Air Pollution

Air Pollution

[pib] Methanotrophs: the methane-oxidizing bacteriaPIBPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Methanotrophs

Mains level : Methane emission


Scientists at Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune have isolated 45 different strains of methanotrophic bacteria which have been found to be capable of reducing methane emissions from rice plants.

What are Methanotrophs?

  • They are bacteria that metabolize and convert methane into carbon-di-oxide.
  • They can effectively reduce the emission of methane, which is the second most important greenhouse gas (GHG) and 26 times more potent as compared to carbon-di-oxide.
  • In rice fields, Methanotrophs are active near the roots or soil-water interfaces.
  • Besides methane mitigation studies, Methanotrophs can also be used in methane value addition (valorization) studies.
  • Bio-methane generated from waste can be used by the Methanotrophs and can be converted to value-added products such as single-cell proteins, carotenoids, biodiesel, and so on.

Why rice fields?

  • Rice fields are human-made wetlands and are waterlogged for a considerable period. Anaerobic degradation of organic matter results in the generation of methane.
  • Rice fields contribute to nearly 10% of global methane emissions.
  • Very few studies in the world have focused on Methanotrophs from tropical wetlands or tropical rice fields.
  • Practically no cultures of indigenously isolated Methanotrophs from India were available.
  • Native and relevant Methanotrophs isolated from rice fields can be excellent models to understand the effect of various factors on methane mitigation.

Must read:

Greenhouse gas emissions from Indian paddy fields Very High: NY based Study


Air Pollution

[pib] Biomethanation ProcessPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biomethanation Process

Mains level : Biomethanation as an alternative for stubble burning



In an all India coordinated project, efforts are on to produce bio-gas for kitchen use and quality manure for fields using bio-methanation of rice straw by anaerobic digestion method. Six domestic level paddy straw-based bio-gas plants have been installed in Punjab for field trials and further study is in progress.

What is Biomethanation?

  • It is a process by which organic material is microbiologically converted under anaerobic conditions to biogas.
  • Three main physiological groups of microorganisms are involved: fermenting bacteria, organic acid oxidizing bacteria, and methanogenic archaea.
  • Biomethanation has strong potential for the production of energy from organic residues and wastes. It will help to reduce the use of fossil fuels and thus reduce CO(2) emission.

How it works?

  • Microorganisms degrade organic matter via cascades of biochemical conversions to methane and carbon dioxide.
  • Syntrophic relationships between hydrogen producers (acetogens) and hydrogen scavengers (homoacetogens, hydrogenotrophic methanogens, etc.) are critical to the process.
  • A wide variety of process applications for biomethanation of wastewaters, slurries, and solid waste have been developed.
  • They utilize different reactor types and process conditions (retention times, loading rates, temperatures, etc.) in order to maximize the energy output from the waste and also to decrease retention time and enhance process stability.
Air Pollution

World Air Quality Report, 2019IOCR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM 2.5

Mains level : World Air Quality Report, 2019


The 2019 World Air Quality Report was recently released

World Air Quality Report

  • The World Air Quality Report is released by the pollution tracker IQAir and Greenpeace.
  • The report focuses on PM2.5 as a representative measure of air pollution.

Highlights of the report

  • India accounts for two-thirds of the world’s most polluted cities — 21 of the most polluted 30 cities; 14 of the highest 20; and 6 of the highest 10 — in the report.
  • Among countries, when population is taken into account, average PM2.5 pollution is highest in Bangladesh, followed by Pakistan, while India is at number 5.
  • China is at number 11 in the list of countries affected by population, with population factored in. Chinese cities achieved a 9% average decrease in PM2.5 levels in 2019.
  • While cities in India, on average, exceed the WHO target for annual PM2.5 exposure by 500%, national air pollution decreased by 20% from 2018 to 2019, with 98% of cities experiencing improvements.
  • It said 90% of the global population breathing unsafe air.

Top polluted Indian Cities


PM 2.5

  • PM 2.5 refers to particulate matter (ambient airborne particles) which measure up to 2.5 microns in size and has a range of chemical makeups and sources.
  • It is widely regarded as the pollutant with the most health impact of all commonly measured air pollutants.
  • Due to its small size PM2.5 is able to penetrate deep into the human respiratory system and from there to the entire body, causing a wide range of short- and long-term health effects.
  • Particulate matter is also the pollutant group which affects the most people globally. It can come from a range of natural as well as man-made sources.
  • Common sources of PM include combustion (from vehicle engines, industry, wood and coal burning), as well as through other pollutants reacting in the atmosphere.
Air Pollution

Global cost of air pollution from fossil fuelsIOCR









A new Greenpeace report has estimated the global cost of air pollution from fossil fuels at around $2.9 trillion per year, or $8 billion per day — 3.3% of the world’s GDP.

Cost of air pollution

India is estimated to bear a cost of $150 billion, or 5.4% of the country’s GDP, which is the third-highest absolute cost from fossil fuel air pollution worldwide.

China and the US are estimated to bear the highest absolute costs from fossil fuel air pollution, respectively at $900 billion and $600 billion.

Loss of lives

  • Globally, air pollution is estimated to cause 4.5 million premature deaths each year.
  • This includes 3 million deaths attributable globally to PM2.5, which is one of the principal pollutants in northern Indian cities including Delhi.
  • Globally, PM2.5 is also estimated to cause the loss of 62.7 million years of life, 2.7 million emergency room visits due to asthma, 2 million preterm births and 1.75 billion work absences.
  • The 2 million preterm births include 981,000 in India and over 350,000 in China.

Economic cost

In India, exposure to fossil fuels also leads to a loss of around 490 million workdays, the report said.

Air Pollution

IMO Sulphur regulations for ShippingIOCR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IMO, VLSFO

Mains level : SOx pollution control measures

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the shipping agency of the United Nations issued new rules aiming to reduce sulphur emissions, due to which ships are opting for newer blends of fuels.

What do the new IMO rules say?

  • The IMO has banned ships from using fuels with sulphur content above 0.5 per cent, compared with 3.5 per cent previously.
  • Sulphur oxides (SOx), which are formed after combustion in engines, are known to cause respiratory symptoms and lung disease, while also leading to acid rain.
  • The new regulations, called IMO 2020, have been regarded as the biggest shake up for the oil and shipping industries in decades. It affects more than 50,000 merchant ships worldwide.
  • The new limits are monitored and enforced by national authorities of countries that are members of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annex VI.

Cleaner options

  • Under the new policy, only ships fitted with sulphur-cleaning devices, known as scrubbers, are allowed to continue burning high-sulphur fuel.
  • Alternatively, Ships can opt for cleaner fuels, such as marine gasoil (MGO) and very low-sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO).
  • Of the two cleaner fuels, ship-owners were expected to opt for MGO, which is made exclusively from distillates, and has low sulphur content.
  • However, many are reportedly choosing VLSFO, which has better calorific properties and other technical advantages.

Issues with the rule

  • There are complaints against VLSFO as well, as testing companies have claimed that high sediment formation due to the fuel’s use could damage vessel engines.
  • VLSFO, with 0.5 per cent sulphur content, can contain a large percentage of aromatic compounds, thus having a direct impact on black carbon emissions.
  • Black carbon, which is produced due to the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels, contributes to climate change.
Air Pollution

Carbon Disclosure Project Report 2019IOCR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon Disclosure Project

Mains level : India's various moves for curbing carbon emissions

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) 2019 report was recently published.

Carbon Disclosure Project

  • CDP is published by the Global Reporting Initiative.
  • It is aimed at measuring the carbon reduction activities undertaken by different companies and firms operating in various countries across the globe.
  • The report surveys corporate commitments to science-based targets (SBT) and evaluates the climate change risk that they are exposed to.

India’s performance

  • India secured the 5th spot on the project report.
  • The CDP Report 2019 said that a total of 58 companies shared details about the environment-related activities undertaken by them in this year.
  • The report also claims that over 98 percent of top Indian companies have formed some type or committee or group within its organization to drive and address climate-related issues.
  • The report also showcased the changing mind-set of India Inc with nearly all major companies setting up some form of oversight to evaluate climate risk.

Global scenario

  • The US topped the annual CDP report with 135 companies disclosing their climate-related activities, followed by Japan in the second position with 83 companies and the UK in the third position with 78 countries.
  • While France was placed fourth with 51 companies disclosing their details, India was placed fifth with 38 companies committing to the science-based targets.
  • In 2018, India had only 25 companies committing to the SBTs.
  • India is followed by Germany and Sweden with 30 and 27 companies respectively, while Switzerland and Spain had 23 and 22 companies respectively.
  • Netherlands was listed 10th on the list with 18 companies committing to SBT initiatives.


  • India was ranked 5th, ahead of Germany and Sweden.
  • India is the first developing economy with a maximum number of companies committing to the science-based targets.
Air Pollution

Smog TowerPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Smog Tower, PM 2.5

Mains level : Curbing air pollution in Delhi

Recently New Delhi got its first smog tower (a prototype air purifier). In November, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre and the Delhi government to prepare a plan to install ‘smog towers’ across the capital to deal with air pollution.

What is a ‘Smog Tower’?

  • Smog towers are structures designed to work as large-scale air purifiers.
  • They are usually fitted with multiple layers of air filters, which clean the air of pollutants as it passes through them.
  • The smog tower installed at Lajpat Nagar is capable of treating 6,00,000 cubic metres of air per day and can collect more than 75 per cent of particulate matters (PM) 2.5 and 10.
  • After the cleaning, the tower releases clean air.
  • The project is collaboration between the IIT Bombay, IIT-Delhi and the University of Minnesota, the latter having helped design a similar tower of over 100 metres in China’s Xi’an city.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will also be involved with the project.

How it works?

  • The 20-metre (65 feet) high tower will trap particulate matter of all sizes suspended in the air.
  • Large-scale air filters shall draw in the air through fans installed at the top before passing it through the filters and releasing it near the ground.
  • The filters installed in the tower will use carbon nanofibres as a major component and will be fitted along its peripheries. The tower will focus on reducing particulate matter load.

Other examples in the world

  • China, which has been battling air pollution for years, has two smog towers — in its capital Beijing and in the northern city of Xi’an.
  • The Xi’an tower is dubbed the world’s largest, and has reportedly brought down PM 2.5 by 19% in an area of around 6 sq km in its vicinity.
  • The 100-metre (328 feet) high tower has produced 10 million cubic metres of clean air every day since its launch.
  • On severely polluted days the tower is able to bring down smog close to moderate levels.
Air Pollution

Torrefaction TechnologyPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bioendev project, Torrefaction

Mains level : Alternatives to stubble burning

To find a solution to stubble burning issue, India is testing a Swedish technology — torrefaction that can convert rice stubble into ‘bio-coal’.

