In order to effectively curb the menace of stubble burning during ensuing paddy harvesting season, especially amid COVID-19 pandemic, the Punjab Pollution Control Board in consultation with Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of the State has ordered that combine harvester machines functioning without Super Straw Management System (SMS) will be impounded.
Additional Chief Secretary Development Anirudh Tewari urged the combine harvester operators to get the Super SMS fitted on their machines. He informed that the state government is providing 50% subsidy on the total cost of getting the SMS fitted on the machines.
He further said that Agriculture Department has also extended the date to submit the applications for subsidy on SMS up to September 30, 2020 to enable the harvester operators to avail the benefit. Applications could be submitted to offices of Block Agriculture Officer/Chief Agriculture Officer in their concerned districts.
Mr. Tewari also pointed out that there are nearly 12,500 combine harvesters in Punjab, out of which 5000 machines have already been fitted with the SMS. Sanction to 2000 more applications to fit SMS on combine harvesters has been received by the Department of Agriculture.
He further added that the combine harvester machines owners have to follow the instructions issued under Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act-1981 to ensure that only SMS installed machines would operate in ensuing paddy harvesting season.
Due to the problem of paddy stubble burning in the State and its adverse impact on environment and human health, the directions have been issued under Section 31-A of the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 to the owners of combine harvesters, desirous of undertaking the harvesting of paddy in the State to attach Super Straw Management System with the harvester combine. No harvester combine shall be allowed to harvest paddy in the State of Punjab without functional Super Straw Management System, he further supplemented.
Environmental compensation shall be imposed by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) upon owners of the harvester combines found operating without the attachment of Super SMS. This fine would be of Rs. 50,000, Rs.75,000 and Rs. 100000 for first, second and third violation respectively and Rs. 100000 on each violation subsequent to the third violation.
He also informed that directions had been issued to all Deputy Commissioners to depute adequate staff of PPCB and other concerned departments for ensuring the strict compliance of these instructions.
It may be recalled that Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana had already recommended that Super SMS be attached to combine harvesters, which cuts the paddy straw coming out of harvester combine into small pieces as well as spreads the same evenly across the field. With this method of harvesting, the farmers are not required to burn the paddy straw, before sowing the next crop. They can plant the next crop without burning of residues with the help of Happy Seeder, Zero-till drill and Super seeder which are also being provided on subsidy or can be hired on rental basis from custom hiring centres, panchayats or Primary Agricultural Co-op. Societies.