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SUBJECT :Agriculture 

 

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today announced that the state government would soon evolve a economically viable and farmer-friendly policy to permanently address the problem of paddy straw burning across the state to protect the environment from pollution hazard on one hand and ensure handsome returns to the farmers on their huge stock of paddy straw by ensuring its optimum utilization for power generation as a renewable source of non-conventional energy. 

Inaugurating a two-days Stakeholders’ Consultative Conference on Policy for Utilization and Management of Paddy Straw in Punjab jointly organized by the Punjab State Science & Technology Council (PSSTC) and Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) here at Punjab Bhawan, Mr. Badal said that Punjab had an abundant stock of biomass especially of paddy straw which could be optimally used for producing power in the state.  Mr. Badal emphasized that a farmer friendly-policy should be formulated for an effective management and disposal of paddy waste in a productive manner to benefit the peasantry who were now left with no other option but to burn the paddy straw recklessly, which not only posed a major health hazard due to environment pollution but also resulted in the loss of soil fertility to an amazing extent. 

Declaring the issue of paddy straw burning as a national problem, the Chief Minister said that he would soon take up the matter with the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Union Ministers of New & Renewable Energy and Environment & Forests to flag up this issue to bail out the state by sanctioning a project to deal with this problem permanently.  He categorically said that state alone could not cope up with this problem rather the Union government should come forward to the rescue of Punjab government so that this problem could be tackled on the top priority in an efficacious and result-oriented manner.  Likewise, he also desired that he would soon take up the issue of enhancing the quantity of blending ethanol produced from biomass in petrol from the existing content of 5% to atleast 10%. 

The Chief Minister highly appreciated the vital inputs put forth by the leading experts and technocrats associated with the technologies and solutions for effective disposal of paddy in a scientific manner.  Mr. Badal later in the afternoon session interacted with the industrialists and other stakeholders to seek their inputs and feedback from the biomass based power generation and co-generation industrial units.  Several applications of paddy straw as biomass were discussed in detail by these stakeholders such as manufacturing of paper, eco panels and straw boards, briquettes as a major source of combustible energy as an alternate fuel to coal being used by the brick kilns besides mushroom cultivation.

The Chief Minister unequivocally said that the state government could not merely resort to punitive and legal options while tackling the situation arising out the paddy burning rather it would have to come out with the concrete and sustainable solution keeping in view the interests of all stakeholders.  Mr. Badal also evinced keen interest to set up joint ventures of biomass power generation in PPP mode and asked the PEDA - the nodal agency to facilitate the grant of clearances in this behalf expeditiously.  He said that the state government had already offered liberal concessions in terms of 50% subsidy on agricultural machinery and farm equipments such as happy seeder, rotavators and especially on balers for effective management and disposal of paddy straw.  Conceding the demand of the industry, the Chief Minister asked the Industries department to prepare a comprehensive proposal to extend the facility of giving 50% subsidy on the balers to the interested entrepreneurs making use of biomass for different purposes. 

The Chief Minister also sought technical collaboration from national agencies like TERI, IIT, DBT & Sardar Swaran Singh National Institute of Renewable Energy Kapurthala for developing biomass projects jointly with Punjab Energy Development Agency and Punjab State Science & Technology Council.Taking part in the deliberations Non-Conventional Energy Minister Mr. Bikram Singh Majithia fully endorsed the view point mooted by Mr. Badal that any policy to be framed for the proper management and best utilization of paddy straw should be farmer friendly otherwise the entire efforts in this direction would be sheer wastage.  Mr. Majithia underscored the need to build pressure on the Centre to revise the existing rates of power generated from  biomass and demanded atleast Rs.7.50 from Rs.6.24 per unit to safeguard the interests of prospective investors of biomass power generation, as the prevalent rates were not financial viable and was a major reason for not attracting investment in this field.  Once the interested entrepreneurs foresee profit in these ventures of biomass power generation then there was no point of their back tracking, said Mr. Majithia.  He further pointed out once the biomass power generation project get scaled up it would be a win-win situation for the farmers too, who were the major contributors of paddy straw as raw material to them. He called for the level playing field for all stakeholders in the upcoming policy for utilization and management of paddy straw in the right earnest. Likewise, untapped potential for the production of ethanol and grain based alcohol could also be exploited through a suitable technology so that the paddy straw could be effectively used to supplement the income of the farmers. 

Earlier, the Secretary Science Technology & Environment Mrs. Seema Jain welcomed the Chief Minister and made an elaborate presentation on the draft policy for utilization and management of paddy straw in Punjab.Meanwhile, Director Ministry of Environment and Forests GoI Dr. Surinder Kumar, Representative from Central Pollution Control Board New Delhi Mr. Tarun Darbari, Prof. & Principal Scientist Indian Agriculture Research Centre New Delhi Dr. Himanshu Pathak, Director DBT, ICT Energy Center Mumbai Dr. Arvind Lali, Consultant IIT Ropar Dr. Sudhakar, Director Sardar Swaran Singh National Institute of Renewable Energy Kapurthala Dr. YK Yadav, Director Thapar Center for Industrial Research & Development Yamunanagar Dr. R.Varadan, Director Mushroom Cultivation Solan Dr.Manjit Singh, Dr.P.Raman Consultant and Dr.Reena Singh Fellow & Area Convener TERI New Delhi besides experts from school of Energy Studies and department of farm machinery PAU Ludhiana, Executive Director National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute Dr. SP Singh put forth their views by making forceful presentations on the issue of scientific disposal of biomass.  Mr. Rajiv Khaitan from Kuantum Paper Mills, Mr. SR Soni, Indian Glycol Ltd. Kashipur, Mr. Karthik Raghwan from Agro Pulping Machinery, Mr. HS Dhaliwal from MD Group manufacturing Paper & Board, Mr. Harbans Singh from Brick Kiln Owners Association, Mr. Vikram Ahuja from Farm Solutions and Mr. Ravi Lat from Biomass Plants Association also shared their experiences and expressed views on the draft policy.

Prominent amongst others who were present in the meeting included Chief Parliamentary Secretary Mr. Gurbachan Singh Babehali, Chairman Punjab State Farmers Commission Dr. GS Kalkat, Financial Commissioner Development Mr. Suresh Kumar, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Mr. SK Sandhu, Special Principal Secretary Mr. Gaggandip Singh Brar, Vice Chancellor Punjab Agricultural University Ludhiana Dr.BS Dhillon, Vice Chancellor Guru Angad Dev University of Veterinary Sciences Dr. VK Taneja and Principal Secretary Power Mr. Anirudh Tiwari, Commissioner Agriculture Dr. BS Sidhu, Director Agriculture Dr. Mangal Singh Sandhu, Chairman Punjab State Pollution Board Mr.Ravinder Singh, CEO Punjab Energy Development Agency Mr. Balour Singh  and Director Horticulture Dr. Lajwinder Singh Brar. 


Source: 5 Dariya News, 03 Jan 2014