Bioendev project

  • The Bioendev project was discussed at a gathering chaired by King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden and PM Modi.
  • The Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to GoI has funded a pilot project in Punjab to evaluate the feasibility of the technology.
  • Bioendev is a Swedish company and it has set up a pilot plant at the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute in Mohali.

What is Torrefaction?

  • Torrefaction is a thermal process to convert biomass into a coal-like material, which has better fuel characteristics than the original biomass.
  • It involves heating up straw, grass, saw mill residue and wood biomass to 250 degrees Celsius – 350 degrees Celsius.
  • This changes the elements of the biomass into ‘coal-like’ pellets.
  • These pellets can be used for combustion along with coal for industrial applications like steel and cement production
  • If scaled up, about 65% of the biomass could be converted to energy.
Air Pollution

Methane breeding valuePrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon Equivalents

Mains level : GHG emission control

New Zealand has started the world’s first genetic programme to address the challenge of climate change by breeding sheep that emit lower amounts of methane.

Methane breeding value

  • Emissions, or put less politely, farts and burps, from ruminants such as sheep and cows, are a major contributor to methane in the atmosphere.
  • This has long been recognised as a problem, but addressing it has been difficult because no one really knows how much the average cow or sheep emits.
  • Scientists have been working on ways to modify animals’ food so they emit a little less, including feeding them things like garlic that intervene in the microbiomes in their guts to reduce the formation of methane.
  • This, however, works only in farms where the animals’ feed can be regulated, and not with free-ranging animals such as sheep in New Zealand.

Why is methane such a problem?

  • Methane, which is produced by cattle and sheep, as also by decaying organic matter, fires, coal mines, and factories producing natural gas, is a major greenhouse gas.
  • It is much more potent contributor to atmospheric warming than carbon dioxide, even though methane does break down more easily than carbon dioxide.
  • A report by the World Meteorological Organisation last month pointed out those atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases reached new records in 2018.
  • The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, compared to 405.5 ppm the previous year. This was 147% of the pre-industrial level of 1750.
  • And the concentration of methane was 259% of the 1750 level, while nitrous oxide was at 123% above.


CO2 equivalents

  • Each greenhouse gas (GHG) has a different global warming potential (GWP) and persists for a different length of time in the atmosphere.
  • The three main greenhouse gases (along with water vapour) and their 100-year global warming potential (GWP) compared to carbon dioxide are:

1 x – carbon dioxide (CO2)

25 x – methane (CH4) – I.e. Releasing 1 kg of CH4into the atmosphere is about equivalent to releasing 25 kg of CO2

298 x – nitrous oxide (N2O)

  • Water vapour is not considered to be a cause of man-made global warming because it does not persist in the atmosphere for more than a few days.
  • There are other greenhouse gases which have far greater global warming potential (GWP) but are much less prevalent. These are sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).
  • There are a wide variety of uses for SF6, HFCs, and PFCs but they have been most commonly used as refrigerants and for fire suppression.
  • Many of these compounds also have a depleting effect on ozone in the upper atmosphere.
Air Pollution

[oped of the day] Stubble burning is not the only culpritop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Delhi air pollution


The problem of air pollution in Delhi is safely pushed onto just one issue — stubble burning by farmers in Punjab.

An oversimplification

  • The simplification of the narrative to stubble burning may not stand scientific scrutiny.
  • Satellite observations on stubble burning from 2002-17 reported that there has been an increase of 3% in aerosol loading attributable to crop residue burning during October and November every year. 
  • No data were presented on the impact of the burning of biomass in urban Delhi, coal-fired ovens and coal-based industries, coal-based power plants in the outskirts of Delhi, the increase in SUVs in the NCR and so forth.

Stubble burning

  • Farmers do it out of economic compulsion. 
  • An argument puts that Punjab now produces 25% more rice than what it did 15 years ago. 
  • Many others argue that the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act 2009 is the main culprit. 
  • Many believe that a generous distribution of direct seeders should make a difference.

Proposed three ways out

  • Reduce paddy area/production
  • Allow farmers to plant/transplant paddy before June
  • Distribute “happy seeders”

Reduction in production of paddy

  • Punjab was never a traditional rice cultivator.
  • It took up rice cultivation in response to the national policy of food self-sufficiency. 
  • They achieved the highest productivity in the country and contributed maximum among all States to the central pool of rice procurement. 
  • The area went up from 2.6 million hectares in 2001 to 3 million hectares in 2017. Production went up from 9 million tonnes to 12.5 million tonnes. 
  • Punjab dug deeper to get groundwater and caused long-term damage to itself.
  • Attempts at diversification did not take off because of the difference in net farm returns and market risks. 
  • A rice farmer earns about ₹57,000 per hectare whereas maize in a maize-wheat combination would set them back by about ₹15,000-17,000. 
  • An estimate by agricultural economist Ashok Gulati suggests ₹12,000 per hectare as an acceptable compensation. 
  • To reduce the area of common paddy by half a million hectares, and achieve a reduction of output of 2 million tonnes, the government has to support this change for the next five years. 
  • This half-a-million hectare should be in water-stressed blocks and can be encouraged to shift to maize or any other crop. Another one lakh hectare can shift to basmati production.

Falling water levels

  • Punjab Preservation of Sub-soil Water Act 2009 -there exist strong arguments to prevent over-exploitation of groundwater, especially if farmers cultivate rice in April/May. 
  • Strong evidence is necessary to establish improvement in groundwater levels.
  • If farmers are allowed to go back to the pre-2009 regime, it may deplete groundwater resources. 
  • The problem is one of free power to tube wells. This amount of about ₹6,000 crores can be shifted to a direct benefit transfer as has been suggested by policy experts.

Happy Seeder

  • Direct seeders do help but have limitations. 
  • The seeder has to operate within about 4-5 days of the harvest.
  • The effectiveness depends on the moisture present in the soil at the time of seeding. This requires a good understanding of soil conditions. 
  • Agronomic practices need to change with regard to the application of fertilizer and irrigation. 
  • These machines may be used only during the 15-day window in a whole year. They will remain idle for the remaining 350 days. 
  • Punjab may need about 20,000 of these machines if basmati areas and rice-potato areas are excluded from the calculation.


The problem is complex and needs a solution. But the solution should take into consideration the economic condition of farmers, the scientific options available and the willingness of the Central government to change policy and fund a major part of the expenditure. Blaming the farmers alone will not do.

Air Pollution

[pib] Satellites to Assess Pollution StatusPIB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD)

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution in India

ISRO’s INSAT-3D & 3DR satellites are being used for assessment of air pollution.

Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD)

  • Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) is a quantitative estimate of the amount of aerosol present in the atmosphere, and it can be used as a proxy for surface Particulate Matter PM2.5 (particles smaller than 2.5 µm median diameter).
  • AOD measures the extinction of a ray of light as it passes through the atmosphere.

How is AOD calculated?

  • Using medium resolution Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite data, stubble burned area maps are generated at the end of stubble burning activity in Kharif season.
  • ISRO has been carrying out monitoring of stubble burning since 2015. The products generated are comparable to the NASA products.
  • The Imager payload on-board ISRO’s INSAT-3D & 3DR satellites are used to monitor Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD).

Significance of AOD

  • It is found that AOD, PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations are higher over Indo-Gangetic Plain covering parts of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar during October and November.
  • High concentration of these pollutants is seen originating from parts of Punjab and Haryana during stubble burning.
  • Climatological study of satellite based fire occurrences and associated pollutant parameters reveal that fire occurrences increased by 4% over Punjab and Haryana region during Oct-Nov between 2003 and 2017.
  • The model based analysis suggests that there is a high probability of transportation of smoke aerosols from Punjab & Haryana, towards down-wind regions of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] From Plate to Plough: A crop for clean airop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Changing cropping patterns to address pollution


Last week, the Air Quality Index (AQI) touched emergency levels in the National Capital Region. The Supreme Court came down heavily on the chief secretaries of four states — Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. 

Stubble burning

  • Paddy stubble burning in states neighbouring Delhi, especially Punjab, is being seen as one of the reasons for the smog in the national capital. 
  • Supreme court has asked the Punjab government to pay Rs 100 per quintal to farmers as an incentive for desisting from burning stubble. 
  • Solutions such as subsidising Happy Seeders are also being talked about. 

These solutions are not enough

  • The problem is much deeper than stubble burning. 
  • The solution to the problem rests with the political class — both in the Centre as well as in these states. 

Roots of the problem in Punjab

  • Green Revolution – The Punjab-Haryana region was not India’s rice belt before the Green Revolution. Punjab was known for “makki ki roti and sarson ka saag”. 
  • Much of the kharif area in the region is under rice — about 3.1 million hectares in Punjab and 1.4 million hectares in Haryana. 
  • Groundwater – This has caused havoc with the groundwater table that has been depleting at about 33 cms each year. Groundwater in more than three-fourths of blocks in Punjab is over-exploited.
  • Punjab regulation – In order to save water during the peak summer season, the Punjab government passed a law in 2009 outlawing paddy sowing before June 15. This pushes the rice harvesting to the late October-mid-November period, leaving very little time for sowing the rabi crop, mainly wheat. 
  • Harvesters – Farmers rely on paddy harvesters that leave stubbles. These are then burnt to make the field ready for sowing wheat. Farm labour has become more expensive during the peak season.

Why paddy?

  • Not aligned to Geography – Their water resource endowment does not align with the crop’s requirement. 
  • More water needed – One kilogram of rice requires about 5,000 litres of irrigation water in this belt. And, the natural rainfall is too less for the purpose. 
  • Profits – Farmers cultivate paddy as it gives them higher profits, compared to competing crops like corn. 
  • Subsidies – The key reasons for-profits are the massive subsidies on power provided by the state government and fertiliser subsidy given to them by the Centre. They are assured procurement of paddy by state government agencies on behalf of the Food Corporation of India.

Way ahead


  • Paddy in Eastern India –In the eastern parts of the country, water is available much more abundantly. 
  • About two million hectares of rice-growing area in the northern belt needs to shift to this part of the country. 
  • Basmati – The basmati-growing area in the Northern belt is about 1.2 million hectares; it produces 4.6 million tonnes of basmati. Its value basmati is almost three times higher than that of common rice and much of that is exported. So Punjab and Haryana should focus on cultivating basmati
  • They should get away from common paddy, which is largely meant for the Public Distribution System – sold at Rs 3/kg under the National Food Security Act.

