From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3- Tackling air pollution through solar farming
Supreme Court (SC) judges have pulled up the Delhi and central governments for not doing enough to correct the dire air quality situation. They also remarked on what message we are sending to the world.
The pollution problem raises doubt about the quality of urbanisation in India
- If one looks at the capitals of G20 countries, Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) during November 1-15, is by far the worst at 312, as per World Air Quality Index Project.
- India’s distinction goes beyond Delhi.
- As per the World Air Quality Report of 2020, prepared by IQAir (a Swiss organisation), of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, 22 are in India.
- The problem is much deeper, raising doubts about the quality of our urbanisation.
Contributing sources and their share
- Contributing sources: As per the report of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change following sources contribute in the given proportion:
- Energy generation (largely coal-based thermal power) is the biggest culprit with a share of 44 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions,
- Energy generation is followed by manufacturing and construction-18 per cent.
- Agriculture-14 per cent.
- Transport-13 per cent industrial processes and product use- 8 per cent and waste burning- 3 per cent.
Suggestions to tackle Delhi’s pollution
- As per the System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the reasons for poor AQI differ day to day.
- On a particular day, say November 7, stubble burning contributed 48 per cent of Delhi’s air pollution, which fell to just 2 per cent on November 18.
- Reduce rice cultivation: The Centre needs to sit down with neighbouring states and come up with a plan to reduce the rice area in this belt, which is already depleting the water table, creating methane and nitrous oxide, to incentivise farmers to switch to other crops through better returns than in rice cultivation.
- Adopt EVs: To tackle vehicular pollution, we need a massive drive towards electric vehicles (EVs), and later towards green hydrogen when it becomes competitive with fossil fuels.
- Charging stations: Scaling up EVs quickly demands creating charging stations on a war footing.
- Develop carbon sink: Delhi also needs a good carbon sink.
- Rejuvenating the Ridge area with dense forests and developing thick forests on both sides of the Yamuna may help.
Enhancing farmers income through solar farming
- The Prime Minister has done a commendable job in Glasgow to commit that 50 per cent of India’s energy will be from renewable sources by 2030.
- To replace coal in energy generation, solar and wind is the way to go at the all-India level.
- The current model in solar energy is heavily tilted towards companies.
- They are setting up large solar farms on degraded or less fertile lands.
- We can supplement that model by developing solar farms on farmers’ fields.
- This would require solar panels to be fixed at a 10 feet height with due spacing to let enough sunlight come to the plants for photosynthesis.
- These “solar trees” can then become the “third crop” for the farmers, earning them regular income throughout the year, provided the law allows them to sell this power to the national grid.
- The Delhi government’s pilot in Ujwa KVK land on these lines showed that farmers can earn up to Rs 1 lakh per acre per year from this “solar farming”.
- This is on top of the two crops they can keep growing under those solar trees.
- This will double farmers’ income within a year.
As deteriorating air quality grips the whole country, we need to work on multiple levels with coordination to tackle the problem.