List of Contents
- Transport Minister launches ‘Go Electric Campaign’
- Pollution kills 54,000 people in Delhi in 2020: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Report
- “Vehicle Scrappage Policy” to phase out old and unfit vehicles
- Vehicle Scrappage Policy and the associated challenges: Explained
- Taxing older vehicles: A Way forward
- Green tax on vehicles older than 15 years
- What is Green Tax?
- PCRA launches ‘SAKSHAM’ campaign for green and clean energy awareness
- Effect of air pollution on Pregnancy loss : Lancet study
- Air pollution killed 1.7 million Indians in 2019: Lancet report
- Air Quality Commission directs for 100% switching over of industries in Delhi to PNG
- Coal sector reforms to reduce CO2 emissions
- Waste to Energy
- Innovations to curb air pollution
- How to end pollution
- Explained: Increase in ammonia levels in Yamuna
- Firecrackers ban ahead of festival season
- The cost of clearing the air
- The cost of clearing the air
- Stubble Burning Issue
- Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)–Transport Initiative for Asia(TIA)
- Nationally Determined Contributions
- Ratification of seven (7) chemicals listed under Stockholm Convention on POPs
- Graded Response Action Plan(GRAP)
- Air Pollution in India and green recovery
- What is the state of air pollution in India?
- Reason for Delhi October pollution Level
- Delhi Air pollution on rise: Reasons and initiatives taken
- Benzene Pollution
Pollution in India
Pollution affects the health of individuals. It has become a major issue affecting the vulnerable section of the country. In this section, we will provide you with updates and news related to pollution in India and its effects.
Pollution in India updates/news
Transport Minister launches ‘Go Electric Campaign’
What is the News?
The Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways launches the “Go Electric” Campaign.
Go Electric Campaign:
- It is a campaign of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) to promote and spread awareness on electric mobility.
- It will boost the confidence of electric vehicle manufacturers.
- Furthermore, it will spread awareness about the benefits of e-mobility and EV Charging Infrastructure in India.
- Lastly, the Go Electric Campaign will help in reducing the import dependence of our country in the coming years.
- Implementation: BEE will provide technical support to the State Designated Agencies(SDAs) for its implementation on a state and national level.
Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE):
- It is a statutory body. It was established in 2002 under the Energy Conservation Act, 2001.
- Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Power
- Objective: It assists in developing policies and strategies for reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.
Pollution kills 54,000 people in Delhi in 2020: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Report
What is the News?
Greenpeace, an environmental NGO released a report titled “Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of the cost to the economy due to air pollution”.
About the report:
- The report is based on a Cost Estimator. It is an online tool that estimates the real-time health impact and economic cost of fine particulate matters (PM 2.5) in major world cities.
- The tool was deployed in a collaboration between Greenpeace Southeast Asia, IQAir and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
Note: PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. Exposure to PM2.5 is considered the foremost environmental risk factor for deaths globally. It is attributed to 4.2 million premature deaths in 2015.
Impact of Air Pollution Related Deaths:
- Greenpeace uses an approach called ‘willingness-to-pay’. In this approach, a lost life year or a year lived with a disability is converted to money by the amount that people are willing to pay in order to avoid this negative outcome.
Indian Cities covered in the report:
- Six Indian cities namely Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Lucknow featured in the report.
- Globally, in the five most populous cities — Delhi, Mexico City, São Paulo, Shanghai, and Tokyo, PM 2.5 air pollution caused approximately 1,60,000 deaths.
- Delhi: Air pollution claimed approximately 54,000 lives in Delhi in 2020. It resulted in air pollution-related economic losses of 8.1 billion USD (58,895 crores). It amounts to 13% of Delhi’s annual GDP.
- Other Indian Cities: The damage is equally worse in other Indian cities:
- An estimated 25,000 avoidable deaths in Mumbai in 2020 have been attributed to air pollution.
- Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad estimated an approximate 12,000, 11,000, and 11,000 avoidable deaths respectively due to polluted air.
Source: The Hindu
“Vehicle Scrappage Policy” to phase out old and unfit vehicles
What is the news?
The Finance Minister has announced the voluntary vehicle scrappage policy. It aims at phasing out old and unfit vehicles.
About vehicle scrappage policy
- Aim of the Policy: Scrappage policy will encourage fuel-efficient, environment-friendly vehicles on the road. Thereby It will reduce vehicular pollution and the oil import bill.
- Key Features :
- Under the policy, vehicles would undergo fitness tests after a certain period of time. In the case of personal vehicles, the duration is 20 years. In the case of commercial vehicles, this duration is 15 years.
- Each fitness test will cost approximately Rs 40,000. Other than that, old vehicles will have to pay green tax and road tax.
- If a vehicle fails a fitness test, it will not get a renewal certificate and won’t be able to run on the road.
- However, if it passes a fitness test, the vehicle will have to undergo a fitness test, after every 5 years.
- The aim of all these costs is to discourage consumers from keeping the older vehicle.
- The incentives for vehicle scrappage not announced yet. It is expected that the Government may announce some incentives and monetary benefits for the consumers scrapping their old vehicles.
Source: The Hindu
Vehicle Scrappage Policy and the associated challenges: Explained
Recently, The Finance Minister announced the “Vehicle Scrapping Policy” in her Budget speech. The policy will phase out older, inefficient and polluting vehicles. Apart from that, the policy will also promote the use of more environment-friendly vehicles and reduce the oil import bill. But it is not an easy task and has a few challenges associated with it.
What is the proposed Vehicle Scrappage Policy?
The Ministry of Road and Transport is yet to announce the proper guidelines. But according to the Budget speech, the important provisions of the scrappage policy will include the following features. Such as
- The private vehicles older than 20 years and commercial vehicles older than 15 years, can be scrapped voluntarily. To run these vehicles on the road, a fitness certificate (FC) will be mandatory.
- Automated vehicle fitness centres belong to the government will issue certificates after conducting fitness tests.
- Each fitness certificate is valid for five years. After that vehicle will undergo another fitness test.
- If a vehicle fails the fitness test, the government will not provide renewed Registration Certificates (RC) for those vehicles. As per the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, driving a vehicle without an RC is illegal in India.
- Each vehicle is permitted to have three failures in the fitness test. After that, the vehicle might be forwarded to vehicle scrapping.
- The government is expected to provide monetary incentives to the owners scrapping the vehicles.
Each fitness test will approximately cost Rs 40,000. If the vehicle passed the fitness test, the owner of the vehicle has to pay road tax, and a possible “Green Tax” (Tax levied on goods that cause environmental pollution).
The total cost involved in pursuing a Fitness test and paying “Green tax” will act as a deterrent to have older vehicles. This will further facilitate voluntary Scrapping of the old vehicle and buying a newer one.