Steps to encourage the shift

  • Policy at the Centre and state level. 
  • Chances for abolishing subsidies are remote, given the place of free power and cheap fertilisers in the country’s political discourse. 
  • Subsidy basis – A move towards giving these subsidies in cash on per hectare basis to farmers can lead to some improvement. 
  • Cropping pattern – Farmers could be encouraged to change their crop preference if the Centre and the Punjab and Haryana governments announce a cash incentive of Rs 12,000 per hectare for growing corn in place of paddy. It will not cost the state or central exchequer anything extra. 
  • Ancillary benefits of corn – corn cultivation will have to be absorbed by feed mills for poultry, starch mills and ethanol. 
  • Incentives for corn – tax incentives for the corn-based industry in this belt could create a more market-aligned demand for corn.


  • This is just the right time to make this switch from paddy to corn as rice stocks with government are way above the buffer stock norms. 
  • Centre should announce that it will not procure more than 50% of the production of common paddy from the blocks that are over-exploited.
  • It will not give to the state procurement agencies more than 4% as commission, mandi fee, or any cess for procuring on behalf of FCI.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Stubble resistanceop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Stubble Burning - way ahead


Last week, Delhi recorded its worst reading in three years on the Air Quality Index. The Supreme Court pulled up governments of Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi for their lack of concerted action against stubble burning. 

Supreme court

  • It questioned the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana for not being sensitive enough to the issue. 
  • It has asked the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to pay, within seven days, Rs 100 per quintal of paddy as an incentive to farmers who have not burnt stubble on their fields. 
  • The directive meets a longstanding demand of farmers’ organisations.

Questions it rises

  • Do the states have the financial resources to bear the burden of the cash incentive? 
  • Are such incentives enough to wean farmers away from stubble burning?

Response to judgement

  • Punjab agreed to the judgement. More than 90% of the non-Basmati paddy crop has been harvested. 
  • Punjab CM has given indications of the state’s limitations in providing cash incentives in the future. 
  • States demand that the Centre will have to help the states, which are facing serious fiscal constraints. 
  • GST regime has stifled financial resources of all states. 


  • The Supreme court said that it will take a final call on the “aspect of finance” after considering the detailed report to be submitted by the state governments. 
  • It will have to chart a plan that takes into account the interests of the farmers as well as recognises the constraints of the states.

State actions

  • The Punjab and Haryana governments subsidise the Happy Seeder sowing machines, which obviate straw burning. 
  • Still, the technology has not got the necessary traction because farmers do not want to invest in a machine that lies idle for most of the year.
  •  As in the case of most farm technologies in the country, the adoption of Happy Seeders will require changing mindsets. 
  • To persuade farmers to not set their fields on fires, state governments will need to reach out to them with educational programmes — not just financial incentives.
Air Pollution

Indian Air quality Interactive Repository (IndAIR)Priority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IndAir

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution in India

  • The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) along with the CSIR has launched India’s first web repository documenting air quality studies done in the last 60 years.


  • The IndAIR has archived approximately 700 scanned materials from pre-Internet era (1950-1999), 1,215 research articles, 170 reports and case studies and 100 cases.
  • It aims to provide the history of air pollution research and legislation.
  • Such a repository on air pollution is one of the first in the world.

Why need such a repository?

  • Though air pollution is one of the most widely deliberated issues, little is known about it in India as far as the statistics or the history is concerned.
  • The general belief has been that not much is being done to tackle the problem.
  • IndAIR will help the academicians understand the issue better and also enable policymakers to frame legislation that encourages development.
Air Pollution

[oped of the day] To mitigate air pollution, look beyond tokenismop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Odd-Even scheme; Delhi’s air pollution - reasons


The odd-even scheme for automobiles plying in Delhi will kick in. Due to a steep deterioration in the air quality index or AQI in the city, the Environmental Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) had to declare a public health emergency as a desperate measure to contain the silent killer.

Odd-Even scheme

  • Innovative idea – The odd-even scheme was first introduced three years ago. It is an out-of-the-box idea with unproven claims on containing AQI levels. 
  • Limited to 4 wheelers – It is terrific to focus attention on air pollution caused by automobiles. It exempts two-wheelers and does not allow privately-owned hybrids and CNG vehicles. 
  • Need for rains – Unless the rains turn up, and the cross winds regain momentum, Odd-Even is unlikely to bring down AQI below the prevailing hazardous levels.

It’s high time

  • Annual event – For three years now, NCR has seen the pollution saga every winter.
  • Beyond one cause – There is a need to take the debate beyond the single causes like stubble burning.

Understanding the problem

  • Topography – NCR pollution problem is partly because of the nature of its topography. 
    • It is shaped like a saucer and hence is hugely dependent on a cross breeze.
    • This breeze serves it for most of the year, except in winter—to keep its AQI under control.
    • This is the reason why the stubble burning that happens in the early part of the year does not harm Delhi as much.
  • Growing vehicles
    • Vehicular pollution has been growing very sharply. 
    • The emissions of PM by automobiles have surged by 40% in the eight years that ended 2018.
    • According to the Economic Survey put out by the Delhi government, there were 10.9 million vehicles in NCR at the end of 2018.
    • In the absence of winds, stubble burning and bursting of crackers send the pollution problem over the tipping point.

Need for a comprehensive solution

  • Public transport – Metro Rail has been critical in addressing transport woes of NCR’s working population. This has to be dovetailed with a robust public bus network.
  • Road design – government should focus on building and maintaining good roads and implementing laws to ensure only road-worthy vehicles ply.
  • Need for a public movement – the residents of Delhi have to force a public debate.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Amending and updating the 1981 Air Act will help in the battle against pollutionop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Curbing air pollution in Delhi


Health emergency in Delhi

  • As New Delhi’s AQI crosses 500, the national capital has officially entered the public health emergency category.
  • Schools have been shut, children are complaining of breathing problems, but the state and Central governments are simply indulging in blame-games.

And blame game thus begins

  • When something as fundamental as the health of our children is at risk, we should devise a more robust, permanent solution to the problem of pollution.
  • This forms the basis of the need for amending the 1981 Air Act and making it more compatible with contemporary India.

Public Health at stake

  • Air pollution in India is not simply an environmental problem, but a major public health concern.
  • It impacts all those breathing in the polluted air — children, the elderly, women and men alike.
  • Recently, the Centre for Science and Environment reported that air pollution kills an average of 8.5 out of every 10,000 children in India before they turn five.
  • Similarly, the WHO in 2016 reported that pollution has led to the deaths of over 1 lakh children in India.
  • Overall, several internationally acclaimed studies have affirmed that life expectancy in India has declined anywhere between two to three years.

Impacting India’s image

  • Statistics show that India is in a worse situation compared to its global counterparts.
  • According to Greenpeace, 22 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India and Delhi has yet again bagged the position of the world’s most polluted capital.
  • These are grim figures, especially when compared to India’s neighbours: Five in China, two in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh.
  • In 2018, India was placed in the bottom five countries on the Environmental Performance Index, ranking 177th out of 180 countries, along with Bangladesh, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nepal.

Learning from US

  • The Indian government needs to identify the tangible benefits that concrete legislation on air pollution has brought across the world.
  • In the United States, the Clean Air Act has proven that public health and economic progress can go together.
  • For instance, the aggregate national emissions of the six common pollutants in the USA dropped an average of 73 per cent from 1970 to 2017.
  • Through one piece of legislation, the US has challenged multiple sources of pollution, airborne or motor vehicle-led.
  • Similarly, after declaring a war on pollution, Chinese cities reduced PM concentration by 32 per cent in 2018.

Goal isn’t too unrealistic

  • In a country with a human power and technical know-how like India, achieving a better feat is not impossible.
  • However, in India, we are ignoring the change that progressive legislation can bring.
  • In recent times, the government has worked on a much hyped “mission-mode” — drafting policies and programmes to alleviate pollution.
  • But with little to no legal mandate or a budgetary allocation of as little as Rs 300 crore under programmes such as the National Clean Air Programme, no true enforcement of targets and goals is guaranteed.
  • In such dire circumstances with high stakes, higher targets need to be set, penalties need to be stricter, and the mandate needs to be stronger.

Going back to Air Act of 1981

  • It is essential to retrace our steps back to the Air Act of 1981 that governs our pollution control system.
  • Under the 1981 Air Act, the Pollution Control Boards are presently unable to fulfil their mandate as watchdogs against polluting industries.
  • A new bill will plug many loopholes in the 1981 Act and would align the functions and priorities of the Pollution Boards towards reducing the adverse impact of pollution on human health in India.

Need for reforms in the Act

  • India’s pollution liability regime has never prioritized the adverse impact of pollution on health.
  • In its present form, India’s Air Act does not mention or prioritise the importance of reducing the health impact of rising pollution.
  • This is the first change that a new law on air pollution should bring protecting health needs to become the central mission that the boards work towards.
  • For instance, at any point that the State Boards find evidence of excess air pollution, they should take all measures possible to actively disseminate this information to the masses.
  • When the air quality goes from normal to toxic and hazardous, the boards must be empowered to declare public health emergencies, with the power to temporarily shut down all polluting activities.

Making industries comply

  • Accountability and deterrence are essential in making sure industries comply with emission standards.
  • While the boards cannot levy penalties, in the new law they should be empowered to encash environmental compensations from polluting industries to make up for the cost of mitigating the damage.
  • This possibility of paying compensation would be a strong reinforcement for industries to adopt cleaner technologies and comply with standards.

Working hand-in-hands

  • In a federal set-up the Centre and states must work in synergy to ensure that targets set for the country and states are fulfilled.
  • Therefore, the new law must push Central and state boards to convene joint sittings with a multi-sectoral participation from ministries such as housing, urban development, agriculture and road transport.
  • Air pollution is not, and has never been, a problem with a single solution.
  • It is caused by emissions from vehicles, industries and agriculture, construction dust, and other factors related to household consumption and municipal planning.

Bringing in Accountability

  • Because multiple ministries and government departments are involved, without appropriate political leadership, public commitment will remain on paper only.
  • Therefore, the new law on air pollution must give an additional mandate to either a senior minister, such as the minister of environment, forest and climate or the PMO needs to be involved directly.
  • Greater public transparency is essential to the success of winning the war on air pollution.
  • There is no better watchdog than active citizens, which is why the pollution targets must be made public every year for their perusal and to be evaluated at the end of the year.

