The farm burning, specific to the paddy-wheat cultivation cycle in the rural regions of Northern and North-Westerns states of India, has been identified as a major source of air pollution. It not only affects the air-quality in rural areas but also causes an episodic rise in air-pollution during October and November in Delhi-NCR.
CII-NITI Aayog ‘Cleaner Air Better Life’ initiative aims to bring together all relevant stakeholders for designing a set of solutions to the identified sources of air pollution. For this initiative, the findings of IIT-K study are being considered as basis of designing the action plans.
Anchored by the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change, the task force on Biomass Management has identified certain avenues for the alternate usage of paddy straw/crop residue
The task force has suggested a two-pronged approach to tackle the issue:
From the farmers’ end
In-situ utilisation or soil incorporation of crop-residue (that remains standing in the field after combine harvesting) needs to be prioritised and popularised among the farmers. This is important, not only to ensure that crops are not burnt but for long-term conservation of micro nutrients in the soil.
In-situ utilisation of straw which remains rooted in the soil, requires a change in farming practices. For this purpose, specialised machinery is required at different stages of farming.
Apart from directly ploughing and mixing (mulching) the residues back into the soil, on-farm management techniques (composting, pyrolysis or biochar) are effective in bringing the nutrients back to the soil
There is increasing evidence that soil incorporation has long-term benefits for improving the quality of soil, increasing water-use efficiency and reducing the intensity of fertilisers being used.
From the government’s end
Table 1: Actions to combat air pollution by subtle burning
Medium and long-term actions
Financial support to farmers
Impact fund for Air-pollution
Reword and Monitor at local level
Incentives to farmers through Direct Benefits Transfers.
Set-up clean impact fund to support clean technologies and link it with the national clean Energy Fund
Service-based shared infrastructure (with 50% capital subsidy on select implements).
Accelerated depreciation for farm implements.
Reword for panchayats INR 1 Lakh per panchayats with zero burning.
Monitoring through advanced remote sensing data and mobile base app for general public.
Reassessing fuel for criteria for briquettes/ pellets From paddy-straw.
Directive to thermal power plants to produce paddy-straw briquette/ pellets
Removing the size limitation for bio-power captive generation
Awareness campaign for farmers.
Farmer recognition programme.
Manuals and information tool for in-situ mulching and on farm management
Table 2: Solutions and technologies for utilisation of farm waste
For making value added products
Lack of financial support
Lack of equipments
Awareness on benefits
Market development for biochar products
Research and development
Fuel in gasification furnace, heaters, hot-water boilers, industrial boilers
It is a very good substitute for furnace oil, coal or direct wood.
Lack of availability of dry biomass because of dew in winter season.
Lack of transportation facilities
Proper recognition for industry and those using briquettes.
It has good potential for being used as fuel in cooking stoves and heating applications in domestic as well as industry.
Availability of raw materials crucial for business model.
Often has a large size that leads to a high storage and transportation cost.
Subsidy on cook stoves targeting specific users for replacing wood or coal usage.