Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said the state would give Rs 1 lakh as incentive for development to a village if the farmers and others there did not burn paddy straw. A district not witnessing paddy straw burning would get Rs 1 crore as a special grant.

Problem of air pollution turns acute in October and November because of paddy straw burning in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh. Remote-sensing systems often detect smog over most parts of North India in November. That phenomenon continues during December and January. Big aerosols were noticed over North India on a number of occasions in the past.

Speaking at a workshop organised by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Central Pollution Control Board and the Punjab Pollution Control Board here today, the CM said he was determined to tackle the problem of air pollution over the next few years.

He said the Union Government’s help would be needed in that effort. “We have been producing rice and wheat for the nation. In the process, we have exhausted groundwater and harmed our environment. We now want to shift from paddy to other crops. The Centre should ensure the purchase of crops such as maize,” he said.

He said the state government had taken several measures in that direction, including generation of power from paddy waste and using it for manufacturing bricks etc.

Financial Commissioner (Development) Suresh Kumar said, “We need to guide farmers about handling the paddy residue. As the sowing of wheat begins immediately after the harvesting of paddy crop, they don’t get much time to dispose of paddy straw. Give us money to provide machines to farmers for chopping paddy straw and to mulch it in the soil. It will not only solve the problem, but also make land more fertile,” he said.

Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Environment-cum-Chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board Susheel Kumar said, “The state government should prepare an action plan over the next two weeks and submit it to him for action.”

Union Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ashok Lavasa lauded the initiatives of the state government for creating awareness among farmers about the adverse impact of stubble burning. He assured the Chief Minister of extending all possible help to make Punjab a “stubble burning-free” state.

Punjab Chief Secretary Sarvesh Kaushal said the state had already taken a lead in making judicious use of biomass for power projects, brick kilns, paper making etc. Kaushal said the Centre had sanctioned Rs 6 crore for a plant for producing ethanol from paddy straw at Hoshiarpur.

Source: 9 January, 2015, The Tribune