Way Forward

  • Breathing clean air is the fundamental right of every Indian citizen. Human health must become a priority when it comes to legislating on air pollution.
  • As 2019 nears its end, and the season of smog begins, there is an urgent need for India to be a pollution-free nation.
  • Pollution control boards must be empowered sufficiently to ensure that pollution does not take more lives or hinders the overall progress of India.
Air Pollution

Carbon emission from tropical forestsPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forgone carbon removal

Mains level : Carbon emission from tropical forests

  • A new study says that carbon impacts from the loss of intact tropical forests have been grossly underreported.

About the study

  • The study has calculated new figures relating to intact forest lost between 2000-2013.
  • It has found that the long-term net carbon impacts, through 2050, are six times the current estimates.
  • Conventionally, only carbon emissions from readily observed forest clearance are considered.
  • This study accounted for less readily observed degradation processes that follow forest clearance – selective logging, edge effects, and defaunation.

Forgone carbon removal

  • Another metric used in the new study is “forgone carbon removal”.
  • Forgone removals are an estimate of the amount of carbon that cleared or degraded forests could have sequestered had they remained intact beyond 2000.
  • Full accounting of these additional factors led to a 626% increase in cumulative net carbon impact from intact forest loss, the study says.
Air Pollution

Graded Response Action PlanPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GRAP

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution

  • Starting October 15, some stricter measures to fight air pollution will come into force in Delhi’s neighbourhood, as part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).
  • As pollution rises, and it is expected to as winter approaches, more measures will come into play depending on the air quality.

Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

  • In 2014, when a study by the WHO found that Delhi was the most polluted city in the world, panic spread in the Centre and the state government.
  • Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, the plan was formulated after several meetings that the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) held with state government and experts.
  • The result was a plan that institutionalized measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates.
  • GRAP works only as an emergency measure.
  • Three major policy decisions that can be credited to EPCA and GRAP are the closure of the thermal power plant at Badarpur, bringing BS-VI fuel to Delhi before the deadline set initially, and the ban on Pet coke as a fuel in Delhi NCR.

How it works?

  • As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
  • When the air quality shifts from poor to very poor, the measures listed under both sections have to be followed since the plan is incremental in nature.
  • If air quality reaches the severe+ stage, GRAP talks about shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.

Severe+ or Emergency

(PM 2.5 over 300 µg/cubic metre or PM10 over 500 µg/cu. m. for 48+ hours)

  • Stop entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities)
  • Stop construction work
  • Introduce odd/even scheme for private vehicles and minimise exemptions
  • Task Force to decide any additional steps including shutting of schools


(PM 2.5 over 250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 over 430 µg/cu. m.)

  • Close brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers
  • Maximise power generation from natural gas to reduce generation from coal
  • Encourage public transport, with differential rates
  • More frequent mechanized cleaning of road and sprinkling of water

Very Poor

(PM2.5 121-250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 351-430 µg/cu. m.)

  • Stop use of diesel generator sets
  • Enhance parking fee by 3-4 times
  • Increase bus and Metro services
  • Apartment owners to discourage burning fires in winter by providing electric heaters during winter
  • Advisories to people with respiratory and cardiac conditions to restrict outdoor movement

Moderate to poor

(PM2.5 61-120 µg/cu. m. or PM10 101-350 µg/cu. m.)

  • Heavy fines for garbage burning
  • Close/enforce pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries
  • Mechanised sweeping on roads with heavy traffic and water sprinkling
  • Strictly enforce ban on firecrackers

Has GRAP helped?

  • The biggest success of GRAP has been in fixing accountability and deadlines.
  • For each action to be taken under a particular air quality category, executing agencies are clearly marked.
  • In a territory like Delhi, where a multiplicity of authorities has been a long-standing impediment to effective governance, this step made a crucial difference.

What measures have been taken in other states?

  • One criticism of the EPCA as well as GRAP has been the focus on Delhi.
  • While other states have managed to delay several measures, citing lack of resources, Delhi has always been the first one to have stringent measures enforced.
  • In a recent meeting that discussed the ban on diesel generator sets, the point about Delhi doing all the heavy lifting was also raised.
Air Pollution

[pib] Green CrackersPIB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green crackers

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution

  • In a bid to resolve the crisis of air pollution, the CSIR has launched green firecrackers.

About the Crackers

  • The new CSIR-NEERI formulation for green crackers has NO barium nitrate — one of the key ingredients of traditional firecrackers.
  • These crackers have been named “safe water releaser (SWAS)”, “safe minimal aluminium (SAFAL)” and “safe thermite cracker (STAR)”.
  • The three crackers release water vapour or air as a dust suppressant and diluent for gaseous emissions.
  • These products can only be manufactured by those who have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with CSIR-NEERI.
  • The green crackers will be sold with a unique logo on the box, and will also have a QR code with production and emission details.


  • They eliminate the use of potassium nitrate and sulphur, and reduce particulate matter like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by at least 30 per cent.
  • The two types have matching sound intensity with commercial crackers, that is, in the range of 105-110 dBA.


  • It minimally uses aluminium, which results in at least 35 per cent reduction in particulate matter compared to commercial crackers.
  • Its sound intensity matches with commercial crackers in the 110-115 dBA range.
  • The product categories include Chinese crackers, maroons, atom bombs, flowerpots, pencils and sparklers.
Air Pollution

Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) of GujaratGovt. Schemes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ETS, Carbon trading

Mains level : About the Scheme


Emission trading in Gujarat

  • Last week, the Gujarat government launched what is being described as the world’s first market for trading in particulate matter emissions.
  • While trading mechanisms for pollution control do exist in many parts of the world, none of them is for particulate matter emissions.
  • For example, the CDM (clean development mechanism) under the Kyoto Protocol allows trade in ‘carbon credits’; the EU’s Emission Trading System is for greenhouse gas emission; and India has a scheme run by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency that enables trading in energy units.

Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)

  • Launched in Surat, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a regulatory tool that is aimed at reducing the pollution load in an area and at the same time minimising the cost of compliance for the industry.
  • ETS is a market in which the traded commodity is particulate matter emissions.
  • The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) sets a cap on the total emission load from all industries.
  • Various industries can buy and sell the ability to emit particulate matter, by trading permits (in kilograms) under this cap.
  • For this reason, ETS is also called a cap-and-trade market.

Why was Surat chosen for the scheme?

  • In the last five years, the quality of air in Surat has deteriorated.
  • In 2013, when the project was conceptualised, the PM10 level at Air India Building in Surat was 86 micrograms per cubic metre.
  • According to GPCB annual reports, pollution levels have increased between 120-220 per cent, with PM10 in 2018 reaching upto 261 µg/cu. M.
  • Surat was chosen because its industrial associations agreed to run the pilot scheme.
  • Also, industries in Surat had already installed Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems, which makes it possible to estimate the mass of particulate matter being released.

Trading process

  • At the beginning of every one-month compliance period (during which one emission permit is valid), 80 per cent of the total cap of 280 tonnes for that period is distributed free to all participant units.
  • These permits are allocated based on an industry’s emission sources (boilers, heaters, generators) as this determines the amount of particulate matter emitted.
  • GPCB will offer the remaining 20 per cent of the permits during the first auction of the compliance period, at a floor price of Rs 5 per kilogram.
  • Participating units may buy and sell permits among each other during the period.
  • The price is not allowed to cross a ceiling of Rs 100 per kilogram or fall below Rs 5 per kg, both of which may be adjusted after a review.


  • These take place on the ETS-PM trading platform hosted by the National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange e-Markets Limited (NeML).
  • All participants must register a trading account with NeML. Transactions are linked to the bank accounts of the users, who can view updates through these accounts.
  • There are two types of auctions. In the Uniform Price Auction, the week’s permit price is discovered by participating members through bidding.
  • Second, there is a continuous market between Wednesday where members will buy and sell permits whose prices were fixed on Tuesday.
  • For a true-up period of 2-7 days before the completion of the compliance period, units may continue to buy and sell any remaining permits at the final auction price to meet their compliance obligations.

Punitive actions for non-compliance

  • Based on permits held by units at the close of the compliance and true-up periods, units will be declared compliant or non-compliant.
  • Environmental damage compensation at Rs 200/kg will be imposed for emissions in excess of a unit’s permit holdings at the end of the compliance period.
  • This amount will be deducted from an environmental damage compensation deposit that each unit has to submit before the start of the scheme — Rs 2 lakh for small units, Rs 3 lakh for medium ones and Rs 10 lakh for large units.
  • After any deduction, a unit will have to deposit extra money to meet that shortfall.
  • To prevent any participant from hoarding permits, an upper limit has been set — 1.5 times the initial allocation for the compliance period, or 3 per cent of the market cap for the compliance period.
  • Also, no unit may sell more than 90 per cent of its initial allocation.

Significance of ETS

  • These permits are not a way to allow industries to keep polluting.
  • Purchasing permits is only an interim measure for many of these units who find it financially difficult to install air pollution control measures.
  • In other words it helps buy some time and make investments later.
  • So the idea of this scheme is also to make sure that some units realise that it is cheaper to install APCM and reduce emissions rather than buy permits at a higher cost that will vary due to the bidding process.
Air Pollution

Clean Air Coalition and Clean Air FundIOCR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Clean Air Coalition, Clean Air Fund

Mains level : Curbing air pollution

  • WHO is launching a “Clean Air Coalition” led by the Governments of Spain and Peru, while a group of philanthropic organizations and foundations were poised to launch a new “Clean Air Fund”.
  • Both aim to spur investment in reducing sources of air pollution, which also contribute to climate change.

Clean Air Coalition

  • The Clean Air Coalition is being supported by the UN Secretary General’s Office and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition of UN Environment.
  • The fund brings together “a group of like-minded philanthropic foundations” which have recognized that tackling air pollution will have “huge benefits for health as well as for climate.”

Why such move?

  • A report has found that philanthropic investment in air quality initiatives is disproportionately low in comparison to the burden disease caused by air pollution – which is estimated to kill some 7 million people around the world every year.
  • Most money is spent only in a few countries – even though WHO estimates that over 90% of people around the world breathe unhealthy air.

Clean Air Fund

  • The new Clean Air Fund aims to support projects that “democratize” air quality data, making knowledge about air quality more widely accessible to large numbers of people in cities.
  • The Fund works with a coalition of philanthropic foundation partners who have interests in health, children, mobility, climate change, and equity, bringing them together to strengthen their collective investment, voice and impact.
Air Pollution

Happy Seeder (HS) TechniquePriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HS technology

Mains level : Alternatives to stubble burning

  • Punjab CM recently said that using Happy Seeders for direct wheat sowing leads to increased productivity.

