Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level: The op-ed crucially highlights the often ignored impacts of deteriorating air quality on rural areas.
- New Delhi’s status as national capital ensures that it will receive plenty of attention every year come winter.
- Rural India in the north of the country the heart of the problem does not receive equal attention.
Popular perception is Wrong
- India’s air pollution issue often comes off as a peculiarly urban problem.
- The WHO’s Air Pollution and Child Health: Prescribing Clean Air report released earlier this week contradicts the fact.
- The report notes that the main sources of air pollution may vary from urban to rural areas, but no area is safer from the peril of toxic air.
- This is much or more a rural issue as far the 1.1 million air pollution-related deaths in 2015, 75% were in rural India.
Entire north is under severe threat
- Every winter, the Indo-Gangetic plains, housing nearly a third of India’s population, are blanketed with a thick layer of ambient pollution.
- Stubble burning, brick kilns, coal-fired factories and wood-fires for heat all contribute.
- The problem is that of the 600-plus air quality monitoring stations the CPCB set up across the country, there are none in rural areas.
More Children are at Risk
- The report found India had almost 61,000 deaths of children under 5years due to ambient and household pollution.
- India’s 98% children are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution.
- This exposes them to a number of long-term physical and mental developmental problems.
- This exposure is also connected with the country’s shifting epidemiological profile where non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular conditions and cancer are increasing.
Situation is worsen by Indoor Pollution
- In 2003, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issued guidelines for ambient air quality monitoring.
- They differentiated between the types of pollution affecting urban and rural areas.
- When it comes to the latter, the guidelines focus entirely on indoor air pollution.
- The use of biomass fuels for indoor cooking, heating and light is a significant problem, true enough; the recent focus on this is appreciable.
Draft policy to mitigate
- The draft National Clean Air Programme put out earlier this year was an opportunity to plug the gaps.
- The programme aims to expand the monitoring network to include 50 rural areas with at least one monitoring station each.
- Though a start at best, at least 1,200 are needed to present an accurate spatial picture of rural air quality.
- However, the programme doesn’t envisage any cooperation and coordination across crucial ministries such as health, transport and energy.
Policies hasn’t delivered yet
- The government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, aimed at shifting poor households from biomass to clean LPG had the right idea.
- But it hasn’t quite worked out that way in practice.
- LPG costs are a major deterrent to adoption and that even in households where LPG is used, fuel stacking—using biomass fuels alongside LPG is common.
- Empirical evidence from rural India shows that the transition of households to move towards cleaner energy with rising incomes often doesn’t hold true.
- This is impacted by various factors such as Educated females, family sizes etc.
- The first step in the comprehensive framework should be the data collection.
- The draft policy should be put to immediate effect with adequate budgetary provision.