Pollution in India


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
  • Children and Digital Dumpsites Report Highlights impacts of E-waste

    What is the News?

    The World Health Organization(WHO) has released a report titled “Children and Digital Dumpsites”.

    About Children and Digital Dumpsites Report:
    • The report summarizes the latest scientific knowledge on the links between informal e-waste recycling activities and the health impact among children.
    • The report also underlined the risk faced by children working in the informal processing of discarded electronic devices or e-waste.

    Key Findings of the Children and Digital Dumpsites Report:

    • Every year, as many as 18 million children — as young as five years — and about 12.9 million women work at e-waste dumpsites.
    • The e-waste from high-income countries is dumped in the middle- or low-income countries for processing every year. This e-waste is dismantled and recycled by children.
    • This e-waste contains over 1,000 precious metals and other substances like gold, copper, mercury, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
    • Low-income countries do not have proper safeguarding regulations, which makes the process even more dangerous.
    • Moreover, children are especially preferred at these dumpsites because of their small and dexterous hands. Several women, including pregnant women, also work at these sites.
    Impact of E-Waste:
    • Children: The children working at these e-waste dumpsites are prone to improper lung function, deoxyribonucleic acid damage, and increased risk of chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. Children are also less likely to metabolize or eradicate pollutants absorbed.
    • Women: Processing e-waste exposes women as well as their children to toxins, which can lead to premature births and stillbirth.
    • E-Waste Areas: The hazardous impact of working at e-waste dumpsites is also experienced by families and communities that reside in the vicinity of these e-waste dumpsites.

    Read Also :-E-Waste Management in India- An Overview

    Recommendations:
    • The report has called for the monitoring, safe disposal of e-waste, and raising awareness about its outcomes on the health of children and women working at these dumpsites.

    About E-Waste:

    • E-Waste(Electronic-Waste) is a term used to describe old, end-of-life, or discarded electronic appliances. It includes computers, mobiles, consumer electronics among others.
    E-Waste Generation:
    • According to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership, the volume of e-waste generated is surging rapidly across the globe.
    • About 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste were generated in 2019. But only 17.4% of this e-waste was processed in formal recycling facilities.
    • The rest of it was dumped in low- or middle-income countries for illegal processing by informal workers.
    • Moreover, this is likely to increase in the coming years because of the rise in the number of smartphones and computers.

    Source: Down To Earth

  • “Oil Spill” at Sri Lanka’s Coast
    What is the News?

    Sri Lanka is preparing for a major oil spill. A burnt-out container ship is sinking outside Colombo’s harbor with nearly 350 tonnes of oil in its fuel tanks. This ship was burning for the last 13 days, causing Sri Lanka’s worst maritime environmental disaster.

    What is an Oil Spill?

    • Oil Spill is the contamination of seawater due to an oil pour as a result of an accident or human error.
    • Oil spills into oceans most often are caused by accidents involving tankers, barges, pipelines, refineries, drilling rigs and storage facilities.

    Impact of Oil Spill:

    Environmental Impact of Oil Spill:
    • Oil spills affect marine life by exposing them to harsh elements and destroying their sources of food and habitat.
    • Oil coating on feathers destroys bird’s abilities like waterproofing and insulation. It also decreases the water repellency of birds feathers, without which they lose their ability to repel cold water.
    • Both birds and mammals can die from hypothermia as a result of oil spills.
    • Birds can also die of overheating as they are not able to lose body heat due to oil coating.
    • Ingested oil can be toxic to affected animals, and damage their habitat and reproductive rate.
    Economic Impacts of Oil Spill:
    • It can result in less tourism and commerce on beaches and populated shorelines.
    • The power plants and other utilities that depend on drawing or discharging seawater are severely affected by oil spills.
    • Major oil spills are frequently followed by the immediate suspension of commercial fishing.

    Human Impact of Oil Spill:

    • The effects of oil spill on marine life can in turn adversely affect humans. For instance, the contamination of local ecosystems can impact communities that rely on marine ecosystems to survive.
    • Water supplies in surrounding areas are at risk of contamination from oil spills.
    • Fishermen and local ship workers can lose their sources of income. Because now health problems will be associated with exposure to oil such as respiratory damage, decreased immunity, and increased cancer risk.

    How are oil spills cleaned? There are a few ways to clean up oil spills including:

    • Skimming: It involves removing oil from the sea surface before it is able to reach the sensitive areas along the coastline.
    • In situ burning: It means burning a particular patch of oil after it has concentrated in one area.
    • Releasing chemical dispersants helps break down oil into smaller droplets. It makes it easier for microbes to consume, and further, break it down into less harmful compounds.
    • Natural actions in aquatic environments such as weathering, evaporation, biodegradation and oxidation can also help reduce the severity of an oil spill. It also accelerates the recovery of an affected area.
    • Sorbents: Various sorbents (e.g., straw, volcanic ash, and shavings of polyester-derived plastic) that absorb the oil from the water are used.
    • Dispersing agents: These are chemicals that contain surfactants or compounds that act to break liquid substances such as oil into small droplets. They accelerate its natural dispersion into the sea.
    • Biological agents: Nutrients, enzymes, or microorganisms such as Alcanivorax bacteria or Methylocella silvestris that increase the rate at which natural biodegradation of oil occurs are added.

    Source: The Hindu

  • Biomedical Waste Management during pandemic – Explained, Pointwise
    Introduction

    Prior to the pandemic, India’s biomedical waste management capacity was already limited. Now, with the advent of the pandemic, biomedical waste generation has increased manifold. CPCB has given guidelines to discard the biomedical waste generated in Covid-19 camps and Covid-related material such as gloves and masks in households. However, the implementation of the guidelines is limited as local bodies are not equipped to handle biomedical waste, and even the public doesn’t have enough knowledge about segregating it. All this is leading to the piling up of biomedical waste.

    According to the environment ministry, nearly 146 tonnes of biomedical waste is generated per day in the country due to diagnostic activities and treatment of Covid-19 patients. Since India is fighting with the second wave of Covid-19 and still producing and using numerous masks, Personal Protection Equipments, etc. the medical waste generation is going to increase further. So, India needs practical solutions to tackle this silent menace created by the pandemic.