Happy Seeder (HS)

  • Happy Seeder (HS) or Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) is a tractor-operated machine developed by the Punjab Agri University (PAU) in collaboration with Australian Centre for International Agri Research (ACIAR).
  • HS is used for in-situ management of paddy stubble (straw).
  • While it was developed in 2002, the PAU officially recommended it to farmers in 2005-06 and it made to the markets in 2006.
  • Currently, it costs around Rs 1.50 to 1.60 lakh and is manufactured by different companies.
  • The agriculture department gives 80 per cent subsidy to farmer groups and 50 per cent subsidy to individual farmers.

Using HS

  • After harvesting the paddy field using a combined harvester fitted with Super-SMS (Straw Management System) equipment.
  • This chops and evenly spreads the stubble in the field, farmers can directly sow wheat seeds using Happy Seeder with the stubble’s organic value adding to the soil.

Why use HS?

  • The average wheat yield a farmer gets using traditional sowing method (after burning stubble) is 19-22 quintal/acre (q/acre).
  • It has been found that using Happy Seeder for four years, in the first year the yield was 17 q/acre but now it’s 19-22 q/acre.

Issues with HS

  • Many farmers had to burn the stubble because Happy Seeder doesn’t work on thick bunches of straw left behind.
  • It is wrong to say that yield magically increases or decreases using Happy Seeder.
  • It mostly remains at par, with normal average yield.
  • Initially, farmers will face problems because after sowing with HS, fields require proper management
  • According to the experts, wheat yield will start increasing after the initial 2-3 years, as the stubble will add to the organic quality of the soil.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Clearing the airop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Delhi Air pollution


The odd-even scheme will make a comeback in Delhi four years after it was first implemented. 

Fighting pollution

  • Delhi Chief Minister announced that the road rationing scheme will be a part of a seven-point programme to combat pollution.
  • The scheme will be implemented when Delhi’s air is at its worst
    • post-festival pollution combines with
    • smog from stubble burning in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh
    • particulate matter from tailpipes of vehicles
  • In the last three years, the government resorted to knee-jerk reactions which did very little to improve the city’s air quality. 

Odd-Even scheme

  • The road rationing scheme allows vehicles to ply on alternate days, depending on odd and even number plates. 
  • It was introduced in 2016 as a desperate measure after the Delhi High Court asked the state government to submit a time-bound plan. 
  • A fight between the Delhi government and NGT came in the way of its implementation in 2017. 
    • The NGT said that any relaxation would come in the way of improving the city’s air quality.
    • But the government wanted exemptions for two-wheelers. 
  • The government argued that Delhi’s public transport wasn’t equipped to handle the fallout of extending road-rationing to two-wheelers. 

Way ahead

  • The government has nearly two months to iron out glitches and sort out differences that could come in the way of smooth implementation of the plan. 
  • It needs to ensure that the city’s public transport system is able to meet the needs of commuters on days when their vehicles will be off the roads.


The odd-even scheme is not a magic bullet to clean up Delhi’s bad air. But the scheme is a part of a bouquet of pollution-control measures.

Air Pollution

Air pollution in Delhi drops 25% in four yearsPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM 2.5, PM 10

Mains level : Curbing air pollution in Delhi

  • Pollution levels in Delhi, primarily the concentration of particulate matter has reduced by 25% over a period of four years.
  • Five years ago, in 2014, a global study on air quality trends by the WHO had declared Delhi the most polluted city in the world.
  • Since then, the Centre, states and courts have taken several steps to arrest pollution in the city.

Delhi air pollution

  • Delhi, through its pollution control committee, started monitoring air quality in real time only in 2010.
  • It was in 2012 that Delhi saw its worst air quality due to full force of crop-residue burning that year, especially in October and November.
  • It was the first time that this burning was seriously flagged.
  • But since 2012, the average annual concentration of particulate matter — the primary cause of pollution in the city — has been falling.
  • In Delhi’s air, the primary pollutants are PM2.5 (inhalable particles of diameter 2.5 micrometres and smaller) and PM10 (10 micrometers and smaller).
  • Particulate matter, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in air.
  • Some particles can be seen with the naked eye; others can only be detected under a microscope.

What data show?


  • DPCC data from 2012 to 2019 show 2018 saw the lowest average concentration of PM2.5.
  • In 2012, the annual average was 160 micrograms per cubic metre; it came down 20% to 128 micrograms/cubic m in 2018.
  • The most polluted months of the year are November, December and January, with pollution peaking in November, monthly averages between 2012 and 2018 show.
  • It is in November that the highest volume of crop residue is burnt in Haryana, Punjab and UP.
  • It is also when temperatures fall and humidity rises, aiding the increase in concentration of pollutants in the air. Locally, the burning of leaves picks up in November.
  • However, as the chart shows, PM2.5 concentrations have fallen over the years — in November as well as in the ‘cleaner’ months of July, August and September.


  • Between 2012 and 2018, the concentration of PM10 reduced by 21% from an average 351 micrograms/cubic m to 277 micrograms/cubic m.
  • PM10 is more prominent in the air in winter, primarily because of open burning and road and construction dust.
  • Until August this year, Delhi’s performance in terms of PM10 concentration has been encouraging.
  • In August, the average concentration fell to double digits for the first time since 2012; in 2013, this figure was as high as 288 micrograms/cubic m.

Seasonal variation, weather

  • Over the past five years, several studies have pointed to the fact that weather and seasons are among the biggest determinants of Delhi’s air quality.
  • No matter how much authorities try, air quality in winter will be worse than in summer.
  • Localised weather conditions also have a major role in determining air quality.
  • On a sunny and windy winter day, air quality can improve several notches within hours.
  • Weather conditions are also the reason why winters are more polluted than summers. Cold, foggy, windless days help in the accumulation of pollutants.

What has worked in Delhi

  • Between 2014 and 2017, the Delhi government has implemented orders passed by NGT to curb air pollution, including the implementation of the odd-even road rationing scheme.
  • The biggest push came in 2017, when the Centre notified the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), which provided state governments in Delhi and the NCR with a roadmap for action.
  • If the air was severely polluted for more than 48 hours, for example, the entry of trucks would be stopped, and all construction work halted. The GRAP also set roles for each agency, fixing accountability.
  • Shutting of the two thermal power plants in Delhi, completion of the eastern and western peripheral expressways for vehicles not destined for Delhi, a ban on PET Coke as industrial fuel, and the introduction of BS VI fuel have, experts believe, made a big difference.
Air Pollution

Pollution Under Control (PUC) TestPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PUC Test

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution

  • Since the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into force, long queues of vehicles are commonly being seen at pollution control centres in Delhi.
  • After undergoing pollution under control (PUC) test, a vehicle is certified for a certain period of time.

What is a PUC certificate?

  • The PUC certificate is a document that any person driving a motor vehicle can be asked to produce by a police officer in uniform authorised by the state government.
  • These issue certificates if a vehicle is found complying with the prescribed emission norms.
  • The fine for PUC violations has now gone up to Rs 10,000; it used to be Rs 1,000 for the first offence and Rs 2,000 for subsequent violations before the amendments came into force.
  • The test costs between Rs 60 and Rs 100.
  • The validity of the test is one year for BS IV vehicles and three months for others.
  • A PUC certificate contains information such as the vehicle’s license plate number, PUC test reading, date on which the PUC test was conducted and the expiry date.

How is a pollution control check carried out?

  • The computerised model for pollution check was developed by the Society of Indian Automobile manufacturers.
  • A gas analyser is connected to a computer, to which a camera and a printer are attached.
  • The gas analyser records the emission value and sends it to the computer directly, while the camera captures the license plate of the vehicle.
  • Subsequently, a certificate may be issued if the emission values are within the limits.

Why PUC?

  • According to the Transport Department, Delhi, 217.7 tonnes of carbon monoxide is emitted every day by vehicles in the city.
  • Vehicular pollution estimates include 84.1 tonnes of nitrogen oxides and 66.7 tonnes of hydrocarbons per day.
Air Pollution

Global Liveability Ranking 2019IOCR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the index

Mains level : Factors affecting liveability in India


  • New Delhi has dropped by six places to rank 118th on a list of the world’s most liveable cities due to increase in cases of petty crimes and poor air quality.
  • While New Delhi registered the biggest decline in Asia, Mumbai also fell two places since last year to rank 119th on the list topped by Vienna (Austria) for the second consecutive year.

About the ranking

  • The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) publishes an annual Global Liveability Ranking.
  • The EIU ranking of 140 cities is based on their scores in five broad categories — stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
  • Each factor in a city is rated as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable.

Global scenario

  • Among the BRIC countries, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was positioned at the 89th place, Moscow (Russia) at 68th, St Petersburg (Russia) 71st.
  • The Chinese cities in the list include Suzhou at 75th rank, Beijing 76th, Tianjin 79th, Shanghai 80th, Shenzhen 84th, Dalian 90th, Guangzhou 96th and Qingdao 97th.
  • Several major global cities received mixed scores. London and New York ranked 48th and 58th out of the 140 cities in the survey.

Why decline in liveabilty in India?

Abuses against journalists

  • The EIU also flagged “an escalation in abuses against journalists in recent years” in India.
  • It cited a decline in the country’s ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index where India now sits in the bottom quartile of countries.
  • The study said that Asian cities overall have scored slightly below the global average while three Asian cities — Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea (135th), Pakistan’s Karachi (136th) and Bangladesh’s Dhaka (138th) — are among the ten least liveable globally.

Rise in Crime rates

  • The EIU said decline in Mumbai’s rank was mainly due to a downgrade in its culture score, while New Delhi has fallen in the index because of downgrades to its culture and environment score as well as fall in the stability score owing to rising crime rates.

Climatic changes

  • Several cities, such as New Delhi in India and Cairo in Egypt received substantial downgrades on their scores owing to problems linked to climate change, such as poor air quality, undesirable average temperatures and inadequate water provision,” the report said.

Constrained liveability conditions

  • A score between 50-60 points, which is the case for India, indicates constrained liveability conditions.
  • The 2018 update to the WHO Global Ambient Air Quality Database shows that New Delhi has the sixth highest annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter among cities around the world.
  • Companies pay a premium to employees who move to cities where living conditions are particularly difficult and there is excessive physical hardship or a notably unhealthy environment.
  • The suggested allowance for Indian cities is 15%.
Air Pollution

India biggest emitter of sulphur dioxide: report using NASA dataPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sulphur Pollution

Mains level : Curbing air pollution

India largest emitter of sulfur

  • A new report by Greenpeace India shows the country is the largest emitter of sulphur dioxide in the world, with more than 15% of all the anthropogenic sulphur dioxide hotspots.
  • This was detected by the NASA OMI (Ozone Monitoring Instrument) satellite.
  • Almost all of these emissions in India are because of coal-burning, the report says.
  • The Singrauli, Neyveli, Talcher, Jharsuguda, Korba, Kutch, Chennai, Ramagundam, Chandrapur and Koradi thermal power plants or clusters are the major emission hotspots in India.

