In a bid to stop stubble burning, the Gurdaspur district administration in Punjab has implemented a novel idea. Now, those who keep away from stubble burning will get special treatment in government offices.
Crop residue burning is one of the major reasons behind the worrying spike in air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region in the months of October and November.
According to latest reports, those farmers who abstain from stubble burning will be recognised as protectors of the environment (‘vatavaran de rakhe’). They will also be given appreciation certificates, which will enable them to avoid long queues at government offices.
Not limited to farmers, this scheme extends to villages which report zero stubble burning in the harvesting season. They too, will get the ‘vatavaran de rakhe’ certificates; they will also be given priority in development projects.
Since the window for sowing wheat, which is a Rabi crop, is very small after the paddy harvest, farmers resort to setting their fields on fire to quickly clear crop residues and prepare for the sowing of the next crop.
Punjab produces around 180 lakh- 200 lakh tonnes of paddy straw every year; an area of 31 lakh hectares is used as paddy-sowing area in the state. Out of the 180 lakh- 200 lakh tonnes of paddy straw, 120 lakh tonnes are disposed off through in-situ and ex-situ management methods.
Himanshu Aggarwal, the deputy commissioner of Gurdaspur and the brain behind the ‘vatavaran de rakhe’ initiative, says that the aim is to motivate farmers to refrain from burning paddy stubble since it leads to heavy air pollution.
“The certificate holders will enjoy certain privileges in government offices they visit for any work. They will not have to wait in a queue. If they come to meet me or any government official, they will not have to wait,” Aggarwal said.
Villages that report zero stubble burning will receive funding for development projects on a priority basis and the certificates for the same will be handed out in November, the deputy commissioner said.
According to Aggarwal, farmers are responding positively to the initiative. The district of Gurdaspur alone generates 10 lakh tonnes of stubble. The district administration plans to manage this through in-situ (mixing crop residue in fields) and ex-situ (using stubble as fuel) methods. It has initiated a massive awarenss campaign and identified 55 hotspots to curb the practice of stubble burning.
Efforts are being made by the district administration to set up stubble pellet units, which can be used by brick kilns for fuel. The administration has also made efforts to tie up with some companies to collect stubble to be used as fuel, Aggarwal said.
Punjab had seen a 30 per cent drop in stubble burning in the 2022 Kharif season over the previous year.
The Punjab agriculture department has decided to provide 24,000 crop residue management machines across the state during the harvest season to prevent and check stubble burning. Among these machines are super SMS, happy seeder, paddy straw chopper, mulcher, smart seeder, zero till drill, surface seeder, super seeder, crop reaper, shrub master for in-situ management, and baler and straw rake for ex-situ management.
The state agriculture department — under the Rs 350 crore paddy straw management plan — is targeting zero-stubble burning incidents in the districts of Hoshiarpur, Mohali, Pathankot, SBS Nagar, Rupnagar and Malerkotla districts.