    Biomedical waste generation during the pandemic
    1. According to the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the quantity of Biomedical wastes generated per day in the country has almost doubled from 7.22 lakh kg in pre-Covid times to nearly 14 lakh kg now. This rise in waste generation is directly related to the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.
    2. The IMA also noted that the per-bed Biomedical waste generation was 250 grams per day before the pandemic. But today, per-bed Biomedical waste generation is around 400 grams per day.
    3. The majority of biomedical waste generated during the pandemic is related to Covid-19 treatment. Such as personal protective equipment (PPE), gloves, face masks, head cover, plastic coverall, hazmat suit, syringes, and other medical equipment used by both healthcare providers and patients.
    4. According to scientists, these biomedical wastes will take thousands of years to biodegrade. During the process, they will also release tonnes of microplastics into our environment.

    To tackle this menace the CPCB even launched a COVID19BWM App to track biomedical waste.

    What is biomedical waste?

    In simple terms, it means any waste generated during diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals or in research activities. Management of biomedical waste is an integral part of infection control and hygiene programs. Without proper treatment, these medical wastes can create an adverse impact on the environment and public health.

    Only about 10% – 25% of BMW is hazardous, and the remaining 75%–95% is non-hazardous. So, the segregation of biomedical waste is the key to its management.

    Biomedical waste management rules in India

    In July 1998 the government of India notified the biomedical waste management rules. There was modification of rules in 2000, 2003, and 2011. But the 2011 medical waste management rules remained as a draft due to a lack of consensus on categorization and standards.

    After the consensus and standardization, the Indian government released Biomedical Waste Management rules in 2016. The salient features of this rule are,

    1. Expansion of the ambit: The scope of the rules have been expanded to include various health camps such as vaccination camps, blood donation camps, and surgical camps
    2. Role of State governments: The State Government has to provide land for setting up a common biomedical waste treatment and disposal facility (CBMWTF). Apart from that, the State government will also have to set up a district-level committee (This committee shall submit its report to the State Pollution Control Board every 6 months).
    3. Segregation: Biomedical waste has been classified into 4 categories instead of the earlier 10 categories. This is to improve the segregation of waste at the source.
      • Yellow – This includes post-operated body parts, caps, masks, pathological wastes, bedding, placenta, plaster of Paris, etc
      • Red – This includes syringe, IV Sets, catheters, gloves, urine bags, blood bags, dialysis kits, etc
      • White – This category contains waste sharps including needles, syringes, etc.
      • Blue – This category contains glassware and metallic body implants
    4. Role of health care facilities: The health care facilities have a larger role in medical waste management. Such as,
      • Compulsory pretreatment of the laboratory, microbiological waste, and blood bags before disposal
      •  Phasing out chlorinated plastic bags, gloves, blood bags, etc
      • Maintaining a registry of biomedical wastes generated in their facility and updating them daily.
    Biomedical waste management practice in India
    1. The management of Biomedical wastes begins at the bedside of the patient. The hospitals categorize, segregate, pre-treat, and dispose of the medical waste in different containers.
    2. As per the 2016 rules, these wastes have to be treated and disposed of by Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment and Disposal Facility (CBWTF).
    3. In case, there is no CBWTF within the reach of a healthcare facility, then such healthcare facility should install a captive treatment and disposal facility.

    According to the government data, India had 200 authorized CBWTFs in 28 States in 2020 for the environmentally safe disposal of biomedical waste. The remaining states do not have such facilities.

    As per official government data for 2018, India generated 608 tonnes per day of Bio-medical Waste. Of that, 528 tonnes of waste was treated and disposed of properly. So, every day there are few tonnes of biomedical waste that went untreated. The impact of Covid-19 also affects the waste handling capacity of CBWTF and captive treatment centers.

    Effects of biomedical waste in India

    Pollution and health hazards are the two important impacts of medical wastes.

    Pollution due to biomedical waste
    1. Land Pollution: If not treated and dumped into landfills then there is a high chance for heavy metals like cadmium, lead, mercury, etc. get released. Further, there is a chance these metals get absorbed by plants and can then enter the food chain also.
    2. Air Pollution: Pathogens present in the waste can enter and remain in the air for a long period in the form of spores or pathogens. As the Covid-19 spread through the air, improper treating/not treating it might lead to a new wave of Covid-19.
    3. Radioactive pollution: Hospitals are increasingly using radioactive isotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. The main radioisotopes used in hospitals are technetium-99m (Tc-99m), Iodine-131(I-131), etc. This radioactive material can come from research laboratories, ICUs in liquid form. These have carcinogenic properties.
    Health hazards due to biomedical waste
    1. Spread of infectious diseases: According to the WHO study, improper waste management is one of the major causes of an increase in infectious diseases globally. This is why the Covid-19 pandemic wastes require proper treatment.
    2. Operational health hazards: Improper handling of biomedical waste might lead to Injuries from sharps and exposure to harmful radioactive wastes. This will create issues for nurses, emergency medical personnel, sanitary workers.
    3. Increase antimicrobial resistance (AMR): The biomedical wastes aggravate the problem of AMR. Ever since the pandemic, the use of biocides (sanitizers, disinfectants, and antibiotics) increased manifold. If there is no proper treatment of biocides then the AMR will increase rapidly.
    Suggestions to improve biomedical waste management
    1. Improving the sustainability of the health care sector: The government has to move beyond monitoring and enforcement. Instead, the government has to invest along with the health service providers to scale up the proper treatment of biomedical waste.
    2. Equipping Municipalities and Panchayats: The government has to provide training to ground-level workers to segregate biomedical wastes. Further, the government can even allot sufficient funds through central funding from National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
    3. Stringent actions against defaulters: The ill-operated health care facilities and CBWTFs have to be strictly punished. The government can even initiate the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for producers of biomedical equipment.
    4. Trigger Innovation: The government can incentivise start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that offer solutions for waste segregation and treatment.
    5. Awareness campaigns for waste segregation in households: Due to home quarantine and home treatment many individuals do not use yellow and red color bags for segregating their medical wastes. So, during the supply of medicine, the health officials have to create awareness about waste segregation. They should also provide garbage bags(Red and Yellow) along with their medicines.
    Conclusion

    With the opening-up of vaccination for all above 18 years, the volume of infectious waste generated from the vaccination clinics will increase manifold. So, the government has to ensure proper awareness regarding waste segregation, and  creation of proper facilities to treat the medical waste in India.