Need for such Vehicle Scrappage Policy:
First, According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), by 2025 India will have over two crore old vehicles nearing the end of their lives. Not only that, India adds 1,400 vehicles every day. The scrappage policy will reduce the congestion on the roads.
Second, A logical extension of NGT ruling for Delhi NCR and Scrappage policy of Government Vehicles.
- In 2015, National Green Tribunal barred diesel vehicles older than 10 years to commute on Delhi NCR roads. The scrappage policy is the next step to prevent them from further commuting on roads.
- Further, the government accepted the Scrappage policy for Central and State Government vehicles older than 15 years on January 25, 2020. The policy will come into effect on April 1st, 2022.
- Apart from that, the government also introduced a draft Vehicle Fleet Modernization Programme in 2016. But the project never got materialized.
Third, IIT Bombay’s conducted a multi-city study in 2014. The study estimated that pre-2005 vehicles were responsible for 70 per cent of the total pollution load from vehicles. The scrappage policy will be a shot in the arm for these polluting vehicles.
Benefits of the proposed policy:
First, The Scrappage policy will benefit the following sectors at one go.
- The policy will stimulate the domestic automobile and automotive industry. The automobile industry is projected to grow at an annual rate of 22% if this policy is implemented properly.
- Apart from that, it will provide a massive opportunity for players in the organised scrappage and recycling industry. The scrapping will provide recovery of steel, aluminium, plastic etc. and boost the industries associated with it.
Second, Curbing air pollution: Old vehicles are not compliant with Bharat Stage VI emission standards. This is leading to more air pollution. For example, one 15-year-old vehicle has emissions equivalent to 25 new-generation vehicles. The scrappage policy will reduce the pollution level by 25 percent as compared to old commuting vehicles.
Third, Increase in tax revenue for the government. The revival of the automobile and other sectors associated will boost the tax revenues. According to an estimate, taxes from the automobile sector will amount at Rs 10,000 Crores, if scrappage policy is implemented properly.
Fourth, Containing oil imports: According to the BEE (Bureau of Energy Efficiency) estimates, India has to enforce Scrapping old vehicles and shifting towards higher fuel efficiency norms. If it is achieved, then as per the BEE estimates, “there will be a reduction of 22.97 million tons of fuel demand in India by 2025”. This will help in saving oil import and associated costs.
Fifth, Fulfilling India’s International commitments: India has committed to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and provided national targets for reducing emissions. The Scrappage policy will reduce the pollution level and also fulfil India’s commitment to reduce CO2 levels to tackle Climate Change.
Overall the Scrappage Policy has the potential to revive the Indian Steel sector and also has the potential to promote India as a vehicle manufacturing hub in the world.
Challenges associated with the Vehicle Scrappage Policy:
First, Who will bear the cost of monetary incentive provided to owners? The scrappage industry may provide incentives for scrapping older vehicle (like recovery of scrap, steel etc.). The government is not a direct beneficiary except the environmental cost. Thus, providing incentives from public money might not be feasible.
Second, In rural areas, old vehicles are being used as the owners have very limited financial resources to purchase new vehicles.
Third, Scrapping capacity of India is in doubt. India so far has only one government-authorized scrappage workshop in Greater Noida. Also, the government do not have any standard operating procedures (SOP) for setting up of vehicle scrapping centres. Formulating a policy without having the capacity will lead to accumulation of old vehicles like solid wastes.
Fourth, Regulation of pollutants released during scrapping. The scrapping of Vehicle will release toxic metals like mercury, lead, cadmium or hexavalent chromium. If not properly regulated, it will pollute the environment and have long-lasting consequences.
First, In the Electric Vehicle Policy of the Delhi government, they linked scrappage incentives with buying of electric vehicles. Such a special linkage of policy is necessary at the national level to promote the electric vehicle.
Second, There must be an exception for Vintage and Classic cars. The government also have to introduce a provision for Modern Classics. These are an important part of automotive history and the history of humanity. Since most of these vehicles are used sparingly and in the well-maintained condition, they can be exempted.
Third, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released a report titled “What to do with old vehicles: Towards effective scrappage policy and infrastructure”. In that, the CSE gave a few important suggestions for vehicle scrapping policy in India. They are
- There should be a separate effort to include Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in collecting the car for scrapping. Apart from that, there should be legally binding rules for scrapping.
- The scrappage scheme should incentivise replacement of old vehicles with EVs. On the other hand, the government should also frame a policy to reduce the purchasing of traditional petroleum-powered vehicles.
The Scrappage policy has the potential to meet the government-set target of 30-40 percent electrification of the vehicle fleet by 2030. But it can be sustainable only when the government provide adequate support to Electric Vehicles such as by creating the necessary infrastructure for charging, manufacturing battery packs etc.
Taxing older vehicles: A Way forward
Source: click here
Syllabus: GS 3
Synopsis: Raising the tax on older vehicles will help in reducing pollution.
The Centre has planned a policy to raise road tax on vehicles of a certain age from April 1 next year. This has the potential to renew a big part of India’s vehicles on the road, raising fuel efficiency, and improving safety standards. The proposal is
- Commercial transport vehicles will have to pay 10%-25% extra on road tax after 8 years while renewing the fitness certificate. While for personal vehicles it will implement after 15 years.
- Public transports are given concessions. While hybrids, electrics and farm vehicles are exempt.
- Higher tax on diesel engines and in most polluted cities is also proposed.
What will be India’s approach to make this initiative a success?
India’s scheme depends on penal taxation to motivate owners to scrap their old vehicles. However, there are some prerequisites for its success;
- Firstly, the additional tax suggested should be bigger than the resale value of the polluting vehicle. It would make its disposal a more viable option, this would make the approach work.
- Disposal should be done with enough safeguards to ensure that it is really scrapped and recycled under a monitored system.
- Secondly, equity features can be built into the scheme. It can be done by offering a discount to marginal operators such as auto-rickshaw drivers. It would be similar to the 2009 incentive given under the JNNURM scheme for buses.
- Thirdly, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari planned a reduction in automobile prices of 20% to 30%. It would be done by the recovery of scrap steel, Aluminium and plastic; and recycling it further.
- Now, The capacity building in the organised sector can be focussed for scrap collection and processing. It will manage the task of materials recovery, efficiently.
- Fourthly, the vehicle registration database for all States should be updated. It will show the actual numbers of old vehicles on the road. Such data will help target scrappage policy benefits better.
The way forward
- India’s policy to eliminate polluting fuel consumers took a lot of time, and States should see the value of operationalizing it as planned. New vehicles and cleaner fuels should help clear the toxic air in cities and towns and make roads safer.
Green tax on vehicles older than 15 years
Why in News?
The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways has approved a proposal to levy a ‘green tax’ on old vehicles. The policy will come into effect on April 1, 2022.
What is Green Tax?
- Green tax is also called pollution tax or environmental tax. It is the tax levied on goods that cause environmental pollution.
