Gist of Kurukshetra October 2023 Issue: Clean & Green Villages

Kurukshetra Magazine is a vital source of study material for the UPSC IAS exam. It is a monthly magazine that gives information about important government schemes and programmes in various sectors. Kurukshetra is an authentic source of information for the UPSC Exam. Here, we provide the Gist of Kurukshetra, exclusively for the IAS Exam.

Gist of Kurukshetra October 2023
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1. Integrated Solar Village Scheme for Inclusive Development
2. Crop Residue Management: Challenges and Opportunities
3. Harnessing the Power of Digital Technology for Greener Villages
4. Strengthening Rural Economy with Clean and Green Initiatives

1. Integrated Solar Village Scheme for Inclusive Development

  • In its updated Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs), India has targeted to achieve the goal of net zero by 2070. It aims to achieve it by taking a citizen-centric approach while also achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
    • This helps to ensure that India’s clean energy transition is just and inclusive.
  • Rural India offers tremendous opportunities with regard to the production and use of renewable energy, both through rooftop solar panels and distributed renewable energy applications.
  • Solar villages: The concept of solar villages needs to be defined in a manner which incorporates comprehensive economic development of rural areas by bringing in the elements of livelihoods and strengthening social service infrastructure.
    • It is also viable for DISCOMs because it can reduce the subsidy burden as it reduces the cost of servicing rural HHs.
    • The concept has been attempted by some states in areas such as Modhera in Gujarat, Dharnai in Bihar, and Barapitha in Odisha.

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  • Distributed Renewable Energy (DRE): In rural areas, DRE enables access to an improved quality power supply, and involves communities in the energy transition by transforming them into ‘prosumers’ (‘pro’ducer and ‘con’sumer both) of renewable energy such as biomass and solar.
    • In rural areas, DRE can help improve education and healthcare facilities, internet access, livelihood opportunities, and grid resilience against extreme climate events.
    • Installation of DRE can create livelihood opportunities also as it is a labour-intensive exercise compared to utility-scale solar projects.

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  • Rooftop solar and decentralised livelihood applications have been actively promoted by both the Centre and the states.
    • Under phase II of the Grid Connected Solar Rooftop Programme (launched in 2019), capital subsidies have been provided by the Union Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) for rooftop solar installations.
    • The process for applying and securing subsidies for rooftop solar has been simplified by MNRE through the SPIN portal.
    • Framework to promote the integration of DRE livelihood applications.
    • Initiatives by states such as Jharkhand and Uttarakhand in promotion of renewable or solar energy.

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  • Quantity as well as quality: As per the ‘Energy Plus’ framework of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), access to electricity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for rural livelihood development.
    • In this regard, India has achieved near 100% electrification of HHs, it needs to ensure the availability of reliable power.

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  • Rural vs urban: Rural India (with an average of 20 h supply per day) has more power outages than urban India. Power quality issues due to voltage fluctuations are also more common in rural areas.
  • The quality and quantity of electricity supply to healthcare and educational institutions impact their service delivery.

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  • An Integrated Solar Village Development Scheme should
    • Improve reliability and quality of power supply
    • Boost rural income
    • Strengthen social services such as health and education
    • Generate employment by integrating solar into rural economy

2. Crop Residue Management: Challenges and Opportunities

  • Crop residues refer to the non-economic parts of plants that remain in the field after harvest, including straws, stalks, stover, husk, bran, bagasse, and molasses.
  • These crop residues have numerous practical applications, such as serving as bedding material for livestock, providing animal feed, aiding in soil mulching, and facilitating biogas generation. Additionally, they can be used to produce various value-added products, including papers and boards.

Challenges associated with crop residue burning

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The burning of crop residues is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, releasing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, sulphur oxides, and nitrogen oxides. These emissions have adverse environmental consequences.
  • Air Pollution: The emission of Particulate Matter from crop residue burning is approximately 17 times higher than emissions from other sources, such as motor vehicles, waste incineration, and industrial waste. These emissions pose severe health risks to both humans and animals. 
  • Soil Fertility: Crop residue burning results in the deterioration of organic matter and essential soil nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The high temperatures generated during burning also lead to the loss of beneficial soil microorganisms. This, in turn, reduces farm productivity and hinders agricultural sustainability.

Why are crop residues burned?

  • Farmers often resort to stubble burning mainly due to three factors.
    • Shortage of farm labour.
    • Farmers have a very short span, usually 10-20 days, to prepare their fields for the subsequent wheat crop following the harvest of rice.
    • Large-scale use of combine harvester which leaves behind substantial amounts of crop residue, typically 20-30 cm of stubble on the ground.