  • Long-term “nitrogen dioxide”(NO2) exposure affects lungs: Study
    What is the News?

    According to a study, Long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide(NO2) pollution can affect lung function. Also, NO2 can increase the risk of pulmonary disease.

    Key Findings:

    • The annual maximum NO2 exposure recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is 21.3 parts per billion.
    • The study found that air pollution exposures in some parts of the survey area exceeded this figure.
    • Further, healthy individuals (mostly from low-income, urban communities) suffered a decline in lung function due to air pollution.
    About the Study:
    • The study happened over a period of five years in Mysore, Karnataka. It is conducted from 2012-2014 to 2017-2018
    • The researchers conducted in-home field spirometry (lung function test). They conducted this test before and after bronchodilation (expansion of the bronchial air passages).
    • Most of the participants in the study used Liquified Petroleum Gas(LPG) cylinders provided under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
    About Nitrogen Dioxide(NO2):
    • Nitrogen Dioxide(NO2) belongs to one of the highly reactive gases known as oxides of nitrogen or nitrogen oxides (NOx). Other nitrogen oxides include nitrous acid and nitric acid.
    • Formation: NO2 is formed when fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas and diesel are burned at high temperatures. It is also formed during the burning of wood and natural gases.

    Effects of NO2

     Health effects

    • Breathing air with a high concentration of NO2 can irritate airways in the human respiratory system. Such exposures can aggravate respiratory diseases particularly asthma.
    • NO2 along with other NOx reacts with other chemicals in the air to form both particulate matter and ozone. Both of these are also harmful to the respiratory system.
    Environmental effects:
    • NO2 and other NOx interact with water, oxygen and other chemicals in the atmosphere and form acid rain. Acid rain harms sensitive ecosystems such as lakes and forests.
    • The nitrate particles make the air hazy and create visibility challenges.
    • NOx in the atmosphere contributes to nutrient pollution in coastal waters.

    Source: Down To Earth

  • Issue of Nuclear Waste pollution – Explained, Pointwise

    Introduction

    The establishment of nuclear plants happened as an alternative to thermal power stations due to their low carbon footprint. However, a particular issue associated with their functioning is the generation of nuclear waste (or radioactive waste). This waste is highly contaminated and requires proper processing and treatment before its release into the environment.

    The issue of nuclear waste has again come to the limelight. Japan decided to release the accumulated wastewater in Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean. 

    What is Nuclear Waste?
    • Radioactive (or nuclear) waste is a by-product of nuclear reactors, fuel processing plants, hospitals, and research facilities.
    • It can be in gas, liquid, or solid form. The level of radioactivity can also vary depending on the radioactive waste. 
    • The waste can remain radioactive for a few hours or several months or even hundreds of thousands of years. 
    • These Radioactive wastes can be classified into the following types. 
      1. Exempt waste – It includes waste that meets the criteria for clearance, exemption, or exclusion from regulatory control for radiation protection purposes.
      2. Low & Intermediate level (LIL) waste: These have low levels of radioactivity. It includes 
        • The material used to handle the highly radioactive parts of nuclear reactors (i.e. cooling water pipes and radiation suits).
        • Waste from medical procedures involving radioactive treatments or x-rays etc.
      3. High-Level Waste: These have high levels of radioactivity and are mainly produced during reprocessing of spent fuel.
        • The waste includes uranium, plutonium, and other highly radioactive elements made during fission. 
        • They have extremely long half-lives (some longer than 100,000 years). This means it take long time periods before the waste settles to a safer level of radioactivity.
    Current Scenario
    • Japan has decided to release more than 1 million tons of treated radioactive water (or wastewater) into the Pacific Ocean. This radioactive water belongs to the Fukushima nuclear plant. 
    • Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is located in the town of Okuma, Japan. The reactor is located on the country’s east coast. It is about 220 km north-east of the capital Tokyo.
    • The 2011 Earthquake(magnitude 9.0), destroyed the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant’s electricity and cooling capacity. Since then, Japan is struggling with the piling-up of contaminated water from the nuclear plant.
    • This includes liquid used for cooling and rain and groundwater that has seeped in.

    How is Japan Planning to Treat Radioactive water? 

