SAEL Industries on Friday said it has signed an agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for a loan of up to ₹754 crore (around $91.14 million) to promote agricultural waste-to-energy plants in India.

Each year farmers in Northern India burn crop stubble in their fields to remove paddy residue, resulting in severe air pollution with devastating health effects in the region.

SAEL Industries has developed a business model where crop residues are used as fuel in waste-to-energy projects. Its ambition is to grow its portfolio to 3.5 gigawatts (GW) over the next four years by adding 100 megawatts (MW) of new biomass and 600 MW of new solar capacity annually, it said in a statement.

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ADB’s support will fund the construction of five biomass power plants in the districts of Bikaner, Churu, Hanumangarh, Jhunjhunu, and Sikar in Rajasthan, the firm added.

Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) levels rise with the yearly burning of crop stubble contributes to some of the world’s worst air quality. High levels of PM 2.5 have been linked to health effects such as asthma and decreased lung function, and the burning of crop stubble also contributes to reduced soil quality, requiring increased use of chemicals which causes other health issues, SAEL Industries said.

More than half the land in Rajasthan is dedicated to agriculture. Local farms burn huge volumes of waste including stalks, husks, and straw, causing air pollution. The power plants will convert about 650,000 tonnes of agricultural residues into electricity and are expected to generate 544 gigawatt-hours of energy per annum, helping avoid up to 487,200 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Income of local farmers will rise through the sale of agricultural residue.