Chandigarh, Sep 27

Faced with environmental and health concerns over stubble-burning by Punjab farmers, the state government on Wednesday announced an elaborate action plan to curb the menace.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appealed to farmers to abstain from the harmful practice, though farmers are not too enthusiastic about the plan drawn up by the Department of Science, Technology, and Environment.

The burning of paddy residue leads to massive pollution not only in Punjab but other northern states also.

"With 75 per cent of the 19.7 million tonnes of paddy straw generated in Punjab every year, the problem has assumed dangerous proportions, leading to loss of organic material for soil, degradation of air quality, and high SPM (suspended particulate matter) level," a state government spokesman said here.

"Of the total paddy straw, only 21.8 per cent is consumed in biomass-based projects, paper/cardboard mills and animal fodder/other uses, while a small portion is managed through other systems such as machinery and equipment," he added.

As part of its action plan, the department has suggested management of the remaining 15.40 million tonnes of paddy residue every year through crop diversification, agriculture straw management equipment, and industrial use.

"Significant investment is being made to set up biomass power plant, bio refineries and demonstration plants in the state to facilitate industrial use and energy conversion of the agricultural residue," the spokesman said.

The Chief Minister has suggested to the Centre to provide an incentive of Rs 100 per quintal of paddy in addition to MSP (minimum support price) to motivate farmers to desist from stubble-burning.

To strengthen the legal framework to control the problem, the state government in 2013 issued orders under Section 19(5) of the Air Act, 1981, to ban burning of all kinds of crop residue.

The spokesperson said all Deputy Commissioners have issued orders under the Code of Criminal Procedure to ban burning of wheat straw and other residue in their districts.

Authorities in Punjab will closely monitor the burning of stubble and initiate action against erring farmers.

"During wheat harvesting, environment compensation of Rs 61.47 lakh was imposed on farmers involved in 10,905 stubble-burning incidents," the spokesperson said.

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