    1. Japan is using an extensive pumping and filtration system known as “ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System)”. The ALPS process helps in extraction of tonnes of newly radioactive water each day.
    2. However, it cannot remove some radioactive isotopes. Such as tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.
    3. Japan is planning to release the contaminated water containing tritium into the ocean.
    4. The country believes that the release of wastewater is the most realistic option, and unavoidable in order to achieve Fukushima’s recovery.
    Arguments supporting the release:
    • Japan has robust treatment plants that can dilute toxins in wastewater to permissible international standards. 
      • For instance, ALPS extracts tonnes of newly contaminated water each day and filters out most radioactive elements.
    • The storage capacity at the Fukushima site will run out in 2022.
    • The International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) supports the decision as:
      1. Radioactive elements (except tritium) will be removed from the water before it is discharged.
      2. Tritium is considered relatively harmless because it does not emit enough energy to penetrate human skin
      3. Further tritium will also be reduced to small quantities before its release into the ocean. Also, it is harmful only in large quantities.
      4. Nuclear plants around the world use a similar process to dispose of wastewater
    Impact of releasing radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean
    1. Health Impacts: Environmental groups like Greenpeace say that radioactive materials (like carbon-14) can remain in water post-discharge. It results in their concentration in the food chain, and further creates multiple health problems.
    2. Effect on Marine Ecosystem: There is a fear that some aquatic animals may die. As the waste discharge might hamper the stability of the marine ecosystem.  
    3. Blow to Fishing Industry: Water release will also threaten the confidence of the masses regarding the quality of seafood. People might start consuming less. Thus hampering the livelihood of fishermen.
    4. Mistrust among neighbours: Both China and South Korea have criticised the Japanese plan to release radioactive water. This may hinder their future relations.
    Nuclear Waste Disposal in India:
    1. In India the nuclear waste disposal is based on the concept of – ‘Delay and Delay’, ‘Dilute and Disperse’, ‘Concentrate and  Contain’.
    2. Effective management involves segregation, characterization, handling, treatment, conditioning, and monitoring of nuclear waste prior to its final disposal.
    3. A low level of waste is stored for 10- 50 years. It allows most of the radioactive isotopes in low-level waste to decay. After that, it is disposed of as normal refuse.
    4. The management of high-level waste in the Indian context encompasses the following three stages:  
      1. Immobilization of high-level liquid waste into vitrified borosilicate glasses through the process of vitrification.
        • Vitrification is the rapid cooling of the liquid medium in the absence of ice crystal formation. The solution forms an amorphous glass as a result of rapid cooling. 
        • India has operating vitrification plants at Tarapur and Trombay.
      2. Engineered interim storage of the vitrified waste for passive cooling & surveillance over a period of time, qualifying it for ultimate disposal.
      3. Ultimate storage/disposal of the vitrified waste in a deep geological repository.
    Concerns associated with Nuclear Waste
    1. Long Half-Life: The products of nuclear fission have long half-lives. This means that they will continue to be radioactive for thousands of years and pose a risk to the surrounding environment.
    2. Storage Sites: It is very difficult to find a suitable disposal site for them due to environmental and public concerns.
    3. Grave health impacts: The biggest concern is the negative effects it can have on the human body when exposed to radiation. Long-term exposure to nuclear waste radiation can even cause cancer.
    4. Adverse impact on nature: Not disposing of nuclear waste properly can have huge environmental impacts. It can cause genetic problems for many generations of animals and plants. Further contamination of water, air, and soil can also occur. 
    5. Financial Strain: If any nuclear accident occurs, then the cost of cleaning everything up and making everything safe once again is very high.
    Suggestions
    1. Japan should release the wastewater gradually in consonance with international standards. Further Fukushima’s food products in Fukushima have to adhere to the 50 Bq/kg radiation. This will win consumer trust.
      • Becquerel is the SI unit of radioactivity. Bq/kg refers to becquerels of radioactivity per kilogram.
    2. In the Indian context, India should construct a deep geological repository for disposing of high-level waste. The government has to give priority to the areas having remoteness from the environment and the absence of circulating groundwater in such construction.
      • Further, the repository must have the ability to contain radionuclides for geologically long periods of time. 
    3. Similarly, due adherence to Environmental impact assessment also observed before establishing a waste disposal facility. 
    4. India also has to enable Greater Research and Development towards the development of new vitrification technologies like Cold Crucible Induction Melting (CCIM).
      • It has the capability to treat various high-level waste forms with better waste loading and enhanced melter life.
    Conclusion

    India requires nuclear energy in the form of an alternate fuel that would meet its future demand and climate commitments. Nuclear plants can be established and operated only when there is significant public trust in their functioning. This automatically demands the safe disposal and management of nuclear waste.

  • Japan to release “Fukushima Radioactive Water” into sea
    What is the News?

    Japan is planning to release more than 1 million metric tons of Fukushima radioactive water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Japanese government planned to release this water into the ocean after two years.

    About Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant:
    • Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is located in the town of Okuma, Japan. The reactor is located on the country’s east coast. It is about 220 km north-east of the capital Tokyo.
    • The 2011 Earthquake, destroyed the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant’s electricity and cooling capacity. Since then, Japan is struggling with the piling-up of contaminated water from the nuclear plant.
    How is Japan treating the Fukushima Radioactive Water?
    • Japan is using an extensive pumping and filtration system known as “ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System)”. The ALPS process is used to extract tonnes of newly radioactive water each day. Further, it also filters out most radioactive elements.
    • The ALPS process removes most of the radioactive isotopes. It will make the nuclear content in water levels lower than the international safety guidelines for nuclear plant wastewater.
    • However, it cannot remove some radioactive isotopes. Such as tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.
    Release of Fukushima Radioactive Water:
    • Japan is planning to release the contaminated water containing tritium into the ocean.
    • Tritium considered to be relatively harmless because it does not emit enough energy to penetrate human skin. But when ingested tritium can create cancer risks.

    Concerns:

    • Some scientists have pointed out that the long-term effects on marine life are unknown. Especially a low-dose exposure to such large amounts of material like tritium.
    • Further, the experts also point out the ill effects of radioactive isotope Strontium 90. Strontium released in the ocean can start to concentrate in the bones of both fish and humans. Thereby increasing cancer risks.

    Source: Indian Express

     

  • Why India should adopt Net-Zero Emission Target?

    Synopsis: India should adopt the net-zero emission target like others. It will lead to simultaneous attainment of net-zero emission and economic growth. Some temporary challenges may arise, but they can be tackled with robust policy measures.   

    Background:
    • Recently 58 countries have made a commitment to attain net-zero emission by 2050. They currently emit more than 50% of Greenhouse gases (GHGs). So, being a responsible nation, India also needs to adopt a net-zero emission target.
    What are Net-zero emissions?

    It is a state in which GHGs emitted by a country is balanced by absorption of GHGs using advanced technologies or planting trees.

    Why India Need to adopt net-zero emissions?
    • IEA (International Energy Agency) findings indicate that the majority of India’s future emissions are supposed to come from things that are yet to be made
      • This includes transport infrastructure, buildings, industry, etc.
      • Therefore, adopting net-zero emissions will give the country an opportunity to build a cleaner economy.
    • However, India did not adopt a net-zero emissions target due to its goals related to economic growth. 
    How Net-zero emissions can fuel economic growth?

    Although, some experts believe that simultaneous attainment of net-zero emissions and economic growth is possible.