- Purpose of Green Tax: The tax will discourage people from using vehicles that damage the environment. It will motivate them to switch to newer, less polluting vehicles and reduce the overall pollution level and make the polluter pay for it.
Government Green Tax Proposal:
How will the vehicles be taxed? The Green tax will be applied to the vehicles in the following categories:
- Transport vehicles older than 8 years to be charged at the time of renewal of fitness certificate at the rate of 10-25% of road tax.
- Personal vehicles to be charged Green Tax at the time of renewal of Registration Certification after 15 years.
- Public transport vehicles such as city buses to be charged lower tax.
- Higher Green Tax of up to 50% of road tax for vehicles being registered in highly polluted cities like Delhi-NCR.
- Differential tax depending on fuel (petrol/diesel) and type of vehicle.
Exemptions: The following vehicles will be exempted from the Green Tax proposal:
- Strong hybrids, EVs, and vehicles that run on alternative fuels such as CNG, LPG, and ethanol.
- Vehicles used in farming such as tractors, harvesters, and tillers.
How will the Green Tax be used?
- Revenue collected from the green tax will be kept in a separate account. The amount will be used for tackling the problem of pollution.
- The tax will also be used by states to set up state-of-art facilities to monitor the emission.
Source: Business Today
PCRA launches ‘SAKSHAM’ campaign for green and clean energy awareness
News: Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) has launched a month-long campaign “SAKSHAM”.
- SAKSHAM: It is a people-centric fuel conservation mega campaign that aims to highlight the adverse health and environmental impacts of increasing carbon footprints. The idea is to convince consumers to switch to cleaner fuels and bring in behavioral change to use fossil fuel intelligently.
- Campaign: The campaign through various pan-India activities such as cyclothon, farmer workshops, seminars, painting competition, CNG vehicle driving contest will spread awareness among masses about the advantages of using clean fuels.
- Seven Key Drivers: The campaign will also spread awareness about 7 key drivers that the Prime Minister mentioned saying that collectively these would help India move towards cleaner energy.
- The key drivers include 1) moving towards a gas-based economy, 2) cleaner use of fossil fuels 3) greater reliance on domestic sources to drive biofuels 4) achieving renewable targets with the set deadlines 5) increased use of electric vehicles to decarbonize mobility 6)increased use of cleaner fuels like Hydrogen and 7) digital innovation across all energy systems.
- PCRA: It is a registered society set up under the aegis of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
- Objective: As a non-profit organization, PCRA is a national government agency engaged in promoting energy efficiency in various sectors of the economy.
- Functions: It helps the government in proposing policies and strategies for petroleum conservation aimed at reducing excessive dependence of the country on oil requirements.
Effect of air pollution on Pregnancy loss : Lancet study
News: Lancet has released a first of its kind study to estimate the effect of air pollution on pregnancy loss across the South Asia region.
- About the Study: The study combined data from household surveys on health from 1998-2016 (from women who reported at least one pregnancy loss and one or more live births) and estimated exposure to PM2.5 during pregnancy through combining satellite with atmospheric modelling outputs.
Key Highlights of the Study:
Air Quality and Pregnancy Loss:
- Poor air quality is associated with a considerable proportion of pregnancy loss in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
- An estimated 349,681 pregnancy losses per year in South Asia were associated with exposure to PM2.5 concentrations that exceeded India’s air quality standard (more than 40 µg/m³) accounting for 7% of annual pregnancy loss in the region from 2000-2016.
- Gestational exposure to PM2.5 was also associated with an increased likelihood of pregnancy loss and this remained significant after adjusting for other factors.
- Each increase in 10 µg/m³ was estimated to increase a mother’s risk of pregnancy loss by 3%. The increase in risk was greater for mothers from rural areas or those who became pregnant at an older age, compared to younger mothers from urban areas.
How Air Quality Can Cause Pregnancy Loss?
- The reason behind the air pollution to cause pregnancy loss is that the fine particles have been reported to cross the blood placenta barrier and harm the embryo directly.
- Exposure to poor air quality can cause disorders such as inflammation, oxidative stress and blood pressure elevation which can act as factors to increase the risk of pregnancy loss.
Air pollution killed 1.7 million Indians in 2019: Lancet report
News: A report titled “The India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative” was published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.
- India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative: It was launched in 2015. It is a collaboration between the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Public Health Foundation of India(PHFI), Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation(IHME) and senior experts and stakeholders currently from about 100 institutions across India.
- Purpose: The initiative estimates health and economic impacts of air pollution, both from indoor and outdoor sources.
- Aim: There are state-wise and country wide variations in health status and the drivers of health loss. This initiative aims to bridge this gap by providing systematic knowledge of the local health status and trends in each state.
Key Takeaways of the report:
- Deaths due to Air Pollution: Some 1.7 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019 which is 18% of the total deaths in the country.
- Disease Burden: 40% of the disease burden due to air pollution is from lung diseases, the remaining 60% is from ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and neonatal deaths related to preterm birth,
- Indoor vs Outdoor Air Pollution: The mortality from indoor air pollution reduced by 64% between 1990 and 2019, that from outdoor ambient air pollution increased by 115% during this period. Due to Indoor pollution, Goa had the least loss at $7.6 million and UP the highest at $1829·6 million.
- Economic Loss due to Air Pollution: India has lost 1.4% of GDP due to premature deaths and morbidity from air pollution. It is equivalent to Rs 2,60,000 crore in monetary terms — more than four times of the allocation for healthcare in the Union budget for 2020-21.
- Economic loss to State GDP: The economic loss due to air pollution as a percentage of the state GDP was higher in the northern and central India states, with the highest in Uttar Pradesh (2.2% of GDP) and Bihar (2% of GDP).Further, the highest health and economic impact of air pollution is in the less developed states of India.
- Highest Per Capita loss: Delhi had the highest per-capita economic loss due to air pollution followed by Haryana in 2019.
Air Quality Commission directs for 100% switching over of industries in Delhi to PNG
Air Quality Commission
News: The Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas reviewed the progress of switching over of Industries operating in Delhi to Piped Natural Gas with the Government of NCT of Delhi, GAIL and Indraprastha Gas Limited.
- Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas: The commission is a statutory authority setup to tackle air pollution and to monitor and improve air quality in the National Capital Region(NCR) and adjoining areas.
- Chairperson: The Commission is headed by a full-time chairperson who has been a Secretary to the Government of India or a Chief Secretary to a State government.The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until s/he attains the age of 70 years.
- Members: It has members from several Ministries as well as representatives from the stakeholder States.It will also have experts from the CPCB, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Civil Society.
- The Commission has been conferred with the power to lay down air quality parameters, discharge of environmental pollutants parameters, to inspect premises violating the law, order closure of non-abiding industries or plants among others.
- The commission can supersede all existing bodies such as the CPCB and even the state governments of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. It will have the powers to issue directions to the states.