Why India?

  • The vast majority of coal-based power plants in India lack flue-gas desulphurization technology to reduce air pollution.
  • In a first step to combat pollution levels, the MoEFCC introduced, for the first time, sulphur dioxide emission limits for coal-fired power plants in December 2015.
  • But the deadline for the installation of flue-gas desulphurization (FGD) in power plants has been extended from 2017 to 2022.

NASA data

  • The report also includes NASA data on the largest point sources of sulphur dioxide.
  • The largest sulphur dioxide emission hotspots have been found in Russia, South Africa, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Serbia.
  • Air pollutant emissions from power plants and other industries continue to increase in India, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the report says.
  • In Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Turkey, emissions are currently not increasing — however, there is not a lot of progress in tackling them either.

India is the loser

  • Of the world’s major emitters, China and the United States have been able to reduce emissions rapidly.
  • They have achieved this feat by switching to clean energy sources.
  • China, in particular, has achieved success by dramatically improving emission standards and enforcement for sulphur dioxide control.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Whether we will survive ought to be our foremost concernop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : The extent of water and air crisis in India


The lack of safe water and clean air will either make or break India.


  1. Statistics
    1. A report by NITI Aayog warned that India is facing its worst water crisis in history.
    2. Nearly 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress, 75% of households do not have drinking water on the premises, 84% of households do not have piped water access, and 70% of our water is contaminated.
    3. Nearly 200,000 people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
    4. 21 cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, will run out of groundwater by 2020. 
    5. India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index.

Air pollution


  1. A report by the Centre for Science and Environment released last year, indicated that severe air pollution crisis in India caused lifespans to shrink by 2.6 years on average
  2. Air pollution is now the third-highest cause of death among all health risks ranking just above smoking in India. 
  3. As many as 14 of the 20 most polluted cities of the world are in India.
  4. The World Health Organization calls toxic air the “new tobacco”

The need of the hour is a nationwide strategy on conservation, checks on development, salination projects across our long coastlines, and urgent steps to check pollution.

Air Pollution

Gujarat launches India’s first Emission Trading SchemePrelims OnlyPriority 1States in News


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emission trading

Mains level : Curbing air pollution

  • Gujarat has launched India’s first trading programme to combat particulate air pollution on World Environment Day 2019, which has air pollution as its theme.

Gujarat Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)

  • The programme is a market-based system where the government sets a cap on emissions and allows industries to buy and sell permits to stay below the cap.
  • It is initiated by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB).
  • It was designed with the help of a team of researchers from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), the Economic Growth Center at Yale University and others.

Using Cap and Trade system

  • The government has set a cap on concentration of emissions for each industrial unit at 150 microgramme per cubic metre (ug/m3), which is the 24-hour average for emission standard set by the Central government for industrial units.
  • Globally, cap-and-trade systems have been used to reduce other forms of pollution, such as programmes that have successfully reduced sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the USA.
  • But the Gujarat programme is the first in the world to regulate particulate air pollution.

How actual trading happens?

  • Under the cap and trade system, the regulator first defines the total mass of pollution that can be put into the air over a defined period by all factories put together.
  • Then, a set of permits is created, each of which allows a certain amount of pollution, and the total is equal to the cap.
  • These permits are the quantity that is bought and sold.
  • Each factory is allocated a share of these permits (this could be equal or based on size or some other rule).
  • After this, plants can trade permits with each other, just like any other commodity on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX).

Benefits of ETS

  • The reason for trading is that in a cap and trade market, the regulator will measure pollution over a period of time and industries must own enough permits to cover their total emissions.
  • Factories who find it very expensive to reduce pollution, will seek to buy more permits.
  • Those who can easily reduce pollution are encouraged to do so because then they have excess permits to sell.
  • Eventually, after buying and selling by plants that find it cheap to cut pollution and those for whom it is expensive, most pollution is taken care of.
  • Whatever the final allocation, the total number of permits does not change so the total pollution is still equal to the predefined cap. And yet the costs to industry are decreased.

Existing regulations

  • Under existing regulations, every industry has to meet a certain maximum concentration of pollutants when it is operating.
  • They are tested occasionally and manually (one or two times a year). However, there is widespread non-compliance across India.
  • This is partly because penalties are rarely applied, in large part because they involve punishments such as closing down the entire plant which is not necessarily appropriate for small violations.
Air Pollution

Committee constituted to oversee clean air programmePriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Clean Air Plan (NCAP)

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution

  • The MoEFCC has constituted a committee to implement the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which aims to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

  • The NCAP unveiled in January is envisaged as a scheme to provide the States and the Centre with a framework to combat air pollution.
  • The NCAP is envisioned as a five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. There would be a review every five years.
  • For achieving the NCAP targets, the cities would be expected to calculate the reduction in pollution, keeping 2017’s average annual PM levels as the base year.
  • The NCAP requires cities to implement specific measures such as:
  1. Ensuring roads are pothole-free to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce dust” (within 60 days) or
  2. Ensuring strict action against unauthorized brick kilns (within 30 days)
  • It doesn’t specify an exact date for when these obligations kick in.
  • Experts have criticised the lack of mandatory targets and the challenge of inadequate enforcement by cities.

Committee to implement NCAP

  • The committee will be chaired by the Secretary, Union Environment Ministry and has among its members the Joint Secretary (Thermal), Ministry of Power; Director-General, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) etc.
  • The committee would be headquartered in New Delhi and its remit includes ensuring “inter-ministerial organisation and cooperation, sharing information and resolving issues that could arise between ministries.
  • The committee would also give overall guidance and directions to effectively implement the programmes.

Why such move?

  • The World Health Organization’s (WHO) database on air pollution over the years has listed Tier I and Tier II Indian cities as some of the most polluted places in the world.
  • In 2018, 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities were in India.
Air Pollution

Explained: The problem with dieselPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BS norms

Mains level : Reality check on preparedness for BS VI and major hurdles


  • The announcement by Maruti Suzuki —the country’s largest vehicle manufacturer — will stop manufacturing diesel vehicles.
  • This along with many other giants, pretty much marks the end of the road for the diesel mill in India.

Bone of content- BS VI Norms

  • The main reason is not the fuel price differential, but the new emission norms that will come into effect on April 1, 2020 — less than a year from now.
  • The prohibitively high cost of upgrading diesel engines to meet the new BS-VI emission norms is why leading carmakers have pulled the plug on their diesel options.
  • The economics of the conversion does not make it worthwhile to continue with the diesel option after the transition to BS-VI.
  • Also, the sentiment for diesel is not good in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, making it extra uncertain if customers would want to pay the big premium.

Bharat Stage Norms

  • The BS — Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles.
  • India has been following European (Euro) emission norms, although with a time lag of five years.
  • India introduced emission norms first in 1991, and tightened them in 1996, when most vehicle manufacturers had to incorporate technology upgrades such as catalytic converters to cut exhaust emissions.
  • Fuel specifications based on environmental considerations were notified first in April 1996, to be implemented by 2000, and incorporated in BIS 2000 standards.

Implementation history

  • Following the landmark Supreme Court order of April 1999, the Centre notified BS-I (BIS 2000) and Bharat Stage-II norms, broadly equivalent to Euro I and Euro II respectively.
  • BS-II was for the National Capital Region and other metros; BS-I for the rest of India.
  • From April 2005, in line with the Auto Fuel Policy of 2003, BS-III and BS-II fuel quality norms came into existence for 13 major cities, and for the rest of the country respectively.
  • From April 2010, BS-IV and BS-III norms were put in place in 13 major cities and the rest of India respectively.

What changes do the recent BS norms entail?

  • As per the Policy roadmap, BS-V and BS-VI norms were to be implemented from April 1, 2022, and April 1, 2024 respectively.
  • But in November 2015, the Road Transport Ministry issued a draft notification advancing the implementation of BS-V norms for new four-wheel vehicle models to April 1, 2019, and for existing models to April 1, 2020.
  • Soon afterward, however, Road Transport Ministry announced that the government had decided to leapfrog to BS-VI from April 1, 2020, skipping BS-V all together.

Minutes of BS VI

  • Carmakers would have to put three pieces of equipment — a DPF (diesel particulate filter), an SCR (selective catalytic reduction) system, and an LNT (Lean NOx trap) — to meet stringent BS-VI norms, all at the same time.
  • This is vital to curb both PM (particulate matter) and NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions as mandated under the BS-VI norms.
  • Ideally, the technologies should be introduced in series, and then synergized.

Why the transition is problematic?

  • A practical problem is that while it took as many as seven years for the entire country to shift from BS-III to BS-IV, the attempt this time is to entirely bypass one stage — BS-V — in less than half that time.
  • This makes the switch to BS-VI that much more difficult for both oil companies and automobile makers.
  • The decision to leapfrog directly from BS-IV to BS-VI is what carmakers cite as the reason for the unviability of diesel.
  • While petrol vehicles would also need upgrades to transition, these are limited to catalysts and electronic control upgrades.
  • For diesel vehicles, the upgrades are more complicated and entail higher costs, apart from the technical difficulties in managing the changes.
  • A step-by-step transition would have been easier; now, the entire cost will have to be borne in one go, alongside the operational difficulties of managing the transition.

Various complications

I. Early adaptation of components

  • Carmakers say there are technical constraints in carrying out design changes that will include adapting the three critical components — DPF, SCR and LNT — to conditions specific to Indian driving, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the United States.
  • The auto industry argues that the huge improvements in vehicular technology since 2000 have had little impact in India due to driving, road and ambient conditions.
  • So, technically, if the BS-V and BS-VI stages were to be implemented one after the other, diesel cars would have to be fitted with a DPF in the BS-V stage, and with the SCR in the BS-VI state.
  • Now both of these have to be incorporated simultaneously, alongside the LNT.

II. Fuel price gaps

  • Even if these were to be managed, a heavy cost would be involved, which would push up the price of diesel vehicles, and widen the price gap with the petrols.
  • So, for carmakers, skipping the diesel value chain at this point makes more sense.
  • Alongside these constraints, there are also question marks regarding the ability of the oil companies to manage the transition, because refiners were unable to produce the superior fuel in required quantities.
Air Pollution

Indoor emissions affect air-quality standardsPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Role of indoor pollution in PM2.5

  • Household emissions remained one of the major culprits behind PM 2.5 air pollution in India.