    • Adoption of clean sources of energy will reduce the water demand by thermal power plants. It is expected to reduce from 2.5 billion cubic metres per year(bcm) to less than 1 bcm in 2050.
    • Reduction in carbon emissions will result in reducing pollution thereby improving the health of the masses.
    • It will also generate 24 million jobs in 15 years across multiple sectors. 
      • For instance, promoting e-vehicles, clean energy, and hydrogen electrolysis can create jobs in the auto manufacturing, electricity, and construction sectors. 
        • Electrolysis is the process of using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
        • Hydrogen gas released in this way can be used as hydrogen fuel.  
    • Switching to clean fuels will also reduce the country’s crude oil import bill
    Challenges in adopting Net-zero emission targets:
    • At present, nearly 25 % of government revenue comes from the energy sector (including the taxes on fuel). So, phasing out of Fossil fuels will reduce the government’s tax revenue.
    • A job reduction might arise in the vehicle maintenance and repair sector. 
      • This will happen as e-vehicles contain fewer engine components than a traditional fossil fuel-based vehicle.
      • Similarly, learning new techniques to repair e-vehicles will also need significant time.
    • There are certain issues with new jobs created. Such as,
      • The new job may not be created in the same place where job losses occurred. For example, A coal-based power plant worker working in coal collection will lose the job.
      • However, the alternative employment created by the adoption of new technologies may remain inaccessible to vulnerable sections(especially women).
      • For example; new jobs might arise in battery fabrication. Coal workers lack expertise in this field.
    Way Ahead:
    • The focus should be on greater electrification. Further, The government has to encourage using hydrogen as a fuel in industries like cement, iron and steel, and chemicals. Further the current coal plants can be pre-retired to improve energy efficiency.
    • A carbon tax can be imposed on the industry to offset the tax revenue loss. The government has to start initially with the amount equivalent to the present Coal Cess.  The amount can increase gradually to Rs. 2500 for per ton emission by 2050.
      • The portion of carbon revenue can be used for supporting poor households. Especially for those who are badly hit by the emission reduction strategies.
    • The government has to encourage all states and UTs to make their respective carbon-neutral plan.
      • The UT of Ladakh and Sikkim state are already planning such a carbon-neutral plan.
      • Further, at the local level cities like  Bengaluru and Chennai, the Panchayat of Meenangadi in Wayanad, Kerala also planning such a carbon-neutral plan.
    • Apart from strong climate policies, the government has to focus on strong social policies and local institutions. This will ensure that the clean energy transition is fair and just.

    In conclusion, India needs to adopt net-zero emissions targets. Better policies, strong institutions, and finance will help India to declare freedom from polluting fossil fuels.

    Source: The Indian Express

    What is net zero target? How fair and realistic these targets are?

  • Initiatives under ‘Namami Gange Programme’
    What is the News?

    The Government of India is currently implementing several initiatives under the Namami Gange Programme to clean the polluted rivers of Ganga.

    Namami Gange Programme:
    • Launched in: The Programme was launched in 2014. It is an Integrated Conservation Mission under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
    • Aim: To achieve effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of the National River(Ganga).
    • Main Pillars of the Programme:
      • Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure,
      • River-Surface Cleaning,
      • Afforestation,
      • Industrial Effluent Monitoring,
      • River-Front Development,
      • Biodiversity
      • Public Awareness among others.
    • Implementation: National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is the implementing agency of the Namami Gange Programme at the national level.
      • National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG): It is a statutory authority. It is established under the National Council for River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Act, 2016.
    • Projects under the programme: Presently, sewerage infrastructure works for pollution abatement is under execution on 13 tributaries of river Ganga. These include Yamuna, Kosi, Saryu, Ramganga, Kali(West), Kali (East), Gomti, Kharkari, Burhi Gandak, Banka, Damodar, Rispana-Bindal and Chambal.

    Source: PIB

  • Vehicle Scrappage Policy: Challenges and Suggestions

    Synopsis: Vehicle Scrappage policy will work if incentives are aimed at increasing fuel-efficiency.

    Introduction 

    The Transport Ministry announced the Vehicle Scrappage policy, after the move for a green tax on ageing and polluting automobiles. This step promises economic benefits, a cleaner environment, and thousands of jobs.

    • Vehicles belonging to the government and the public sector will be scrapped by April 1, 2022. It will require another year to identify junk heavy commercial vehicles through compulsory fitness checks and other vehicles by 2024. 
    • Vehicle scrappage and replacement are viewed internationally as a path to revive COVID-19-affected economies by favouring green technologies, notably electric vehicles (EVs). It is an initiative to achieve net zero emissions by mid-century under Paris Agreement commitments. 

    What are the challenges in implementing the vehicle scrappage policy successfully?

    Enforcement of this system is important to get the vehicles scrapped once they are found unfit for use and to stop them from moving to smaller towns.

    1. Firstly, states must support this step by providing road tax and registration discounts. The automobile industry is expected to offer genuine discounts on new vehicles. 
    2. Secondly, the centre has the difficult task of making sure that the scrappage plan gets the state’s support
    3. Thirdly, 1.7 million heavy commercial vehicles do not have fitness certificates. This poses the biggest challenge. Many of these vehicles cannot get replaced quickly in the absence of financial arrangements for small operators. 
    4. Fourth, Fitness testing will be a difficult task. There is a requirement for a huge and reliable system of automated fitness checking infrastructure. It will measure the roadworthiness of commercial and private vehicles after 15 and 20 years. 

    Suggestions 

    • Firstly, the automobile industry is important. Its share before COVID-19 was about 7.5% of GDP with significant downstream employment. The Centre has to arrive at a balanced solution and incentivize the manufacturers of fuel-efficient vehicles.
    • Secondly, implementation of very high standards and increased taxes on fuel consumers, without prioritizing fuel efficiency is not correct. It will only repeat the mistakes of vehicle exchange programmes abroad. They failed to realise full environmental benefits and taxpayers ended up subsidising inefficiency. 
    • And lastly, ecological scrapping, as a concept, must lead to high rates of materials recovery, reduce air pollution, mining and pressure on the environment.

    Source: click here

  • Voluntary Vehicle-Fleet Modernisation Programme

    What is the news?

    The Union Road Transport and Highways Minister announces the Voluntary Vehicle-Fleet Modernisation Programme. It is also known as the Vehicle scrapping policy.

