Haryana banks on in-situ methods to put a stop to farm fires this year
The plan is to dispose of 43% stubble with in-situ management, 34% crop residue is likely to be used for fodder and 23% will be used in the industries via ex-situ management
Seven months back while presenting the Budget on February 23, Haryana chief minister (CM) Manohar Lal Khattar had patted farmers for “widely responding” to the state government’s call for reducing farm fires and bringing down active fire location (AFL) events by 48 % during the 2022 paddy harvesting season.
The numerous measures taken by the state government had been recognised at the national level, Khattar informed the assembly.
Encouraged by its incentive-driven policies to contain farm fires, the Haryana government’s target is to bring down the crop residue burning cases to a bare minimum during the current paddy harvesting season starting from October 1.
Last year, Haryana recorded about 3,661 farm fires in comparison to 6,987 in 2021, 4,202 in 2020 and 6,364 in 2019, as per official data.
A senior government functionary said in view of last year’s experience the agriculture department’s “unofficial “ target is to contain the number of farm fires below 2,000.
Sources said during the recent review meetings, the Centre’s Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) directed Haryana to completely eliminate farm fires after the agriculture department submitted its 2023 action plan for prevention and control of stubble burning.
As per estimates of the state government, about 36.57 lakh acre area is under paddy cultivation that will generate over 73 lakh metric tonne (MT) straw.
In order to reduce the farm fires to nil, the agriculture department’s plan is to dispose of 31 lakh MT stubble (43%) with in-situ management (machinery/decomposer), 25 lakh MT stubble (34%) is expected to be lifted by cow shelters for fodder and 17 lakh MT stubble (23%) will be used in the industries via ex-situ management.
According to agriculture and farmers welfare minister JP Dalal, Haryana is giving huge subsidies on machinery used for crop residue management (CRM). He said the farmers have now understood the merits of the government’s money-linked policies that help them in earning more profit from paddy stubble.
“The cow shelters located in paddy growing districts are using stubble for fodder and awareness among our farmers has increased,” said Dalal, pointing out that there are 80,000 CRM machines given to the farmers on subsidy.
Experts said the ex-situ CRM is one of the vital strategies that Haryana has adopted to tackle the problem of stubble burning. Under the ex-situ CRM, the stubble is moved out of the fields through machines and used as fodder or fuel in biomass projects.
“The thermal power plants in the state will also use paddy straw biomass in the form of pellets along with coal for generation of electricity. The 2G-ethanol plant established by Indian Oil Corporation in Panipat has been commissioned and will use paddy straw for ethanol generation,” Khattar had said in his Budget speech.
Officials said in 2021 about eight lakh MT paddy crop residue was used in 26 different industries, including nine biomass power projects. In the 2022 paddy harvesting season, the agriculture department had set the target of 13 lakh MT crop residue to be consumed in 29 plants producing ethanol, paper and cardboard.
This year the agriculture department has also planned to dispose of stubble in at least 5 lakh acre of 12 leading paddy-growing districts by using the pusa bio-decomposer. The farmers are going to be trained and kits will be provided free of cost. Under this in-situ mechanism, the microbial solution breaks down paddy straw in 15 to 20 days.
Based on kharif 2022 satellite data, there were 147 villages in the red zone where six and above active fire locations were detected, 582 villages were in the yellow zone (2-5 AFL) and in 6,175 villages zero to one AFL were recorded. The villages in the red zone will be under the radar of the enforcement teams.
Officials said dedicated nodal officers will be deputed at village and block level. The sarpanch and prominent persons of the area have been roped in for the prevention of crop residue burning, and HARSAC will be involved in real-time reporting of burning events.
The red zone panchayats completely stopping crop residue burning will get ₹1 lakh and ₹50,000 incentive will be given to the panchayats in the yellow zone for achieving zero burning.
Farmers will also get ₹1,000 per acre for ex-situ/in-situ management of paddy crop residue. Also, the government is giving ₹4,000 per acre to farmers opting for direct sowing of rice instead of water consuming transplantation method.
Farmers who need to transport leftover crop residue to places like gaushalas will receive ₹500 per acre, up to a maximum of ₹15,000.
Haryana Gau Sewa Aayog chairman Shravan Kumar Garg said about 5 lakh cows are being sheltered in 649 registered gaushalas across the state where paddy straw is also used as fodder.
In the 2023-24 budget, the CM had allocated ₹400 crore, from earlier ₹40 crore, to Gau Sewa Aayog. “While ₹35 crore have already been transferred directly online to 546 gaushalas for fodder, the next ₹40 crore installment is going to be released for fodder again very shortly,” said Garg, adding gaushalas use crop reside for fodder available in the vicinity.