With winter on its way and the Delhi government, reportedly, urging neighbouring states to curb incidents of stubble burning, a specialised Paddy Straw Management Cell in Punjab, meant for exactly this, is yet to see light of day.
The cell, proposed by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), is currently pending with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
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The mandate of the institute was to help farmers tackle paddy stubble, which is burnt to make way next farming season, by managing its collection, decomposition, development of user-friendly technologies for biogas production, mushroom cultivation and composting.
In a letter to the director (research) of PAU, the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology (PSCST) wrote: “It is desired that paddy straw management cell be setup in Punjab due to lack of suitable technological options for farmers… PAU should develop a concept note and take a lead in this regard.”
A senior PAU scientist said, “The proposed cell’s sole objective is to guide farmers to not burn stubble. This year’s paddy harvest season has arrived but there is no word on it yet.”
As per official figures, of the 21 million tonnes of paddy straw produced in Punjab, more than 18 million tonnes is still burnt in the fields. The numbers slightly reduced in past two years.
Dr Satnam Singh Ladhar, additional director (environment), PSCST, said, “We had integrated this project with a wider project worth almost Rs 200 crore to stop stubble burning and implement technologies like decomposition, bio-ethanol production etc on mass level. It is only after funds are approved that it will be decided if cell will be setup in PAU campus or elsewhere.”