The National Green Tribunal(NGT) directed the Centre and the governments of five northern states to come up with definitive workable solutions to stop stubble burning, including using crop residue in power plants.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments to convene a meeting on November 28 to work out a clear mechanism on transportation and use of stubble as fuel in power plants.
It directed that this meeting would be attended by the secretary of Ministry of Agriculture, Additional Secretary of Ministry of Energy and Energy, principal secretaries in Ministry of Agriculture of the respective states, senior scientist from Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd, Managing Director of National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd and CMD of NTPC and proper technical staff.
During the hearing, the NTPC told the bench that it was willing to use crop residue in pellet form in its power plants with permissible moisture content as it would not be possible to use the residue directly as a source for fuel in these plants.
The bench said the meeting shall deliberate “whether every State should or should not be directed to establish its own pelletisation plant for every agriculture residue to make it fit for utilisation as fuel in the thermal power plant run by NTPC.”
“It shall also be considered if the states can be granted liberty to invite private players who can establish such plants in the respective states,” the green panel said.
The tribunal asked them to recommend a mechanism for transportation of agriculture residue, excluding the residue left in the field for manure, and the incentives which could be provided to the farmers.
“Every State would submit a list before the Secretary of Agriculture of the thermal power plants or biomass based energy plants which are being run or are proposed to be constructed in the respective states,” the bench said.
It asked the states to consider whether the utilisation of agriculture residue as a fuel can be effective alternative for power generation.
The minutes of the meeting should be submitted to the NGT before December 6 without default and delay, it said.
The NTPC, in its submissions, said in the six power plants located in North India, the demand for the thermal plants would be 8,000 to 15,000 metric tonnes per day.
The NGT was hearing a plea by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad who had sought a ban on burning of agricultural waste and remnants in open fields.
The NGT had earlier said, “We expect no individual, body, department, panchayat, association to directly or indirectly recommend or promote burning of crop residue in Punjab, UP and Haryana.”
It had said the “serious” issue of stubble burning by farmers was still going on and had sought the response of the Centre and the Punjab and Haryana governments on the issue.
The NGT had warned the governments of the Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan governments that it would stop payment of salaries of their officials if they failed to come up with an action plan to prevent stubble burning, which has been triggering heavy pollution in Delhi-NCR.