of Chennai based Neway Engineering Company, who told Millennium Post that the first 50 or more plants would be ready by early next year, very likely in February or March. A doctor-turned hands-on technocrat, described as the 'inventor' of stubble plant technology by one of his Chennai colleagues, Shivakumaran is confident of delivering the project well ahead of schedule. His Neway company is already running a similar plant in Chennai for the past one year. The Chennai plant is converting municipal solid waste into bio-energy with its patented technology. Its 'pollution-free Zero Residue Technology' is said to leave behind no residue at the end of the process, doing away with any landfill requirements and other problems.
The Punjab venture, evidently miles away from Shivakumaran's Chennai conditions and years away from his medical orthopaedic skills, poses huge logistical problems of collecting stubble from big and small farms, and transporting them to 400 plant locations and finally delivering the loads to National Thermal Power Corporation plants whose crucial cooperation has been sought and obtained. A range of combustible and non-combustible byproducts are promised at the end of the operation. The highly saleable carbon-rich fuel produced by the conversion of paddy straw will find application in diverse industries, including cement, iron and steel, sugarcane, paper, thermal power plants and methanol/ethanol production.
Shivakumaran will oversee the setting up of 400 cluster units where nearly 20 million tonnes of paddy straw generated by Punjab every season will be treated. Each unit will have the capacity to process 50,000 tonnes through the year, or 150-175 tonnes per day.
The state government will allocate seven acres of land for each cluster point, of which four to five acres would be used for storing 50,000 tonnes of paddy straw through the year, over a concession period of 33 years. The state government will also provide power to the company at subsidized tariff rate, along with some other incentives under its new industrial policy.
A mega bonus of the entire operation is expected to be the creation of nearly 30,000 skilled and semi-skilled jobs for the youth.

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