In a major step towards curbing stubble burning, the Punjab government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a Chennai-based company to set up 400 processing plants for converting paddy straw into bio energy in the state.The plants will become operational before the next paddy season, thus preventing recurrence of the environmental hazard triggered by stubble burning in the current season, which Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is striving to address through various measures.The MoU was signed on behalf of Punjab government by R.K. Verma, CEO, Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion,and K. Iyyapan, MD of NEWAY. Under theMoU, the plants will be set up by NEWAYEngineers MSW Private Limited with a total investment of Rs 10000 crore over the next 10 months.The State Government will facilitate and support the project to ensure its successful operation within the next 10 months. The project will also provide direct employment to about 30,000 youth in the unskilled and semi-skilled categories.The company will use its breakthrough and patented pollution-free Zero ResidueTechnology to ensure that there is no residue left behind at the end of the process, thus preventing any land filling. The technology will provide sustainable solution to the environmental problems caused by burning of paddy residue in the State, according to an official spokesperson. It may be noted that the company is already running a plan for converting municipal solid waste into bioenergy using this technology.Under the agreement, the company will set up 400 cluster units for the 20 milliontonnes of paddy straw expected to be generated in the state in a season. Each unit will have the capacity to process 50,000 tonnes through the year, or 150-175 tonnes per day per unit.The Punjab government will allocate 7 acres of land for each cluster point, of which 4-5 acres would be used for storing 50000 tonnes of paddy straw through the year under the project, whichwill a concession period of 33 years. Thestate government will also provide to thecompany power at subsidized tariff rate, as well as other applicable incentives, asper the new industrial policy.The highly saleable carbon rich fuel produced by the conversion of paddy straw will find application in diverse industries, including cement, iron & steel,sugarcane, paper, thermal power plants and methanol/ethanol production.According to the spokesperson, while appreciating the initiative, the Chief Minister directed the department to ensure that the project is implemented ina time bound manner. The spokesperson said that this MoU is just one of the ways in which the Captain Amarinder led government is trying to eliminate stubble burning from the state.While seeking central help to compensate farmers for alternative methods of paddy straw management, the chief minister has directed all concerned departments to explore alternative ways of tackling the problem.