Breathing fresh air may no longer be just a dream for people living in the national capital. The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) along with a few other biomass power units have expressed their intention to buy crop residue from farmers in the surrounding states in order to stop them from burning it – this is one of the major reasons why the Delhi-NCR region is covered in smog during the months leading up to winter. This step is being taken by these companies in order to save Delhi from pollution. Every year, millions of tonnes of agricultural stubble is burnt by farmers in the states of northern India in the month of October after which a layer of heavy pollution covers Delhi-NCR before the onset of winter. According to Hindustan Times, farmers in the state of Punjab and Haryana alone burn as much as 35 million tonnes of agricultural stubble to make room for the winter crop. This step taken by NTPC and a few other biomass power plants may finally bring the much-needed relief for the 12 million people that live here.
An NTPC official while talking about the same said, “Co-firing at power stations by using biomass with coal is one of the initiatives being pursued by the NTPC.” Earlier in the week, the issue was discussed in a meeting that was held the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority [EPCA], which is a Supreme Court-mandated body created for curbing pollution in NCR. Bhure Lal, the EPCA chairperson said that a few other companies have also expressed their intention to buy the agricultural stubble and pay the farmers around Rs 1 to 2 per quintal for the same. An EPCA member was quoted saying, “We are trying to organize a meeting between Punjab and Haryana officials, NTPC authorities and representatives of other companies willing to cut and buy crop residue from fields. It is likely to be held in Chandigarh.”
The executive director (research and advocacy) of the Centre for Science and Environment while talking about the farmer’s practice of burning the stubble said, “To stop crop burning, we need to create a market for these farmers and come up with a suitable business module.” According to the report, when a tonne of straw is burnt, around 3 kg of particulate matter are released along with 1,460 kg of carbon dioxide, 60 kg of carbon monoxide, 199 kg of ash and two kg of sulphur dioxide that in turn causes severe air pollution and triggers a number of ailments.