Household emission in India

  • A recent study has pointed out that the use of firewood, kerosene and coal in the households contributed to about 40% of the PM 2.5 pollution in the Gangetic basin districts.
  • The results showed that by eliminating household emissions the average outdoor air pollution levels could be reduced and brought within the national ambient air quality standards.
  • The paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science notes that if all households transitioned to clean fuels, about 13% of premature mortality in India could be averted.
  • At the national scale, mitigating household emissions is also expected to bring large health benefits.
  • In many villages, they still use firewood for room heating and water heating. People prefer cheap wood fuel despite LPG being provided to many households.

Using Satellite data

  • Using satellite data and chemical transport model simulations, the researchers pointed out that complete mitigation would bring down the country’s average annual PM 2.5 air pollution to 38 microgram/cubic metre.
  • Surprisingly, this is below India’s national ambient air quality standard of 40 microgram/cubic metre and slightly above the World Health Organization (interim target 1) standards of 35 microgram/cubic metre.

Need for a multipronged approach

  • But India’s pollution problem is much bigger than often perceived.
  • The study has demonstrated that mitigating at a household level is the easiest and more practical way out for the government to reduce not only the household pollution but also outdoor air pollution at the national scale.
Air Pollution

State of Global Air Report, 2019IOCRPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : State of Global Air Report 2019

Mains level : Air pollution related deaths in India and across the world

  • The current high level of air pollution has shortened the average lifespan of a South Asian child by two-and-a- half years while globally the reduction stands at 20 months, according to a global study released.

State of Global Air Report, 2019

  • State of Global Air 2019, published by Health Effects Institute (HEI), said exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to over 1.2 million deaths in India in 2017.
  • The worldwide air pollution was responsible for more deaths than many better-known risk factors such as malnutrition, alcohol abuse and physical inactivity.
  • Overall, long-term exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to nearly 5 million deaths due to stroke, diabetes, heart attack, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease in 2017.

India’s performance

  • In India, air pollution is the third highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking; each year, more people globally die from air pollution-related diseases than from road traffic injuries or malaria.
  • The study found that China and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths, with each country facing over 1.2 million deaths from air pollution in 2017.
  • China has made initial progress, and is beginning to achieve a decline in air pollution.
  • Out of these, 3 million deaths were directly attributed to PM2.5, half of which were from India and China together.
  • South Asian countries — Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan — led the world as the most polluted region, accounting for over 1.5 million air-pollution related deaths, according to the report.
Air Pollution

Parking management plan for DelhiPriority 1


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: Impact of privately owned vehicles in Delhi’s air pollution


  • After the Supreme Court direction, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority has put forth a parking management plan for New Delhi.

Management of parking in Delhi

  • In its report, the EPCA assessed the state of residential parking in Delhi and observed that free parking on public land continues to be a city-wide menace.
  • The EPCA highlighted a serious crisis of night-time parking, which was in turn leading to obstruction on roads and problems with the movement of emergency vehicles, including ambulances, fire engines, etc.
  • Lack of regulation or charges over parking on public land also adds to the menace, as most car owners, in order to avoid parking charges, shift to parking on the streets adding to congestion on the road.
  • The EPCA stressed on joint management of parking spaces to ensure that there is coordination between different road type’s service roads and residential lanes and commercial and mixed land use areas.

MCLPs remain un-utilized

  • The Multi-Level Car Parks (MLCPs) remain highly under-utilized in Delhi because there is no parking charge on public land.
  • The parking in residential areas is not regulated or priced. There is, therefore, no incentive to use the multi-level parking lots or to pay for these.
  • Further, it makes note that the MLCPs are working at a loss, and these are just operational costs which “do not account for the price of land, which is exorbitant as these parking lots are located in prime residential areas.”

Key recommendations listed in EPCA report:

  • Implementing agencies are unanimous that residential parking will have to be regulated and managed
  • Parking spill over from residential buildings will require management
  • Multiplicity of responsibility is at the core of the problems of governance in the city and parking regulations must not add to this
  • Pricing for residential parking should be determined jointly by the local agency and RWA/shop-keepers association but it must be based on the principle of charging differential and higher rates for additional cars
  • The local parking plan must ensure that there is provision for movement of emergency vehicles and green areas, parks and footpaths may not be allowed to be used for parking
  • The Delhi Police may be directed to greatly improve enforcement against illegal and unauthorised parking through state-of-the art equipment, including cameras and automated challans
Air Pollution

India’s carbon dioxide emissions up 5%: IEA ReportIOCR


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: Air Pollution


  • India emitted 2,299 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018, a 4.8% rise from last year, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

About IEA

  • The International Energy Agency is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis.
  • The IEA was initially dedicated to responding to physical disruptions in the supply of oil, as well as serving as an information source on statistics about the international oil market and other energy sectors.
  • The IEA acts as a policy adviser to its member states, but also works with non-member countries, especially China, India, and Russia.

The Global Energy & CO2 Status Report

  • India’s emissions growth this year was higher than that of the United States and China — the two biggest emitters in the world.
  • This was primarily due to a rise in coal consumption.
  • China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand.
  • India’s per capita emissions were about 40% of the global average and contributed 7% to the global carbon dioxide burden.
  • The United States, the largest emitter, was responsible for 14%.

Defying NDCs

  • As per its commitments to the UNFCCC, India has promised to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.
  • It has also committed to having 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and, as part of this, install 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
  • However the IEA report showed that India’s energy intensity improvement declined 3% from last year even as its renewable energy installations increased 10.6% from last year.
  • India says it will cost at least $2.5trillion (Rs. 150 trillion approx.) to implement its climate pledge, around 71% of the combined required spending for all developing country pledges.

Soaring demands for fossil fuels

  • Global energy consumption in 2018 increased at nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy and higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world.
  • Demand for all fuels increased, led by natural gas, even as solar and wind posted double digit growth.
  • Higher electricity demand was responsible for over half of the growth in energy needs.
  • The United States had the largest increase in oil and gas demand worldwide. Gas consumption jumped 10% from the previous year, the fastest increase since the beginning of IEA records in 1971.
Air Pollution

Enforcing a ban will not end the menace of stubble burning, say, researchersStates in News


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: Winter air pollution caused by stubble burning


  • A recent study says that the enforcement of the ban on stubble burning isn’t an only feasible solution.

Ground zero reality

  • On average, about 20 million tonnes of straw are generated in Punjab, and they barely have two to three weeks to dispose them off and prepare the fields for the next crop.
  • Hence the popularity of deploying stubble-burning as a quick and cheap solution.
  • For about a decade now the Centre has held this practice responsible for the abysmal air quality in the capital in winter.

Ban not a solution

  • According to the team, the government’s efforts earmarking funds for specialized farming equipment (for straw management) or enforcing the state-led ban on the practice are unlikely to solve the problem.
  • Farmer cooperative groups a key link between government and farmers ought to be playing a more active role in educating farmers.
  • The main message is that farmers are not to blame (for the pollution crisis).
  • There are deeper causes beyond economic incentives or awareness about the health consequences of burning at play.

Govt. measures so far

  • The Centre has spent about ₹600 crore in subsidizing farm equipment via village cooperatives to enable farmers to access them and avoid stubble burning.
  • In 2018, Punjab had disbursed about 8,000 farm implements to individual farmers and set up 4,795 custom hiring centers, from where such machinery could be leased.
  • However, the success of these efforts has been mixed, even though stubble-fires in 2018 were fewer than in 2017 and 2016, according to satellite maps by independent researchers.

What do researchers say?

  • The researchers found that farmers who had bigger landholdings were more likely to burn straw.
  • Those who used harvesters (for cutting the straw) as opposed to manual labourers were more likely to engage in burning.
  • On average, the input costs of farmers who burned straw were about ₹40,000 per acre and those who didn’t about ₹25,000 per acre.
  • However the incomes of those who burned and those who didn’t were closer about ₹60,000 and ₹50,000 respectively.

Way Forward

  • There needs to be greater participation by village cooperatives in being able to impose social norms that would dissuade burners.
  • Only educating farmers about the monetary costs of burning stubble can address the environmental crisis triggered every year.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] A fresh warning: what GEO-6 means for Indiaop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:GEO

Mains level: Suggestion by GEO to deal with air and water pollution



The sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook from the UN Environment Programme has come as another stark warning: the world is unsustainably extracting resources and producing unmanageable quantities of waste.

Relationship between economic growth and environment degradation

  • The linear model of economic growth depends on the extraction of ever-higher quantities of materials, leading to chemicals flowing into air, water and land.
  • This causes ill-health and premature mortality, and affects the quality of life, particularly for those unable to insulate themselves from these effects.

Suggestions for India

  • The UN report, GEO-6, on the theme “Healthy Planet, Healthy People,” has some sharp pointers for India.
  • It notes that East and South Asia have the highest number of deaths due to air pollution; by one estimate, it killed about 1.24 million in India in 2017.
  •  As India’s population grows, it must worry that agricultural yields are coming under stress due to increase in average temperature and erratic monsoons.
  •  The implications of these forecasts for food security and health are all too evident, more so for the 148 million people living in severe weather ‘hotspots’.
  • Evidently, the task before India is to recognise the human cost of poorly enforced environment laws and demonstrate the political will necessary to end business-as-usual policies.
  • That would mean curbing the use of fossil fuels and toxic chemicals across the spectrum of economic activity.

Managing air and water pollution

  • There are some targeted interventions that only require the resolve to reduce air and water pollution, and which in turn promise early population-level benefits.
  • Aggressive monitoring of air quality in cities through scaled-up facilities would bring about a consensus on cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, and provide the impetus to shift to cleaner sources of energy.

Responsibility for pollution

  •  It is significant that GEO-6 estimates that the top 10% of populations globally, in terms of wealth, are responsible for 45% of GHG emissions, and the bottom 50% for only 13%.
  • Pollution impacts are, however, borne more by the poorer citizens.

Way Forward

  •  Combating air pollution would, therefore, require all older coal-based power plants in India to conform to emission norms at the earliest, or to be shut down in favour of renewable energy sources.
  • Transport emissions are a growing source of urban pollution, and a quick transition to green mobility is needed. In the case of water, the imperative is to stop the contamination of surface supplies by chemicals, sewage and municipal waste.
  • As the leading extractor of groundwater, India needs to make water part of a circular economy in which it is treated as a resource that is recovered, treated and reused.
  • But water protection gets low priority, and State governments show no urgency in augmenting rainwater harvesting.
  • New storage areas act as a supply source when monsoons fail, and help manage floods when there is excess rainfall.
Air Pollution

[pib] India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)PIB


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ICAP and its provisions

Mains level: India’s efforts in phasing out Ozone Depleting Substances


  • India is one of the first countries in the world to develop a comprehensive Cooling Action plan.
  • It has a long term vision to address the cooling requirement across sectors and lists out actions which can help reduce the cooling demand.