    Aim of the Policy:

    • The policy aims to create an ecosystem to phase out unfit and polluting vehicles. It will reduce pollution, improve fuel efficiency, and increase the government’s revenue collection from the sale of new vehicles.

    When will the policy get applied?

    • The policy will kick-in for the government vehicles from April 1, 2022.
    • The mandatory fitness testing for heavy commercial vehicles will start from April 1,2023 and,
    • For all other categories of vehicles, including personal vehicles, it will start in phases from June 1,2024.

    Key Features of the Policy:

    • Firstly, a vehicle has to undergo fitness tests after the completion of 20 years in the case of privately-owned vehicles, and 15 years in the case of commercial vehicles.
    • Secondly, any vehicle that fails the fitness test or fails to renew its registration certificate may get declared as an End of Life Vehicle. These vehicle owners will be encouraged to scrap the vehicles.
    • Thirdly, vehicle re-registration fees will increase to discourage people from running old vehicles.
    • Fourthly, automated fitness centres would get established throughout the country to ease vehicle scrapping.
    • Fifthly, all government vehicles and those owned by PSUs will get de-registered after 15 years.
    • Lastly, vintage cars will get exempted from this policy. A separate guideline will get formulated to regulate them.

    Incentives for Scrapping

    To lure owners into vehicles scrapping policy, the Government has suggested the following ways:

    • A vehicle’s scrap value of the ex-showroom price, ranging from 4-6%, will be given to the owner if they choose to vehicle scrap policy
    • A rebate of up to 25% will get in Road Tax
    • Vehicle manufacturers will be advised to give a 5% discount on new vehicles against a scrapping certificate.
    • So, in total, benefits of up to 10-15% can be availed on the older vehicles, who have reached the end of their lifecycle.

    Source: Indian Express

    Vehicle Scrappage Policy and the associated challenges: Explained

  • Single Use Plastic Pollution in India – A hidden pandemic

    Synopsis: COVID-19 pandemic paused and reversed India’s progress against single-use plastic pollution. Few necessary steps are essential to continue the progress.

    Background  

    Single-use plastics were in use in great quantities during the COVID-19 pandemic to produce gloves, sanitary equipment etc.  However, no attention has been paid to where the increased plastic waste will end up. India was progressing against plastic pollution before the pandemic began. 

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to completely remove single-use plastics by 2022. The strategy calls for better arrangements to collect, store, and recycle single-use plastic.  
    • The UN Environment Programme along with the support of Norway and Japan took a multi-year assessment. They found out how plastic finds its way into riverways, and ultimately to the ocean. They achieved this through projects like CounterMEASURE.
    • National Geographic’s Sea to Source Ganges study tracked plastic sources in the Ganges river basin. This brought India and Bangladesh together to study plastic pollution.
    Growth of Plastic pollution in pandemic times:
    • The pandemic reversed many of the aforementioned progress. Single-use plastics became more abundant. Plastic was used for masks, sanitiser bottles, personal protective equipment, food packaging, and water bottles. 
    • This plastic will eventually disintegrate into tiny particles called microplastics. Only 9 percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. 79 per cent of all plastic produced is present in the world’s landfills and in our air, water, soil, and other natural systems. 
    Suggestions to reduce Plastic Pollution

    Plastic is important because of its central role in durable goods, medicine and food safety. There are quite a few steps we can take right now during the COVID-19:

    1. The waste collection should operate at the same speed as the waste generation. Litter(paper, cans, and bottles lying in an open or public place) is a large part of plastic pollution. This generally ends up in Indian rivers. Improved planning and frequency of waste disposal operations can collect litter.
    2. The wastes should be separated and used plastics have to be found early in the waste-to-value cycle. So that the plastic remains suitable for treatment and recycling. It will make recycling much easier and more economically feasible.
    3. We need to encourage environmentally-friendly substitutes against single-use plastics. The government has to encourage business models that avoid plastic waste through alternative product delivery systems. 
    4. Plastic pollution should be considered as a truly society-wide problem. It is important for government, businesses, and civil society to coordinate to find solutions.
      • For example, UNEP and its partners are working with the Indian government towards these goals. They are working with researchers, enterprises, and community groups to address plastic pollution. 
      • The data created in this process will be helpful in policy framing and decision-making processes at the national, regional and local level. 
    Way forward
    • The government has to strengthen the existing plastic waste management framework in India. Further, India has to develop a National Action Plan for Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution in Rivers. 
    • Apart from that, India also requires an approach to reduce the manufacture of new fossil fuel-based plastics and developing and using alternatives.

    Source: The Indian Express  

  • “World Air Quality Report, 2020” Released

    What is the News?

    IQ Air, a Swiss air quality technology company released a report titled “World Air Quality Report, 2020”.

    About World Air Quality Report:
    • World Air Quality is an annual report. The report is based on PM2.5 data from 106 countries based on data from ground-based monitoring stations. The report is handled by government agencies mostly.
    Key Findings Related to India
    • India is home to 35 of the world’s 50 most polluted cities in World.
    • Delhi has been listed as the 10th most polluted city and the top polluted capital city in the world in 2020. However, Delhi’s air quality improved by approximately 15% from 2019 to 2020.
    • India ranked as the world’s 3rd most polluted country in 2020 after Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, India has improved its average annual PM2.5 (particulate matter) levels in 2020 than in 2019.
    • Further, in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 was particularly severe for stubble burning in India. Farm fires in Punjab have increased by 46.5% over 2019.
    Other Key Global Findings:
    • The topmost polluted city in the world is Xinjiang in China. It is followed by Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh.
    • In 2020, 84% of all monitored countries observed air quality improvements. However, of the 106 monitored countries, only 24 met the World Health Organization annual guidelines for PM 2.5.

    Source: The Hindu

    Pollution in India

  • Panel Recommendations to improve “Air Quality in Kerala”

    What is the news?

    The National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed a joint committee to study air pollution in Kerala. It made several recommendations to improve air quality in Kerala.

    What are the key recommendations of the panel?