- Orders of the Commission shall prevail in case there is a conflict between the Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards.
- It will have powers to restrict the setting up of industries in vulnerable areas and will be able to conduct site inspections of industrial units.
- Penalties and Offences
- Non-compliance of orders of Commission: The commission can impose a penalty of imprisonment for terms that may extend to 5 years or fine extending upto INR 1 Crore or with both for non-compliance.
- Offence committed by Company- For offence committed by any Company, every person who at the time of offence was directly in charge for or responsible for the conduct of the business of the company, will be held guilty for offence.
- Appeal: Any appeal from the Order of the Commission would lie before the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
Coal sector reforms to reduce CO2 emissions
News: Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has conducted a webinar titled “Reducing CO2 footprints of India’s coal-based power sector”.
- Coal Sector Emissions: India’s coal-based thermal power sector is one of the country’s biggest emitters of CO2.It emits 1.1 giga-tonne of CO2 every year; this is 2.5% of global GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions, one-third of India’s GHG emissions and around 50% of India’s fuel-related CO2 emissions.
- Future of Coal Sector: Coal will continue to be the mainstay of India’s power generation till at least 2030.It will contribute around 50% of electricity generation mix even in 2030.
Measures to reduce emissions:
- Improving fleet technology and efficiency, renovating and modernising: India has one of the youngest coal-based thermal plants in the world, with around 64% of the capacity (132 GW) less than a decade old.The government’s renovation and modernisation policies need to play a key role in maintaining the efficiency of this fleet.
- Planning for the Old Capacity: In 2015, over 34 GW capacity in India was more than 25 years old, and 60% of it was highly inefficient. Increasing India’s renewable electricity generation can help further the cause to accelerate the retirement of old and inefficient plants.
- Propagate biomass co-firing: It is a low-cost option for efficiently and cleanly converting biomass to electricity by adding biomass as a partial substitute fuel in high-efficiency coal boilers.
- Invest in Carbon Capture and Storage(CCS): It is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide, transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere.
- Promote Coal beneficiation: It is a process by which the quality of raw coal is improved by either reducing the extraneous matter that gets extracted along with the mined coal or reducing the associated ash or both.
Waste to Energy
Context: Recently Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa laid the foundation stone for a 11.5 MW waste-to-energy plant near Bidadi. This plant is expected to process 600 tonnes per day of inorganic waste.
What is the significance of Waste to Energy Plants?
- The waste-to-energy plants usually accept the RDF material generated in organic composting plants.
- They also segregate the wet and inorganic material near the plant, convert organic waste to compost, and inorganic waste to energy.
Why it is needed?
- Bengaluru generates close to 5,000 tonnes of waste daily, of which about 2,500 tonnes is organic, about 1,000 tonnes inert material (sweeping waste) and 1,500 tonnes inorganic.
- This inorganic material, which consists of bad quality plastics and used cloth pieces, can be processed as Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF).
- This material has a calorific value of more than 2,500 kJ/kg, and can be used to generate steam energy, which can be converted into electric energy instead of burning coal and other materials used in traditional waste-to-energy plants.
- At present, Inorganic waste that is not fit for recycling are landfilled or left unhandled in waste plants and cause fire accidents.
- Attempts to send this material to cement kilns have not fructified.
- The proposed plant can source 600 tonnes per day of this RDF and generate 11.5 MW of power equivalent to 2.4 lakh units of power per day.
- This will reduce the city’s dependency on unscientific landfills, reduce fire accidents, and provide a permanent solution to recover value from inorganic waste.
What are the challenges faced by Waste to Energy plants in India?
- Poor quality of waste: The Waste to Energy plants require fine inorganic material with less than 5% moisture and less than 5% silt and soil contents, whereas the moisture and inert content in the mixed waste generated in the city is more than 15%-20%.
- Lack of segregation at source: Since segregation at source doesn’t happen in the city, the collected waste material needs to be sieved using 80mm-100 mm sieving machines, which lets through organic material with more than 80mm-100 mm particle sizes into the inorganic waste. In addition, the sticky silt and soil particles will also reduce the calorific value.
- Cost of Power is high: Generally, the tariff at which the power is purchased by to energy plants across the country is around ₹7-8 KwH which is higher than the ₹3-4 per KwH generated through coal and other means. This could be a serious challenge, as the selling price of power cannot be increased corresponding to the purchasing price.
Innovations to curb air pollution
Innovations to curb air pollution
Context-It is important to have systemic changes at the policy and strategy levels to curb air pollution in India.
Why air quality monitoring is essential?
Monitoring helps in assessing the level of pollution in relation to ambient air quality standards. Robust monitoring helps to guard against extreme events by alerting people and initiate action.
- There are more than 250 continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations and more than 800 ambient air quality monitoring stations operating across the country.
What are the Government initiatives to combat air pollution?
- Union Budget 2020-21 allocated Rs.4400 crore for cities having populations above one million to formulating and implementing plans for ensuring cleaner air.
- Delhi-NCR air quality commission– A new ordinance to form a commission for air-quality management in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas.
- This erases all other authorities that were set up under judicial and administrative orders, seeks to limit the role of the judiciary and creates a supra-centralized framework for air-quality management in the region.
- The government has taken various other initiatives to address the issues related to air pollution such as the National Clean Air Program, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and the Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms.
However, these measures will have a major impact in the long term. India needs innovations to deliver on the promise of cleaner air in the immediate future.
What are the new innovations to curb air pollution?
- PUSA bio-decomposer– an effective way to prevent stubble burning.
- Pusa bio-decomposer is a solution developed by the scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, which can turn crop residue into manure in 15 to 20 days and therefore, can prevent stubble burning.
- Filter-less retrofit device- for cutting particulate matter at source in industries and vehicles.
- A nature-based solution to amplify air purification through breathing roots technology for improving indoor air quality.
- Geospatial technology and AI- To upgrade capacities to identify, monitor, regulate and mitigate air pollution hotspots.
The Geo-AI platform for brick kilns – is supporting environment regulators to identify non-compliant brick kilns from space.
- The platform has already mapped over 37,000 brick manufacturing units across the Indo-Gangetic plains.
What else need to be done to curb air pollution?
- Create an innovation framework– Government should provide an enabling ecosystem for innovations to address context-specific air pollution challenges and resources need to be allocated to support testing, certifying and scaling of innovative solutions.
- Mobilize private sector participation – Businesses and enterprises need to innovate their operations and functioning to reduce carbon footprint.
What is the way forward?
- The new budgetary step, which is also a tacit political acknowledgement of the public health emergency, has to gather momentum to step up fiscal solutions for killer air.
- India needs context-specific innovations not only in the technological but also in the economic, social, legal, educational, political and institutional domains to mitigate the challenges of air pollution.
- The private sector has strong potential to develop commercially viable products to combat air pollution and boost the innovation ecosystem.
