Air Pollution: Delhi sees hope as NTPC steps in to buy crop residue from farmers

As many as 35 million tonnes are burnt in Punjab and Haryana alone to make room for the winter crop.

Pollution-plagued Delhi can finally heave a sigh of relief, now that the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and a few biomass power units have expressed their intent to purchase crop residue from farmers in surrounding states.

Agricultural stubble running into millions of tonnes is burnt by farmers in northern India every October, triggering heavy pollution in Delhi-NCR before the onset of winter. As many as 35 million tonnes are burnt in Punjab and Haryana alone to make room for the winter crop.

Lack of alternatives to immediately dispose of the stubble was the primary reason for farmers setting crop residue afire. Though the National Green Tribunal banned the practice in view of air pollution concerns, implementing the order turned out to be a difficult task.

However, this move of the NTPC and a few other biomass power plants across Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab may just bring some much-needed relief to the city of 12 million. “Co-firing at power stations by using biomass with coal is one of the initiatives being pursued by the NTPC,” a senior official said. While the stubble will help generate power, the by-product of the plant can be used as fertiliser because of its phosphorus-rich quality.

The issue was discussed at a meeting held by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority [EPCA] – the Supreme Court-mandated body for curbing pollution in the NCR – earlier this week.

EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal said a few other companies also expressed their willingness to “harvest” agricultural stubble from the fields, and pay the farmers around Rs 1 to 2 per quintal for the same. “We are trying to organise a meeting between Punjab and Haryana officials, NTPC authorities and representatives of other companies willing to cut and buy crop residue from fields. It is likely to be held in Chandigarh,” said an EPCA member.

Burning a tonne of straw releases around 3 kg of particulate matter, 60 kg of carbon monoxide, 1,460 kg of carbon dioxide, 199 kg of ash and two kg of sulphur dioxide, causing severe air pollution and triggering a number of ailments. The practice also depletes the soil’s nutrient levels.

“To stop crop burning, we need to create a market for these farmers and come up with a suitable business module,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy) of the Centre for Science and Environment.

Source:- Hindustan Times

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