Regulations and solutions for crop residue management

  • National Green Tribunal order: In 2015, the National Green Tribunal issued an order that prohibited agricultural residue burning in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana,
  • Promotion of Agricultural Mechanisation for In-Situ Crop Residue Management Scheme: This central scheme provides financial assistance of up to 50% to farmers, and in the case of cooperative societies, farmer producer organisations, and Panchayats, up to 80%, for the purchase of crop residue management machinery such as Super Straw Management System, Happy Seeds, and Crop Reapers.
  • Custom Hiring Centres (CHC): These are centres which supply farm implements to small and marginal farmers at nominal rates on hire.
  • Updated guidelines for off-site paddy straw management: The central government has recently revised guidelines to facilitate efficient ex-situ management of paddy straw in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
    • Under these new guidelines, techno-commercial pilot projects for the Paddy Straw Supply Chain will be established through bilateral agreements between beneficiaries (farmers, rural entrepreneurs, cooperative societies, Farmer Producer Organizations, and Panchayats) and industries that utilise paddy straw.
    • The centre and state government will provide 65% financial support for the project cost, while the industry will contribute 25% and serve as the primary consumer of the collected feedstock.
  • Pusa Decomposer: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has developed the “Pusa Decomposer” technology, which is designed to biologically decompose paddy stubble in agricultural fields.

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  • Alternative applications of paddy straw:
    • Mushroom Cultivation Substrate: Paddy straw serves as an excellent substrate for mushroom cultivation. It can yield between 50 to 100 kilograms of mushrooms for every tonne of dry rice straw used.
    • Biochar Production: Paddy straw can be utilised to create biochar, a carbon-rich material employed as a soil amendment. It helps to improve soil fertility, increase carbon storage, and enhance water filtration capabilities.
  • Crop diversification: Shifting to millet cultivation can significantly reduce the generation of crop residues and thereby promote sustainable farming practices and minimise environmental impacts.
  • Education and awareness campaign: In addition to the technical and financial support, intensive educational and awareness campaigns are needed to improve scientific management of crop residue in India.

3. Harnessing the Power of Digital Technology for Greener Villages

India is utilising digital technologies to empower rural communities and promote green villages. In the wake of this, government departments, agencies, and nonprofits are disseminating sustainable practices, paving the way for a greener future.

Environmental Challenges Faced by Rural India:

  • Inadequate waste disposal systems contribute to water and air pollution, despite various governmental efforts to improve sanitation. 
  • Increased food demand fueling deforestation as more land is required for farming, depleting forest cover. Growing populations lead to over-cultivation. 
  • Air pollution with crop residue burning and agricultural activities as major contributors. 
  • Water pollution arising from poor sanitation and limitations in sewerage planning. Soil degradation due to the excessive use of chemical fertilisers. 

Role of Digital Technology:

Technology can be a key component in helping to address these concerns in the face of increasingly pressing challenges since it provides opportunities to improve environmental law enforcement and implementation as well as raise public knowledge of related issues. 

  • Digital platforms can be used for insights on sustainable farming methods and timely weather forecasts. 
  • Technology can be used to remotely monitor air and water quality, track deforestation, and pinpoint ecological red flags.
  • Social media and communication technology can be used to disseminate and deliver the message and know-how to make our villages green.
  • Swachh Bharat Mission makes use of digital tools like geotagging and mobile apps to track progress and engage communities in sanitation efforts. 
  • Digital India initiative has connected lakhs of villages with broadband internet, bridging the digital divide and providing rural communities with access to information and opportunities. 

The Government’s Approach and Initiatives:

  • The government uses social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to promote environmental policies and initiatives. 
  • The government uses digital technologies to engage citizens in environmental protection efforts, fostering an informed, sustainable society.
Use of Social Media 

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) actively uses social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to educate villagers about environmental issues such as air and water pollution, as well as deforestation. 
  • They also share inspiring stories of environmental successes and call on people to take action.  
The Namami Gange Project  

  • It involves utilising satellite imagery to track the extent of pollution within the Ganga River. The data helps in identifying areas most severely affected by pollution and subsequently prioritising cleanup efforts. 
  • Geospatial technologies are being used in mapping the river’s intricate course.  
The Watershed Organisation Trust 

  • WOTR, established in 1993, is a  nonprofit organisation and think tank that collaborates with various stakeholders to tackle the challenges faced by vulnerable rural communities in India.
  • WOTR harnesses tools like geospatial technologies, ICTs, and social media which aid in mapping water resources, communication, and fostering community engagement on environmental issues.
The Centre for Environment Education

  • The Centre for Environment Education is a nonprofit organisation founded in 1984 and is dedicated to promoting environmental education and sustainable development in India. 
  • CEE leverages social media such as Facebook and Twitter to share information on environmental matters, promote educational initiatives, and foster community connections. 


