Union Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav on Thursday released guidelines for grant of one-time financial support for promoting establishment of paddy straw based pelletisation and torrefaction plants.

This, according to the environment ministry, will ensure a regular supply of paddy straw for co-firing in thermal power plants and industries.

These plants, once set up, would utilise a sizeable portion of the unmanaged paddy straw and help address the issue of crop residue burning and the resultant air pollution, says the ministry.

These guidelines come ahead of the winter season when paddy straw burning causes air pollution in northern states including the national capital New Delhi.

The government has taken various steps to tackle the issue of stubble burning and a large quantity of paddy straw is now being managed through in-situ and ex-situ management options, says Yadav. "Statutory directions have been issued to thermal power plants to co-fire biomass based pellets, torrefied pellets/briquettes (with focus on paddy straw) with coal (up to 5-10%) and to industries operating in NCR other than GNCT of Delhi to switch over to PNG or biomass fuels during 2022. These have led to a large demand for biomass based pellets, though supply is on lower side due to slow/ limited growth of aggregators/suppliers. Thus, CPCB guidelines would bridge a crucial gap in the biomass supply chain," he adds.

The guidelines give preference to units proposing to install equipment that is made in India. Preference is also given to those units which have agreement with farmers located in NCT of Delhi, states of Punjab and Haryana and NCR districts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, to ensure assured supply of paddy straw.

Under CPCB guidelines, companies interested in setting up pelletisation and torrefaction plants can submit an application for obtaining a one-time grant on capital investment.

The minister urged the farmers to avoid stubble burning and promote its utilisation as a valuable resource. He also urged agricultural entrepreneurs or agripreneurs to apply for availing grants under the guidelines. He said that it has a potential to create employment among the rural youth.

Under the guidelines, a maximum grant of ₹14 lakh per tonne/hr for non-torrefied pellet plant and ₹28 lakh per tonne/hr for a torrefied pellet plant is being provided under the guidelines, with an overall cap of ₹70 lakh for the former and ₹1.4 crore for the latter.

A corpus of ₹50 crore has been earmarked for utilisation through the guidelines. Assuming complete utilisation of the corpus, over 1 million metric tonnes of paddy straw based pellets are expected to be generated every year, the ministry says.

With supplemental efforts by other stakeholders, the guidelines are expected to enhance paddy straw utilisation in power plants and industries, catalyse rural economy and further the spirit of entrepreneurship.

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