    1. Installation of vapor recovery systems at fuelling stations
    2. Retrofitting of diesel vehicles with particulate filters to improve air quality.
      • Reason: The petrol refueling stations are a major source of benzene emissions, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter 2.5. Hence, the installation of a vapor recovery system is an important step in improving air quality.
    3. Promoting battery-operated vehicles and banning old diesel vehicles in a phased manner.
    4. Greening of open areas and creation of green buffers along traffic corridors.
    5. Short Term Measures: The panel has also recommended several short term measures that include:
      • Strict actions against visibly polluting vehicles (to be initiated by the Motor Vehicles Department)
      • Introduction of Wet/Mechanised vacuum sweeping of roads,
      • Controlling dust pollution at construction sites
      • Ensuring transport of construction materials in covered vehicles.

    About Benzene Pollution

    • Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor. It evaporates quickly when exposed to air.
    • Source: Benzene is formed from both natural processes and human activities. Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. It is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.
    • Uses: Benzene is a widely used industrial chemical. It is found in crude oil and is a major part of gasoline. It’s also used to make plastics, resins, synthetic fibers, rubber lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.
    • Exposure to Benzene:
      • Industrial processes: Benzene occurs naturally in crude petroleum. Thus, human activities using petroleum, lead to exposure. These activities include processing petroleum products, coking of coal, and their use in industrial and consumer products.
      • Indoor residential air: In homes, benzene may be found in glues, adhesives, cleaning products, paint strippers, tobacco smoke, and gasoline. Levels are increased in homes close to petrol filling stations.
    • Side Effects: Human exposure to benzene has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer and hematological effects.

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • Legacy Waste management in India – Explained Pointwise
    Introduction

    India produces 277 million tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, according to a 2016 estimate. This amount is equal to 13% of the global waste. At present, India only has 1604 solid waste treatment plants to treat this waste. They too, are not operating at their maximum capacity. So on an average, India recycles only 20-25% of the waste generated. The remaining waste remains untreated. They are  getting dumped on lands or areas drained by water and river bodies. These legacy wastes pose various challenges to India.

    India needs to reclaim or recycle or permanently close more than 3,000 dumpsites. It is because of various issues such as unscientific construction, attained maximum capacity, etc. The legacy wastes dumped for a long time create irreversible damage to the environment by leachate, emitting greenhouse gases, pollutes groundwater, etc.

    What is legacy waste?

    Legacy wastes or aged wastes are the wastes that are collected and kept for years at some barren land or a place dedicated to a Landfill (an area to dump solid waste). Legacy waste can be grouped into four categories:

    1. Contained and stored wastes (wastes stored in tanks, canisters, and stainless steel bins etc will come under this category)
    2. Buried waste
    3. Contaminated soil and groundwater
    4. Contaminated building materials and structures waste.
    Composition of Legacy Waste

    Legacy waste composition majorly depends upon the age of the landfill. The legacy waste composition primarily based on four significant fractions. Such as,

    1. Fine soil / sand-like material: These are the decomposed and mineralized organic wastes mixed with silt, sand, and fine fragments of construction and demolition (C&D) wastes. This is the major fraction in the majority of landfills.
    2. Scrap polymeric and combustible materials: These include plastics, paper, cardboard and textiles etc.
    3. Stones (greater than 20 millimetres in size)
    4. Miscellaneous items: These include broken glass, sanitary waste and diapers, metallic fractions such as razors, needles, etc.

    The composition shows few important things:

    • The proportion of metals found in legacy waste is almost negligible due to the informal sector engaged in recycling activity.
    • The composition of aged waste is not the same as fresh municipal solid waste. The fine soil is the major waste in legacy wastes.
    • Nearly 44-75 per cent of the waste (by weight) comprises fine sand/soil-like material alone. According to a study by IIT Bombay, the fine sand will increase according to the age of landfill. Because with increasing time the degradation of organic waste also increases.
    The Potential applications of legacy waste

    Legacy waste has the potential to create a sustainable business model (SBM). They are,

    1. The polymeric wastes obtained from dumpsites can be utilised in manufacturing refuse-derived fuel (RDF). Electricity produced from RDF can be utilised by energy-intensive industries and households.
    2. The fine fraction can be used for several constructions and geotechnical applications such as soil cover in scientific landfills etc.
    Need to recover the landfills
    1. Reclamation of Land: India generates 13% of the global waste but only recycles about 20-25% of them. So landfills gets increased every day. At present India has 48 recognised landfills in India. They collectively occupy nearly 5000 acres of land (few of them are in prime locations). Without considering the environmental and societal benefits, these lands alone considered worth about Rs 100,000 Crore.
    2. The Capacity of Landfills: It is also important to note that most of the landfills of megacities have already reached their maximum capacity and permissible height limit of 20 meters. For example, Delhi’s oldest Ghazipur landfill and Asia’s largest dumping ground, Deonar in Mumbai, continued to accumulate waste despite the Supreme Court’s order regarding closure of these landfills. Often these landfills are criticised as urban man-made mountains. So treating all these waste itself is a challenge.
    3. Source for Pollution: The untreated waste is the source of many environment pollution e.g. land, water, air etc. For example,
      • Leachate (black liquid oozing out from the waste) contaminates soil and groundwater.
      • The release of methane from the decomposition of biodegradable waste under anaerobic conditions can cause fires and explosions. The incident of fire is particularly high during summers. For example, frequent fires in the Deonar landfill in Mumbai and the Bhalswa landfill in Delhi.
    4. Health Impacts of landfills: 
      • Uncontrolled burning of waste releases fine particles which are a major cause of respiratory disease and cause smog.
      • Dumping sites provide breeding sites for mosquitoes thus increasing the risk of diseases such as malaria and dengue.
    Challenges in Managing legacy waste
    1. The presence of heavy metals poses challenges in managing legacy waste. The finer sand materials consist of chemicals such as cadmium, nickel, mercury, and organic pollutants also.
    2. There is not enough data available on legacy waste in India. Even if the government wants to reclaim the land by processing the legacy waste, there is no data available with the government on the quantum of legacy wastes in all the landfills.
    3. One policy is not feasible: The legacy waste components depend upon the age of the landfill. In India waste is dumped in various landfills at various times. This makes the character of legacy waste differ from one landfill to another and even within the landfill itself.
    4. India do not have enough capacity to process these landfills. At present, India only has 1604 solid waste treatment plants. These plants are not enough to treat the present landfills.
    5. Unable to follow the CPCB guidelines. The Central Pollution Control Board recommended ‘bioremediation’ to treat the legacy waste and reclaim the old landfills. But bioremediation is only possible for dumpsites having a higher organic content. Since the waste segregation is not done at the source treating wastes with bio-remediation is not feasible.
      Note: Bioremediation is the process of using living organisms, like microbes and bacteria, to remove contaminants,
    Suggestions to recover landfills
    1. The government needs to take few important steps to recover the landfills from legacy waste. Such as,
      • Carrying out a drone study to assess the exact volume of legacy waste.
      • Analysing the technical parameters such as characteristics and composition of legacy waste. This will help in bio-remediation.
      • Create mandatory use criteria for recycled materials from legacy waste in government procurements. This will incentivise private players.
      • Defining the quantum of heavy metals in recycled materials.
    2. Encouraging private players by providing incentives like the production linked incentive scheme. This will attract the large private sector to work on waste to wealth-related activities.
    3. Further, the government also needs to equip local bodies to have affordable technology to treat the legacy wastes. As the legacy wastes demand decentralized solutions.
    4. Apart from that, India also has to develop skilled and trained professionals to operate and maintain the entire waste management chain. Right from the collection, operation and maintenance of waste-handling plants.