The Digital Green Initiative 

  • Digital Green is a global development organisation dedicated to improving the lives of smallholder farmers in countries like India, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan.
  • The organisation uses digital tools like video production, mobile phones, and data analytics to provide agricultural information, connect farmers with markets, and offer financial services.

Considering the fabric of the rural society, there exists certain challenges in the usage of digital technologies:

  • Lack of Awareness: There is still a lack of awareness about environmental issues among many people in India making it difficult to engage people in environmental protection and awareness efforts. 
  • The Digital Divide: Lack of access to digital devices, limitations to connectivity, and power supply, and a lack of digital literacy pose challenges to the success of digital initiatives. 
  • Lack of Resources: Limitations to the resources (human resources, and others) that can be deployed to implement all of the government’s environmental protection and awareness initiatives.
  • Lack of Coordination: There can be a lack of coordination between different stakeholders involved in the processes, including the Central and State government agencies, non-profits, rural bodies, communities, and the private sector.

4. Strengthening Rural Economy with Clean and Green Initiatives

India’s natural environment is a precious inheritance, and long-term clean and green initiatives are needed to protect it for future generations. The World Bank’s 2019 ‘Beyond the Gap’  report highlights the need for green development initiatives, as over a quarter of the planet’s population relies on forests and nature for basic needs.

Need for Green and Clean Technologies

  • Clean and green initiatives are needed to improve the overall human development index and ensure sustainable development. 
    • Poor sanitation, hygiene, and clean drinking water are crucial for human development, but nearly half of the global population, up to 3.6 billion people, lacks safe sanitation (WHO/UNICEF 2021).
    • WHO estimates that safe drinking water management could prevent 400,000 diarrheal deaths and 14 million Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs), resulting in cost savings of up to $100 billion.
      • For instance, the WHO has highlighted the substantial benefits of the Har Ghar Jal programme in India. There has been an increase in rural tap water connections from 16.64% in 2019 to 62.84% in 2023, which resulted in averting 13.8 million DALYs.

Potential of Renewable Energy Generation – Vision and Mission 

  • The National Institute of Solar Energy has assessed the country’s solar potential at about 748 GW
  • The National Solar Mission is one of the key missions in India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, which was launched in 2010. 
    • The mission’s objective is to establish India as a global leader in solar energy, and India’s cumulative installed renewable capacity reached 179.322 GW as of July 2023. Among renewable sources, while solar energy maintained its dominance contributing 67.07 GW, wind energy contributed 42.8 GW. 
  • India aims for 500 GW of installed renewable energy capacity and five million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030. 

Government Policies and Initiatives

  • The Government of India is implementing the National Action Plan on Climate Change, which includes eight missions focusing on various sectors such as solar power, energy efficiency, sustainable habitats, and more. 
  • India is poised to achieve its energy independence target through clean technology by 2047, with a major emphasis on the ‘Make in India’ initiative. 
  • The Government has also taken a policy decision by permitting foreign direct investment (FDI) up to 100 percent under the automatic route in the renewable energy sector.
  • PM PRANAM (Prime Minister Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother Earth) programme aims to promote the use of bio-fertilisers and simultaneously reduce the use of chemical fertilisers.  

Emerging Opportunities with Green Devel Initiatives 

  • India’s rural economy presents a significant market opportunity for mechanisation through clean energy innovations in the farm sector, with potential uses of pesticide spraying, rice transplanting, and grain crop harvesting.
  • The government has incentivised 20 rural livelihood appliances to run on decentralised renewable energy, aiming to reduce production costs and overall gains.

Challenges and Way Forward for the Shift to Green Technologies

  • Technology change and adoption require significant financial resources; until 2030, at least $4 trillion must be invested annually worldwide in renewable energy, including infrastructure and technology purchases that will enable us to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • For transition along a low-carbon path, support from industrialised nations and international organisations like the World Bank is crucial.
Related Links
Skill India Mission PM PRANAM
Green Finance Digital India
National Action Plan on Climate Change World Bank


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