How to end pollution
Context: An independent Environmental Protection Agency is required to build scientific and technical capacity for controlling pollution.
What are the sources of pollution?
- Seasonal sources: crop-burning and fireworks grab attention at this time of year.
- According to a study by Chandra Venkataraman of IIT-Mumbai and other scientists, the biggest sources nationally are cooking fires, coal-fired power plants, various industries, crop residue burning, and construction and road dust.
- Cooking fires: Since particles diffuse with the air and are carried by winds, they do not stay in kitchens; they contribute to pollution throughout the country.
What are the challenges in handling pollution?
- Investment not profitable in technological changes: Although it is hugely beneficial for the country as a whole but is not privately profitable at present.
- The judiciary: It does not have even the few scientific and technical staff available to our under-funded pollution control boards;
- it has no capacity to conduct pollution monitoring or scientific studies or even evaluate the results.
What are the steps needed to be taken?
- Deal with pollution firmly and gradually: If this is done, it can be brought down to developed-country levels within a few years.
- Reason: there are many sources of pollution and it would be ridiculously costly to stop them or even significantly reduce them all at once.
- Replacement of existing technologies: Smoky firewood, dung and crop residues that are burnt in kitchens all over rural India and some urban slums must be replaced with LPG, induction stoves, and other electric cooking appliances.
- Old coal power plants must be closed and replaced with wind and solar power and batteries or other forms of energy storage, while newer plants must install new pollution control equipment.
- Other industries that use coal will have to gradually switch over to cleaner fuel sources such as gas or hydrogen.
- Farmers will have to switch crops or adopt alternative methods of residue management.
- Diesel and petrol vehicles must gradually be replaced by electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles running on power generated from renewables.
- Tax and subsidies: It is easy for governments to make clean investments more profitable and dirty investments less profitable.
- All that needs to be done is to tax polluting activities and subsidise clean investments.
- Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA can announce that they will raise the pollution fees by a certain percentage every year. This gives businesses time to adjust; they will then find it profitable to make new investments in non-polluting technologies.
- For example, a fee on plastic production at refineries, since it is very costly to monitor small producers and retailers of plastic bags; a fee on fly ash or sulphur dioxide emitted by coal power plants, and a fee on coal use, a fee on diesel at refineries, etc.
- The EPA has to be given some independence:
- A head appointed for a five-year term removable only by impeachment.
- A guaranteed budget funded by a small percentage tax on all industries.
- Autonomy to hire staff.
- Set pollution fees after justification through scientific studies.
- The PM Ujjwala Yojna that increased LPG access has made a big difference to the pollution from cooking fires.
- The BS-VI regulations will reduce vehicular pollution over the next decade.
- We need the scientific and technical capacity that only a securely funded independent EPA can bring to shrink pollution down to nothing.
Explained: Increase in ammonia levels in Yamuna
Increase in ammonia levels in Yamuna
News: Water supply was affected in parts of Delhi after a spike in Ammonia levels in the river Yamuna led to a temporary closure of two water treatment plants.
- Ammonia(NH3): It is a colourless gas and is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilisers, plastics, synthetic fibres, dyes and other products.
- Source: It occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter and may also find its way to ground and surface water sources through industrial effluents, contamination by sewage or through agricultural runoff.
- Acceptable Limit: The acceptable maximum limit of ammonia in drinking water as per the Bureau of Indian Standards is 0.5 ppm.
- Effects: If the concentration of ammonia in water is above 1 ppm it is toxic to fishes. In humans, long term ingestion of water having ammonia levels of 1 ppm or above may cause damage to internal organs.
- Mixing of freshwater with ammonia polluted water.
- Stringent implementation of guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the river.
- Making sure untreated sewage does not enter the water.
- Maintaining a sustainable minimum flow, called the ecological flow.
- Ecological flow is the minimum amount of water that should flow throughout the river at all times to sustain underwater and estuarine ecosystems and human livelihoods and for self regulation.
Firecrackers ban ahead of festival season
Context- National Green Tribunal bans firecrackers in place where air quality is poor.
What are the guidelines of National Green Tribunal for firecrackers?
- The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed that there would be a total ban on sale or use of all kinds of firecrackers between November 10 and 30 in places where air quality is ‘poor’ and above category.
- About Green crackers– NGT also directed that in places where the ambient air quality fell under the ‘moderate’ or below category, only green crackers would be permitted to be sold and timings restricted to two hours for bursting.
- The panel specified that data from November 2019 would be calculated to ascertain the average ambient air quality for both the instances.
- The Tribunal in its order noted that Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Delhi and Chandigarh among others had prohibited the sale and use of firecrackers to protect vulnerable groups.
What is the impact of air pollution on COVID-19?
- COVID-19 –The potential modes of transmission of COVID-19 is through ambient air by droplets which carry the viruses. Changes in the environment will affect the transmission of the infection. Air pollution is one of the elements that can change the environment. So air pollution can indirectly influence the transmission.
- 40% of all pollution-linked deaths attributed to bad air quality in leading emerging economies and some evidence from the U.S. on higher COVID-19 mortality in highly polluted areas.
What are the concerns of the fireworks industry?
- The ban on firecrackers by some state governments has come as a double blow for the fireworks industry in Tamil Nadu, which cater to 90 per cent of the demand in the country, as they have already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Disbursement of salaries to employees and uncertainty whether the units would receive payment for stocks already sent to states like Rajasthan and Haryana before the ban was announced.
- A compensation scheme for workers and suitable relief for firecracker producers may be necessary.
- Longer-term solution might lie in broad basing economic activity by reducing reliance on firecrackers.
- All State pollution control boards and committees must take special initiative to contain air pollution by regulating all other sources of pollution.
The cost of clearing the air
The cost of clearing the air
Context: In February, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a ₹4,400 crore package for 2020-21 to tackle air pollution in 102 of India’s most polluted cities.
More on news:
- The funds would be used to reduce particulate matter by 20%-30% from 2017 levels by 2024 under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
- It was the largest yearly allocation by a government to specifically tackle air pollution.
What is the scale of the problem?
- Unclear scale: It is unclear if this amount is adequate to handle the task of improving air quality. Delhi, after being the epitome of pollution, has only in the last two years managed to firmly install an extensive network of continuous ambient air quality monitors.
- About 37 and the highest in the country managed by several government or allied bodies.
- It has also managed to conduct source apportionment studies to determine the degree of pollution that is contributed by its own activities (construction, road dust, vehicle movement) and that brought on from external sources such as stubble burning. Though the data is not enough.
- Insufficient allocations: The taxpayer money that has actually gone into it far exceeds allocations that find mention in the Centre and State government’s budgeting books.
- Funds expenditure: Several of the States with the most polluted cities that have been allotted NCAP funds are expected to spend a substantial fraction in the act of measurement. Maharashtra and U.P., by virtue of their size, got the maximum funds: close to ₹400 crore.
