The government is planning to set up more than 100 biogas plants and provide thousands of framers with machines to dispose of crop stubble in a bid to halt the choking crop-burning pollution that blights the country every winter.
A major source of the smog that engulfs vast swathes of northern India is the burning the straw and stubble of the previous rice crop to prepare for new planting in October and November. Government-backed Indian Oil Corp will invite private companies to apply to set up 140 biogas plants that will use rice stubble as feed stock, two government officials, who didn't wish to be identified in line with official policy, said.
The plants would cost Rs 3,500 crore and each would require two tonnes of crop residue every hour for at least 300 days to produce “an optimum amount” of compressed natural gas (CNG), one of the sources said.
The government would earmark funds for the project that would make it attractive for farmers to sell their waste rather than burn it, they said.
Environmental experts were sceptical. “Given the amount of resources that the government has, what will decide the efficacy of this plan is consistent engagement with farmers,” said Nandikesh Sivalingam, a programme manager for Greenpeace.
“But if you expect results next winter, it can't happen.”