Establishing residue supply chains to reduce open burning: the case of rice straw and renewable energy in Punjab, India

Open burning of crop residues in India is a serious issue that not only impacts human health but is also detrimental to soil health in the long term. According to the estimates from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, about 500 million tonnes of crop residues are generated annually. While a portion of these residues is used for various purposes, a larger portion is burnt in the fields. The problem seems to be specifically severe in Punjab where a large quantity of rice straw is burnt after harvesting rice to prepare the field quickly and cheaply for wheat cultivation. It is in this background that the project aimed to support the local government in Punjab and the national government of India to use rice straw productively and avoid open burning. Rice straw is a useful resource that can be used in-situ to maintain soil fertility as well as ex-situ to produce value added products including energy. However, a key challenge in using crop residues, including rice straw, is to mobilize it in systematically. This report presents a model crop residue value chain that can support the collection, transport, storage of rice straw which can enable productive uses of rice straw. Moreover, it estimates the quantity of rice straw produced in each district in Punjab and further estimates the investment needed in developing a crop residue supply chain in the state. Finally, it also undertakes a techno-economic assessment of energy technologies to identify the most profitable way to use rice straw to produce sustainable energy.