In a major step to check stubble burning during the paddy season, Punjab has 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 steam generating capacity more than 25 TPH.

New and existing units of distilleries/breweries proposing replacement of old boilers or expansion with installation of new boilers will also have to mandatory use paddy straw as fuel in boilers, it was decided today by the cabinet at 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 ‘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 upto 33 years with rate of increase in lease @6% 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 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 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 is 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.

This is the latest in the series of measures taken by the Punjab Government to tackle stubble burning, including provision of crop residue management (CRM) machines to the Panchayats, co-operatives and individual farmers for In-Situ crop residue management, use of paddy straw as energy resource for Bio-Mass based plants, monitoring and enforcement stubble burning, as well as awareness campaign in the farming community.

It has been felt that there is a need to further encourage use of paddy straw as fuel in industries for promoting Ex-Situ management option. Some industries in the State have been able to successfully utilize paddy straw for their industrial operations into their boilers. 

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They have either made substantial modifications in furnaces or set up new paddy straw fired boilers. These units have pioneered  Ex-situ management of paddy straw by developing strong supply chain mechanism for collection of paddy straw directly from farmers by involving suppliers (initially by financing bailing machine to develop supply chain mechanism) and providing storage of straw bales for its use round the year.

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