A series of waste-to-energy plants to be built in Haryana have been positioned as the solution to stubble burning in the state.
In North India, stubble burning is a prime cause for air pollution.
The term refers to a practice that sees farmers burn leftover straw from grains such as wheat or rice (‘stubble’) on their fields in an effort to clear them for future crops.
Stubble burning causes toxic smog, a menace in several northern states and one exacerbated by the pandemic, as the inhalation of toxic fumes also renders people more susceptible to the Covid-19 virus.
So far, local governments have been unable to put a stop to these proceedings, with both fines, bans and jail time for individual farmers proving useless. An initially promising fiscal incentive offered by the Punjab government to farmers who abstain from stubble burning ended up being scrapped by the state due to financial shortages.
Haryana is the second largest generator of paddy waste in the country. 5 tonnes of waste per hectare are generated by a total within the remits of 1,3 million cultivated hectares of paddy.
At this stage, five plants are nearing completion. The first four biomass power projects will be located at Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Jind and Fatehabad whilst the fifth will form a part of the already existing IOCL Panipat refinery. These four facilities will utilise the organic residue in form of paddy straw as biomass fuel to produce carbon neutral electricity while the remaining option will generate bioethanol.
Said biomass plants are expected to generate 49,8 MW in electricity whilst the ethanol plant will produce 100 kilo litres of ethanol per day.
The former will be completed by August of this year whilst the latter will finish construction by March 2022.
The private sector will be responsible for the sourcing of paddy waste as well as for financing relevant infrastructure and work forces, the government being tasked to buy the produced green electricity.
Value generated by this practice may, however, be trumped by the expected emissions reduction of the project, as crop residue burning accounts for 48% of total emissions in Haryana.
The state is notorious for its ill managed and out of control fires, occasioned by the open burning of stubble.
For the scheme, which promises to pull the brakes on stubble generated atmospheric pollution whilst providing new jobs and clean energy to prove successful, the entrepreneurial spirit shown needs to be matched by policy enforcement.