A day after the Centre advanced the date of introduction of BS-VI fuel in the national capital by two years, it today directed state-owned thermal power giant NTPC
to procure farm stubble for burning in its thermal units, blending close to 10 per cent in the fuel mix,to help mitigate concern on air pollution, power ministry officials said.
This comes in wake on worsening air condition across North India, attributed in large measure to burning of crop stubble
(and western UP) at the onset of winter.
will float a tender to buy farm stubble at Rs 5,500 a tonne for its plants. This will help farmers
earn around Rs 11,000 per acre from the sale of stubble/straw pellets,” said R K Singh, minister of state for power and new & renewable energy, in a media interaction.
On the likely bidders, Singh said a new market will be created, under which service providers will bid after making arrangements with farmers.
“Stubble pellets procured for power plants might not be used for this season but the system will be in place,” said A K Bhalla, the ministry's secretary. He said use of farm residue pellets would not result in costlier power from NTPC.
has a 1,500 Mw plant at Jhajjar in Haryana
and close to 8,800 Mw of coal-based plants in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
Once procured at a mass scale, units elsewhere are also likely to buy stubble. NTPC
last year had done a successful experiment in this regard, said ministry officials. Their installed capacity is 50,000 Mw.
The National Capital Region has seen schools being shut and a ban on entry of heavy vehicles within city limits in recent weeks, due to the scale of the problem. Farmers
burn paddy straw which remains in the fields after the main crop is harvested.
According to some estimates, 34 million tonnes of paddy straw is generated in the three states named earlier and Uttarakhand, of which up to 23 mt is from combine-harvested fields. In the latter, tracks have to cleared fast and because it is mechanised harvesting, the entire stubble doesn’t get uprooted. The farmer has no option but to burn if he wants to speedily clear his field for the new crop.
Officials said the time consuming option of allowing the stubble to naturally die in the field can only be considered at the expense of delaying wheat sowing, which can lead to yield loss. The option is to attach combine harvesters with an extra machine, called the ‘Super Straw Management System’ (SMS), which cuts the straw closer to the ground and into pieces.
This then gets mixed with the soil, saving the farmers
from burning in the fields. The cost would be Rs 1-1.25 lakh for each such machine.
According to some reports, Punjab
has nearly 7,500 self-propelled combine harvester machines and nearly 8,500 tractor-driven combines which are not attached with SMS. The state government gives a 50 per cent subsidy on such machines, up to Rs 50,000. But, many farmers
say, the additional machines can lower the efficiency of original combine harvesters.
A draft report by the NITI Aayog estimates Rs 11,500 crore is needed to permanently address the problem. This would entail first ensuring the crop residue is addressed within the field itself and that paddy straw gets a ready market.