- An analysis by research agencies :Carbon Copy and Respirer Living Sciences recently found that only 59 out of 122 cities had PM 2.5 data available.
- Use of manual machine: Cites have used manual machines to measure specified pollutants and their use has been inadequate. Only three States, had all their installed monitors providing readings from 2016 to 2018.
- Prior to 2016, data aren’t publicly available making comparisons of reduction strictly incomparable.
- Manual machine replacement: Now manual machines are being replaced by automatic ones and India is still largely reliant on imported machines though efforts are underway at institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur to make and install low-cost ones.
Do these budgetary allocations help?
- Budgetary allocations alone don’t reflect the true cost :
- A Right to Information disclosure sourced by the research agencies revealed that for four cities in Maharashtra ₹40 crore had been assigned.
- Pollution clean-up activities have been assigned 50% of this budget and another ₹11 crore are allotted for mechanical street sweepers.
- Depending on the specific conditions in every city, these proportions are likely to change.
- In the case of the National Capital Region: at least ₹600 crore was spent by the Ministry of Agriculture over two years to provide subsidised equipment to farmers in Punjab and Haryana and dissuade them from burning paddy straw.
- Yet this year, there have been more farm fires than the previous year and their contribution to Delhi’s winter air remain unchanged.
- While funds are critical, proper enforcement, adequate staff and stemming the sources of pollution on the ground are vital to the NCAP meeting its target.
Stubble Burning Issue
Stubble Burning Issue and Analysis
Context: New innovative method, the PUSA Decomposer, developed at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa can offer a sustainable solution for stubble burning.
What is stubble burning?
- Stubble burning refers to the practice of farmers setting fire to plant debris that remain in farms after harvest.
- Stubble burning is practised predominantly by farmers in north India.
- It is to be noted that, before the 1980s, farmers used to till the remaining debris back into the soil after harvesting the crops manually.
Why farmers resort to stubble burning?
- Advent of the Green Revolution: It resulted in increased production of rice and wheat which simultaneously increased stubble post-harvest.
- Mechanised harvesting: Machines used in combined harvesting technique is not efficient as it left behind one-foot-tall stalks.
- Economic reason: Due to the limited time period of 20-25 days between harvesting one crop and sowing another, Stubble burning offered a low-cost and speedy solution to farmers.
What are the negative impacts of Stubble burning?
- Source for toxic gases: It releases harmful gases including nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.
- Air pollution: It creates vast smoke blankets across the Indo-Gangetic Plains. As per TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) report, in 2019 the air pollution in New Delhi and other parts of north India was 20 times higher than the safe threshold level as prescribed by the World Health Organization.
- Impact on crop production: It degrades soil fertility, destroys organic fertilizers and reduces ground water levels.
- Impact on Health: Stubble burning during a pandemic could worsen the situation by making lungs weaker and people more susceptible to disease.
What are the Steps taken to control stubble burning?
Laws & Regulations
- In 2013, the Punjab government-imposed ban on stubble burning.
- Later, in 2015, the National Green Tribunal imposed a ban on stubble burning in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
- Stubble burning is an offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981.
- To control stubble burning NGT directed government to assist farmers by obtaining equipment like happy seeders and rotavator.
Setting up of independent Commissions
- Recently, in Aditya Dubey v. Union of India, the Supreme Court appointed a one-man committee under Justice Madan B. Lokur to monitor and provide steps to prevent stubble burning activities in Punjab, Haryana and U.P. Haryana.
- Presently, a permanent commission for air quality management was set up by the Union government through an ordinance. It will replace the Justice Madan B. Lokur Commission.
What is the way forward?
- Setting up Custom Hiring Centres: it will facilitate farmers removing stubble by providing them with machinery such as the happy seeder, rotavator, paddy straw chopper, etc.
- Innovative solutions: For example, the Union government is testing an innovative method, the PUSA Decomposer. It helps the paddy straw to decompose at a much faster rate than usual.
Technological innovations can offer a better solution for problems like stubble burning. The application of happy seeders and super SMS machines along with innovative solutions like PUSA Decomposer will not only reduce air pollution bur also increase soil fertility and agricultural productivity
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Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)–Transport Initiative for Asia(TIA)
Nationally Determined Contributions
News: NITI Aayog will virtually launch the India Component of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)–Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA).
- NDC Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA): The initiative aims to promote a comprehensive approach to decarbonize transport in India, Vietnam, and China over the period 2020-24.
- Supported by: It is supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Ministry for the Environment and Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).
- Implementation: It is implemented by seven organizations namely: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), World Resources Institute (WRI), International Transport Forum (ITF), Agora Verkehrswende (AGORA), Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) and Foundation and Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).
- Indian Component: The India Component is implemented by six consortium organizations all except SLoCaT. On behalf of the Government of India, NITI Aayog will be the implementing partner.
Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC): The Paris Agreement (2015) requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts to address climate change through INDC’s and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead.
India’s intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) under Paris Agreement:
· Reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33% to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level,
· Increase total cumulative electricity generation from fossil free energy sources to 40% by 2030,
· Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tons through additional forest and tree cover.
NDC-TIA India Component will focus on establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform for decarbonizing transport in India.
Ratification of seven (7) chemicals listed under Stockholm Convention on POPs
News: The Union Cabinet has approved the Ratification of seven (7) chemicals listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants(POPs).
- Seven POPs: The seven POPs prohibited from manufacturing, trading using, importing and exporting are:
- Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Hepta Bromodiphenyl Ether
- Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether
- Hexabromocyclododecane and
- Significance: The ratification process would enable India to access the Global Environment Facility (GEF) financial resources.
- Other Decisions taken by Cabinet: The Cabinet has delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to Union Ministers of External Affairs(MEA) and Environment, Forest and Climate Change(MEFCC) in respect of POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations thereby streamlining the procedure.
- Stockholm Convention: It is an international environmental treaty, signed in 2001 and effective from 2004. It aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants(POPs).
- What are POPs? These are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms, and are toxic to humans and wildlife.
Graded Response Action Plan(GRAP)
News: Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority(EPCA) has directed Delhi and neighboring States to implement the Graded Response Action Plan(GRAP) from 15th October 2020.
- Graded Response Action Plan(GRAP): It is a set of stratified actions that are taken once the pollution level reaches a certain specified limit.
- When was it notified? The action plan was notified in 2017 for Delhi and the National Capital Region(NCR).
- Who prepared it? The Supreme Court had mandated the Environmental Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to come up with such a plan.
- Overview of Action Plan:
- The plan requires action and coordination among 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan (NCR areas).
- It includes measures to prevent worsening of Air Quality of Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region) and prevent PM10 and PM2.5 levels to go beyond the ‘moderate’ national Air Quality Index (AQI) category.
- EPCA is mandated to enforce the Action Plan as per the pollution levels.
