New Delhi: In a recent high-level task force meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, PK Mishra, emphasized the need for in-situ management of paddy stubble through Crop Residue Management (CRM) machines and the deployment of bio-decomposers to combat the worsening air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) as winter approaches.
The primary concern addressed during the meeting was the practice of stubble burning, which is prevalent among farmers in northern states such as Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. This practice, undertaken to clear paddy crop residues for sowing winter crops like wheat, contributes significantly to air pollution in the NCR.
PK Mishra urged the chief secretaries of these states to closely monitor the situation and entrusted the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) with refining the technology for more effective crop residue management.
Stressing the importance of ex-situ management, Mishra highlighted the economic benefits of using paddy straw and the need for storage and infrastructure improvements to promote its efficient utilization. The meeting also discussed the significance of co-firing biomass in thermal power plants, particularly focusing on paddy straw.
In addition to addressing stubble burning, Mishra reviewed ongoing measures to combat industrial, vehicular, construction-generated pollution, as well as waste burning and other dispersed sources of pollution. The meeting emphasized the rigorous execution of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) as an essential step to prevent further deterioration of air quality.
M. M. Kutty, Chairman of the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM), reported on progress in transitioning industries to cleaner fuels in the NCR. He highlighted the increasing adoption of e-vehicles and the addition of charging stations in the region.
The urgency of the situation was underlined as Delhi’s air quality was recorded as “poor” at 256 during the discussions. The comprehensive plan discussed during the meeting included biomass pellet procurement, the expansion of gas infrastructure in the NCR by FY24, and a stricter push for the replacement of outdated vehicles and the enforcement of GRAP measures.