    The Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules might talk about the circular economy of solid waste management. But that will be feasible only if the government provides more attention to the legacy wastes. Subsequently, creating awareness to the public on the importance of waste segregation at source.

  • A CSE study on Pollution Levels in Cities and Towns

    What is the news?

    Centre for Science and Environment(CSE) has released a study analysing the difference in winter air pollution levels in cities and towns. It compares data of 2020-21 winter and the previous winters.

    About the study:

    • The study analysed 99 cities. 75% of data completeness for two consecutive winters is the minimum criteria.
    • The analysis is based on real time data from an online portal Central Control Room for Air Quality Management. It is the Central Pollution Control Board’s(CPCB) official portal.

    Key Findings:

    • The levels of PM 2.5 worsened in 43 of 99 cities when winter air pollution levels between 2020 and 2019 were compared.
      • PM 2.5: Particulate Matter(PM) 2.5 refers to a category of particulate pollutant that is 2.5 microns or smaller.
    • Impact of Covid-19: In the aftermath of the Covid lockdown, several cities reported improved pollution levels. However, after the restrictions were significantly eased, pollution levels were back to pre-COVID-19 levels
    • North India Most Polluted: The top 23 polluted cities were in North India. Among North region, Ghaziabad was the most polluted city.
    • Smaller towns and upcoming cities have higher winter pollution levels than the mega cities.
    • Worst Pollution Cities: The cities with the worst pollution increase include Gurugram, Lucknow, Jaipur, Visakhapatnam, Agra, Navi Mumbai, and Jodhpur. Kolkata is the only megacity in this group.
    • Least Polluted Cities: Mysuru is the least polluted followed by Satna in MP and Kochi in Kerala.
    • Statewise: Uttar Pradesh had eight cities in the top 10 which were most polluted. Ghaziabad and Bulandshahr topped the list.

    Source: The Hindu

    [Answered] “With rising pollution levels in Indian cities, India needs a Clean Air Act and an autonomous new body to enforce it.” Comment.

  • 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.
    • Objectives:
      • 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.

    Click Here to Read about Electric Vehicles

    Source: PIB

    Read Also:-

    Green tax on vehicles older than 15 years

  • 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.

    Key Findings:

    • 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, the vehicle will undergo another fitness test. Those having this certificate will not need to pay any registration fee while buying a new vehicle. The certificate is tradable, which means it can be used by anyone and not necessarily by the owner of the scrapped vehicle.
      • 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.

    Read more about the proposed Green tax

    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.

    Read more about the taxing older vehicles: a way forward

    Suggestions:

    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.

    Introduction

    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”.

    Facts:

    • 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.

    Additional Facts:

    • 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.

    Article source

     

  • 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.

    Facts:

    • 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.

    Article Source

  • 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.

    Facts:

    • 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

    Source: PIB

    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.

    Facts:

    • 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.
    • Composition:
      • 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.
    • Powers:
      • 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”.

    Facts:

    Coal 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?

    1. Union Budget 2020-21 allocated Rs.4400 crore for cities having populations above one million to formulating and implementing plans for ensuring cleaner air.
    2. 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.
    1. 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?

    1. 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.
    1. Filter-less retrofit device- for cutting particulate matter at source in industries and vehicles.
    2. A nature-based solution to amplify air purification through breathing roots technology for improving indoor air quality.
    3. Geospatial technology and AI- To upgrade capacities to identify, monitor, regulate and mitigate air pollution hotspots.

    Example –

    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?

    1. 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.
    2. 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?

    • Sources:
    • 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.

    Way forward

    • 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.

    Facts:

    • 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.
    • Treatment:
      • 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?

    1. 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.

    Way forward-

    • 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.

    Way forward

    • 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.

    Technological intervention

    • 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

    suggest read also :-current affairs for upsc

  • 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).

    Facts: 

    • 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.
      Additional Facts: 

      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).

    Facts:

    • Seven POPs: The seven POPs prohibited from manufacturing, trading using, importing and exporting are:
      • Chlordecone
      • Hexabromobiphenyl
      • Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Hepta Bromodiphenyl Ether
      • Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether
      • Pentachlorobenzene
      • Hexabromocyclododecane and
      • Hexachlorobutadiene.
    • 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.

    Additional Facts:

    • 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.

    Facts:

    Graded response action plan

    • 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.

    Additional Facts:

    • 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.

    Way forward

    • 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

    Way forward

    • 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?

    Natural factors

    • 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.

    Anthropogenic factors

    • 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

    1. 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

    Way forward

    • 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 moreAir pollution in India

  • Benzene Pollution

    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 insulationIts thermal decomposition consists mainly of carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, oxides of nitrogen, hydrogen cyanide, acetaldehyde, acetone, propene, carbon dioxide, alkenes and water vapor.