The burning of stubble in Punjab is a serious problem as it leads to pollution of environment, various types of allergies among the people and reducing the quality of the soil. The practice in the state is so widespread that When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the region on November 12, 2013, numerous such fires were seen burning and the fields generally appeared brown.
The problem of paddy stubble burning can be tackled to a large extent by the increased use of paddy stubble balers if more biomass plants, which buy the stubble for power generation, come up in the region.
The technique is very much helpful in different ways as besides solving the problem of paddy stubble burning it also leads to power generation and creation of employment for many people.
Presently, there are two biomass plants, one in Muktsar and one in Fazilka, besides some others operational in Punjab.
“We are buying about one lakh tonne of paddy stubble for our two biomass plants, Malwa Power Private Limited in Gulabewala village in Muktsar and Deep Development Engineers Limited at Gaddadob in Fazilka district. We have targeted to buy about 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes of paddy stubble in the shape of paddy bales for each plant,” informed Dinesh Kumar Bhardwaj, deputy manager at Malwa power private limited, Gulabewala.
“We are buying paddy stubble at about `130 per quintal. Most of the stubble is being transported from Muktsar district and some nearby parts of Faridkot for the Gulabewala plant. Mainly, the people engaged in the work are transporting it to the plant from the area within the radius of about 35 kms,” he said.
“Though paddy stubble balers can be very useful to save the environment and soil from deterioration, but it totally depends upon the presence of biomass plants. In Faridkot district, the agriculture department has provided subsidy to about 7 paddy balers so far. These are available on the 50% subsidy,” said Dr Amandeep Keshav, project director, agriculture technology management agency (ATMA), Faridkot.
“The balers can bale the paddy stubble in about ten acres in a day. One bale weighs about 15 to 18 kg and paddy stubble is bought in the form of bales as it is very easy to store in stacks and transport.
Unbaled paddy is in little demand,” says Amandeep Keshav.
But, Faridkot and Moga districts have reportedly no biomass plants. “Paddy baler is very helpful in checking the burning of paddy stubble. I bought a paddy baler last year, that had cost me about Rs 10.20 lakh, including a rake. It requires about four tractors, one for baler, and another for rake and two to run choppers. Besides, about 10 tractors are required to transport paddy bales to the biomass plants,” said Kulwinder Singh, a farmer from Jhok Sarkari village of Faridkot district.
“I saved burning of paddy stubble on about 1,000 acres of my village with the help of the paddy baler. I do not have time to go out to other villages because there is so much work in my own village as the quality of land improves when the stubble is not burnt and fuel costs can also be saved. The farmers can sow wheat after simply ploughing with cultivators,” said Kulwinder Singh.
“I am selling paddy stubble bales in Gulabewala biomass plant at about Rs 127 per quintal,” he said.
“The number of biomass plants in Punjab is very small. There are only about seven such biomass plants and the government must make efforts to encourage setting up of such plants so that the problem of stubble burning can be solved in the state,” said Darshan Singh, former Sarpanch of Dhilwan Kalan village.