- EPCA: It is a Supreme Court mandated body tasked with taking various measures to tackle air pollution in Delhi NCR. It was constituted in 1998 under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act,1986.
- Air Quality Index: It classifies air quality of a day considering criteria pollutants through color codes and air quality descriptors.The index measures eight major pollutants namely, particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, ammonia, and lead.
Air Pollution in India and green recovery
What is the state of air pollution in India?
- India recorded the highest PM2.5 exposure and the most increase in deaths between 2010 and 2019.
- Air pollution accounts for 20 per cent of newborn deaths worldwide, 24 per cent of these infant deaths occur in India which is the highest. This defies the principles of inter-generational justice.
- The State of Global Air that is a collaborative study of Health Effect Institute and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation of Global Burden of Disease Project has presented that:
- Out of the total tally of 6,670,000 particulate matter (PM) 2.5-attributable deaths globally, 980,000 deaths occurred in India which was a 61 per cent increase since 2010.
- The other silent killer sidling up in India is ozone: the country has recorded an 84 per cent increase in ozone-related deaths since 2010.
What is the effect of air pollution on newborns?
- The effect of air pollution on infants that shows an estimated 1.8 million deaths worldwide, mostly within 27 days of childbirth. Mothers’ exposure to toxic air leads to pre-term birth and lower birth weight.
- Babies born too small or too early become more vulnerable to lower-respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases, brain damage, inflammation, blood disorders and jaundice.
- Inflammation and oxidative stress deeply affect the health of pregnant women and babies as particles and toxic components move across membranes of the lungs and get carried to different parts of the body and affect placental function and the fetus.
- Burning of solid fuels for cooking accounts for 64 per cent of infant deaths while the rest is due to outdoor air pollution. Hence, vulnerability of poorer women increases.
- According to director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the young and the infants whose lungs and respiratory systems are not yet developed have higher chances of chronic illness, lung damage, and death. This compromises their quality of life.
- COVID-19 and air pollution : Exposure to air pollution can compromise immune defense, making people more prone to respiratory and other infections.
What are the steps to be taken for green recovery?
- The National Clean Air Programme should improve legally due multi-sector action across regions to clean up all air shelters.
- Deeper sectoral reforms are required to clean up emissions from vehicles, power plants, industries and local sources like construction and waste.
- Effective intervention can lead to verifiable improvement in health outcome as this is evident in the reduction in household pollution exposure from 54 per cent to 36 percent due to improved access to clean fuels in India.
- There can be substantial economic benefit from improvement in health outcomes related to air pollution, as a lot of these diseases are preventable and so required changes should be made to improve the existing situation.
Reason for Delhi October pollution Level
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS-3- Environment
Context: Delhi’s air quality started to dip as the AQI touched very poor for the very first time this October.
Why does air pollution rise in October each year?
- Air pollution in Delhi and the whole of the Indo Gangetic Plains is a complex phenomenon that is dependent on a variety of factors. The first and foremost is the input of pollutants, followed by weather and local conditions.
- Once monsoon season ends, the main direction of winds changes to north westerly from easterly winds.
- According to a study conducted by scientists at the National Physical Laboratory, 72 per cent of Delhi’s wind in winters comes from the northwest, while the remaining 28 per cent comes from the Indo-Gangetic plains.
- The dip in temperature is also behind the increased pollution levels. The inversion height which is the layer beyond which pollutants cannot disperse into the upper layer of the atmosphere is lowered and concentration of pollutants in the air increases.
- Wind speed dips in winters which are responsible for dispersing pollutants. AQI dips even more when factors such as farm fires and dust storms are added to the already high base pollution levels in the city.
What is the role of farm fires?
- Stubble burning which is a way to get rid of paddy stubble quickly and at a low cost, gained widespread acceptance when governments of Punjab and Haryana passed laws delaying the sowing of paddy.
- The aim of passing this law was to conserve groundwater as the new sowing cycle would coincide with monsoons and less water would be extracted.
- This left very little time for farmers to harvest paddy, clear fields and sow wheat for the next cycle.
- The paddy straw and stalks have high silica content and are not used to feed livestock.
- The alternatives like the happy seeder machine which helps covering the residue, are seen as unavailable, and money and time consuming by smaller farmers.
- A 2015 source-apportionment study on Delhi’s air pollution conducted by IIT-Kanpur also states that 17-26% of all particulate matter in Delhi in winters is because of biomass burning.
- The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) has developed a system to calculate the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s pollution.
- Last year, during peak stubble burning incidents, its contribution rose to 40%.
What are the other big sources of pollution in Delhi?
- Dust and vehicular pollution are the two biggest causes of dipping air quality in Delhi in winters.
- Dust pollution contributes to 56% of PM 10 and the PM2.5 load at 59 t/d, the top contributors being road 38 % of PM 2.5 concentration, the IIT Kanpur study said.
- According to the IIT Kanpur study, 20 % of PM 2.5 in winters comes from vehicular pollution.
What are the steps taken by the government to address the pollution?
- The effort to reduce vehicular pollution, which experts say is more harmful as it is released at breathing level, the following has been done:
- The introduction of BS VI (cleaner) fuel
- Push for electric vehicles
- Odd-Even as an emergency measure
- Construction of the Eastern and Western Peripheral Expressways
- With vehicles back on the road, temperature dipping and stubble burning starting, Delhi’s air is set to get worse and so the steps introduced by the government should be implemented properly to find some relief from the pollution in Delhi.
Delhi Air pollution on rise: Reasons and initiatives taken
With the onset of winters, Delhi Air pollution has started increasing. Delhi’s air quality remains in the ‘poor’ category with stubble burning causing a rise in pollution levels.
Air pollution in Delhi and the whole of the Indo Gangetic Plains is a complex phenomenon that is dependent on a variety of factors. The first and foremost is the input of pollutants, followed by weather and local conditions.
What is air pollution?
Read – Air Quality Index
Air pollution is the introduction into the atmosphere of chemicals, particulates, or biological materials that cause discomfort, disease, or death to humans, damage other living organisms, damage natural and built environment
What are air pollutants?
- A substance in the air that can be adverse to humans and the environment is known as an air pollutant. Pollutants are classified as primary and secondary
- A primary pollutant is an air pollutant emitted directly from a source. Like Volcanic eruptions or fires and carbon monoxide from vehicles.
- A secondary pollutant is not directly emitted as such, but forms when other pollutants (primary pollutants) react in the atmosphere. For ex: Tropospheric ozone or “bad ozone”, which is formed due to its interaction with other gases and substance.
Why Delhi air pollution rises in October?
- Northwesterly Winds: Month of October marks the withdrawal of Monsoon winds (South-West) from North India, leading to the arrival of North-Easterly winds.
- Monsoon winds carry Moisture and rainfall all over the country, whereas northwesterly winds carry dust from dust storms originating in Rajasthan and sometimes Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- As per the study conducted by scientists at the National Physical Laboratory, 72 per cent of Delhi’s wind in winters comes from the northwest, while the remaining 28 per cent comes from the Indo-Gangetic plains.
- One of such examples is a storm of 2017, originated from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that led to a drastic dip in Delhi’s air quality in a couple of days.
- Low-level inversion: Another factor is the temperature dip in the month of October. Low-temperature results in low-level inversion i.e. the layer that stops the upward movement of air from the layers below. It leads to the concentration of pollutants in the air at the lower heights.
- Wind speed: High wind speed in summers facilitates the faster movement of particulate matters in the air. As the wind speed decreases in winters, the air is not able to draw the pollutant away from a region.
- Landlocked Geography of Delhi: Geography of Delhi and the region around in the northern plains is landlocked. On the one hand source wind from North-West is already having pollutants, on the other, the Himalayas obstruct the escape route of air. Moreover, large buildings and other structures in Delhi also reduce airspeed.
- It is the reason that Chennai with the third-highest number of automobiles in India faces far less pollution in the city in comparison as coastal reason provides air with an effective route to enter and exit.
- Industrial chimney wastes: There are a number of industries which are source of pollution. The chief gases are SO2 and NO2. There are many food and fertilizers industries which emit acid vapours in air.
- Automobiles pollution: The Toxic vehicular exhausts are a source of considerable air pollution. In all the major cities of the country about 800 to 1000 tonnes of pollutants are being emitted into the air daily, of which 50% come from automobile exhausts. According to the IIT Kanpur study, 20 % of PM 2.5 in winters comes from vehicular pollution.
The exhaust produces many air pollutants including un-burnt hydrocarbons, CO, NOx and lead oxides.
- Dust pollution: Dust pollution originating from construction activities, raw road sides, from the neighbouring states, contributes to 56% of PM 10 and the PM2.5 load at 59 t/d, the top contributors being road 38 % of PM 2.5 concentration.
Paddy stubble burning:
- About the issue: Use of combine harvesters, has become a common practice after government law for delaying the sowing of paddy with an aim to conserve groundwater. It leaves farmers with very less time to get their fields ready. Moreover, paddy straw and stalks cannot be used to feed livestock, due to high silica content in them.
- In this hurry, farmers see burning of this stubble as a viable option. During peak stubble burning incidents, its contribution rose to 40%. As of now it is just 4%-5%, indicating the contribution of variety of other factors.
- The stubble burning season is around 45 days long. Air in Delhi, however, remains polluted till February.
- Government policies increasing stubble burning: One of such acts is Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act, 2009, which is aimed at arresting Punjab’s falling groundwater tables. it banned farmers from transplanting rice in fields before June, so that they would not pump groundwater and rely more on the monsoon rains for their water supply.
- This allowed a window of barely 20 days for farmers to harvest paddy, clear fields and sow wheat for the next cycle.
Is this just a Delhi problem?
- Air pollution is not a problem of Delhi and its corporations alone but that of a big airshed around it that includes the National Capital Region (NCR). It includes Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida, areas of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and even Alwar in Rajasthan.
- An airshed, in geography, is defined as a region in which the atmosphere shares common features with respect to dispersion of pollutants; in other words, a region sharing a common flow of air.
Various initiatives to curb Delhi Air pollution
- SC appointed committee: one-man committee of Justice Madan B Lokur has been appointed to monitor stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh amid rising pollution in Delhi and its surrounding areas.
2. Graded response action plan: In pursuant with Supreme Court’s order in the M. C. Mehta vs. Union of India (2016) regarding air quality in National Capital Region of Delhi, the Graded Response Action Plan was notified by MoEFCC in 2017. GRAP is a set of stratified actions that are taken once the pollution level reaches a certain specified limit. It works only as an emergency measure
Government has opened the peripheral expressway around the capital to diverts non-Delhi destined traffic away.
3. Construction & demolition (C&D) waste management rules: Govt. has notified construction & demolition waste management rules.
As per the rules, all generators of C&D waste must segregate it into four categories– concrete, soil, steel and wood, plastics, bricks and mortar – and then either deposit it at collection centres setup by the local authority or hand it over to processing facilities.
Over the years, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) has developed a system to calculate the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s pollution.
4. Tree policy: A new policy with an aim to preservation and transplantation of trees has been introduced by Delhi government.
5. CPCB monitoring: Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has deployed 50 teams for inspection in Delhi-NCR region. Inspection teams will visit the construction site and will levy fines in case of any violation of anti-pollution guidelines.
6. Red Light On, Gaadi Off campaign: A campaign ‘Red Light On, Gaadi Off’ has been launched by Delhi government to tackle air pollution. As per the government, switching off vehicle engines will not only stop pollution but also result in saving of ₹7,000 per vehicle every year.
7. Anti-Smog guns: Anti-smog gun is a device designed to reduce air pollution by spraying water into the atmosphere so that all the dust and polluted particles get clear from the environment. The gun is attached to a water tank built on a movable vehicle which can be taken to various parts of the city.
8. Smog Towers: They are large-scale air purifiers usually fitted with multiple layers of air filters which cleans the air of pollutants as it passes through them
- Use of Happy Seeders: By Happy seeders, farmers can sow wheat seeds with the stubble’s organic value-adding to the soil, without the need to clear it or burn it.
- ICMR tech: Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICMR) has developed a solution that can be sprayed on crop residues and convert it into manure. This technique should be used on a wide scale all over the region.
- Commercialisation of paddy straw: Government should find ways to commercialize paddy straw, as wheat straw is useful farmers have found ways to use it, unlike paddy.
- More Smog towers: More smog tower and anti-smog guns should be installed to reduce the level of smog in the capital.
- Implementation of legislations: Environment-related Legislations must be implemented and followed in Letter and spirit. Many laws have been framed to protect the environment and their implementation on the ground is very lethargic.
Read more – Air pollution in India
Benzene Pollution is a colourless or light-yellow chemical that is liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odour and is highly flammable. Benzene is formed from both natural processes and human activities.
Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke. Normal environmental concentrations of benzene are unlikely to damage animals or plants. It does have a low to moderate toxicity for aquatic organisms, but this is only likely to be apparent when high concentrations arise from significant spills.
The indoor benzene exposure is often higher than outdoor. The outdoor air usually contains a low level of benzene from tobacco smoke, gas stations, motor vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions. The benzene in indoor air comes from products such as glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents.
Further, fuels such as coal, wood, gas, kerosene or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) for space heating and cooking also lead to higher benzene concentration indoors.
Polyurethane is used majorly its two major applications, soft furnishings and insulation. Its thermal decomposition consists mainly of carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, oxides of nitrogen, hydrogen cyanide, acetaldehyde, acetone, propene, carbon dioxide, alkenes and water vapor.