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

  • The overarching goal of ICAP is to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all while securing environmental and socio-economic benefits for the society.
  • It provides an integrated vision towards cooling across sectors encompassing inter alia reduction of cooling demand, refrigerant transition, enhancing energy efficiency and better technology options with a 20 year time horizon.
  • One of the major demand is to reduce cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25% by 2037-38 and refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by 2037-38.

Why focus on cooling?

  • Cooling requirement is cross sectoral and an essential part for economic growth and is required across different sectors of the economy such as residential and commercial buildings, cold-chain, refrigeration, transport and industries
  • Cooling is also linked to human health and productivity.
  • Linkages of cooling with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are well acknowledged.
  • Its cross-sectoral nature of cooling and its use in development of the economy makes provision for cooling an important developmental necessity.

Benefits of the Plan

  • Thermal comfort for all – provision for cooling for EWS and LIG housing,
  • Sustainable cooling – low GHG emissions related to cooling,
  • Doubling Farmers Income – better cold chain infrastructure – better value of produce to farmers, less wastage of produce,
  • Skilled workforce for better livelihoods and environmental protection,
  • Make in India – domestic manufacturing of air-conditioning and related cooling equipment’s,
  • Robust R&D on alternative cooling technologies – to provide push to innovation in cooling sector.
Air Pollution

Nitrogen PollutionIOCR


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: N2 Pollution

Mains level: India’s vulnerability to Nitrogen Pollution


  • The annual Frontiers Report 2019 published by the United Nations (UN), has included a chapter on nitrogen pollution in its latest edition.
  • Pollution caused by the reactive forms of nitrogen is now being recognised as a grave environmental concern on a global level.

Frontiers Report 2019

  • The report was released by the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi.
  • It highlights that growing demand on the livestock, agriculture, transport, industry and energy sector has led to a sharp growth of the levels of reactive nitrogen — ammonia, nitrate, nitric oxide (NO), nitrous oxide (N2O) — in our ecosystems.
  • The report claims that the total annual cost of nitrogen pollution to eco system and healthcare services in the world is around $340 billion.
  • The report also warns that the scale of the problem remains largely unknown and unacknowledged outside scientific circles.

Nitrogen: A limited necessity

  • Nitrogen is essential to all life on Earth as it forms an important component of life-building and propagating biochemical molecules like proteins.
  • But overuse in agriculture in the form of fertilisers and other fields have made this important element more bane than boon.
  • Some of these forms of nitrogen like N2O can have far reaching impacts for humanity.
  • N2O is 300 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Nitrogen: The “new carbon” for India

  • In 2017, a large team of Indian scientists had come out with The Indian Nitrogen Assessment (INA).
  • India had become the third country/entity after the United States and the European Union to have assessed the environmental impact of nitrogen on their respective regions comprehensively.
  • The INA shows that agriculture is the main source of nitrogen pollution in India. Within agriculture, cereals pollute the most.
  • Rice and wheat take up the maximum cropped area in India at 36.95 million hectares (ha) and 26.69 million ha respectively.

Overuse of Fertilizers

  • India consumes 17 Mt (million tonnes) of nitrogen fertiliser annually as per the data of the Fertiliser Association of India.
  • Only 33 per cent of the nitrogen that is applied to rice and wheat through fertilisers is taken up by the plants in the form of nitrates (NO3). This is called Nitrogen Use Efficiency or NUE.
  • The remaining 67 per cent remains in the soil and seeps into the surrounding environment, causing a cascade of environmental and health impacts.

India is curious about it

  • The Indian government is leading a resolution on nitrogen pollution in the UNEA in Nairobi that starts from this March 11.
  • This is a historic event as India has never pushed for a resolution of such importance at any UN congregation before.
  • And this has happened because India can now leverage its own nitrogen assessment and its strong support to South Asian and other regional assessments with a more inclusive approach.
  • This would lead a process for faster global consensus and a more realistic programme of action.

Way Forward

  • All the policy frameworks, which deal with nitrogen, should be studied and a single framework like the one that exists for carbon should be built.
  • Bringing together nitrogen pollution and benefits under one framework will help in calculating the tradeoffs between the two and informing governments and the public about the total societal cost of using nitrogen.
  • There should be an international convention and forum for the discussion on nitrogen.
Air Pollution

Most polluted cities of the world are in India


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Air Quality Report 2018

Mains level: Ever increasing air pollution in India


  • Fifteen of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world are located in India, according to an analysis of air quality in several cities around the world.

World Air Quality Report 2018

  • The report was compiled by IQAir Group, a manufacturer of air-monitoring sensors as well as purifiers and environmentalist group Greenpeace.
  • It relies on ground-based sensors located in 3,000 cities from 73 countries.
  • The main objective behind the report was to measure the presence of fine particulate matter known as Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, which has been recorded in real-time in 2018.
  • Exposure to PM 2.5 pollution increases the risk of lung cancer, stroke, heart attack and respiratory diseases, including asthma symptoms among all age groups.

Highlights of the Report

  • Gurugram, in Haryana, topped the list with an average annual particulate matter (PM 2.5) quality of 135 g/m3 (micrograms/cubic metre), in 2018.
  • Delhi — a frequent fixture on global pollution hotspots — was only the 11th most noxious city behind Lahore, Pakistan (10th) and Hotan, China (8th).
  • When ranked by country, Bangladesh emerged as the most polluted followed by Pakistan and India respectively.
  • Jakarta and Hanoi emerged as Southeast Asia’s two most polluted cities and average concentrations in the cities in China fell by 12% from 2017 to 2018.
  • Beijing ranks now as the 122nd most polluted city in the world in 2018 and China, the 12th most polluted country in the world.
  • Of the countries analyzed, Iceland emerged as the one with the cleanest air.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] The thing about airop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: air quality standards,Lancet Report, NCAP

Mains level: Worsening air quality and findind alternatives to energy consuming air cleaning methods.



Air pollution is a silent killer in India, especially in the country’s northern belt. Eighteen per cent of the world’s population lives in India, but the country bears 26 per cent of the global disease burden due to air pollution.

Impact of air pollution on public health

  • According to estimates of the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative — published last year in Lancet Planetary Health — over half the 12.4 lakh deaths in India attributed to air pollution in 2017 were of individuals under the age of 70.
  • The average life expectancy in the country could be 1.7 years higher if air pollution is contained at a level at which human health isn’t harmed.

Policy and civil society responses to air pollution

  • Policy and civil society responses to air pollution have been limited and delayed.
  • in January that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change revamped the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to make it the country’s first overarching policy framework on air quality.
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) came forward to provide technical assistance to the government for implementing the NCAP by an emission inventory database.
  • The two institutes would also cooperate with the government in identifying sources of pollution and tracking emissions in order to help it realise the target of reducing particulate matter by 20-30 per cent in the next five years.

Energy costing Measures to tackle Air Pollution

  • In India too, researchers, entrepreneurs and environmentalists have voiced the need for devices such as sensor-based monitors, air purifiers and smog towers.
  • The use of mass spectrometers  to identify volatile substances that pollute air. But their energy footfall is likely to offset recent gains in energy efficiency.
  • It is a nationwide concern that requires systemic measures, long-term planning, stringent action against those violating emission laws and standards.
  • The country also requires inter-departmental coordination, continuous monitoring, appropriate warning systems and adequate protocols for assessment of air quality.

Problems with air purifiers

  • These devices consume energy, require constant maintenance and constitute a lopsided and expensive answer to the air pollution problem.
  • Studies have shown that many types of air purifiers used in households, offices and commercial set-ups do not actually improve the air quality .
  • ertain types of air purifiers do not remove chemicals or gases. Ionisers have limited utility against harmful particles and activated carbon filters — amongst the most popular air purifying devices — are not effective against particulate matter and allergens.
  • Electrostatic filters are not effective in large rooms and ozone purifiers are known to trigger asthma attacks.

Way Forward

  • It is also high time we recognise that air pollution problem is not merely a technological issue, but a social concern.
  • It is high time we recognise that air pollution will not go away if we continue to see it as a problem of only the affluent sections of society.
  • Besides emphasising on clean energy devices, energy efficiency technologies, dust control mechanisms and clean transport facilities, the government must be alive to the concerns of the people whose livelihoods are affected when polluting industries are banned.
  • Some states of the US, Singapore and China, for instance, have come out with citizen-friendly remedies that emphasise dust management, soil conservation and ecological restoration.
  • Addressing air pollution is a human concern. Regulation and technological solutions should not lose sight of this perspective.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Clean powerop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Name of air pollutants notified

Mains level: Financing clean energy and cost of non complinace of such measures



The effort to clean up India’s thermal power plants running on coal has never really taken off, despite the Ministry of Environment notifying emission limits for major pollutants such as suspended particulate matter, sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury in December 2015.

Notification Regarding Pollution Control

  • Ministry of Environment notified emission limits for major pollutants such as suspended particulate matter, sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury in December 2015.
  • Considering that the cumulative impact of these pollutants on the health and well-being of people is severe, the Centre should have followed up the notification with a viable financial plan to help power plants acquire pollution control technologies.
  • The economics favours such an approach for the larger plants.
  • For the smaller, older units, scaling down generation during the winter months when pollutants accumulate may prove beneficial.
  • Originally, the compliance deadline was set for 2017, but that was missed and the plan now is to achieve the norms by 2022.

Cost of Non-Compliance

  • Greenpeace India, suggest the estimated cost of non-compliance by the original deadline has been about 76,000 premature deaths.
  •  The Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy, put the positive outcomes from achieving pollution control at coal-fired plants by 2025 at potentially 3.2 lakh lives saved from premature death, and 5.2 crore respiratory hospital admissions avoided in the next decade.
  • The latest proposal from the Power Ministry to provide the equivalent of over $12 billion (about ₹88,000 crore), mainly to remove sulphur from coal plant emissions, becomes important.

Planning Financing Pollution Control Measures

  • A viable financial mechanism must be evolved to remove pollutants in existing and upcoming power plants.
  • Stop further long-term investments in a dirty fuel such as coal that contributes to carbon emissions.
  • The burden of incorporating pollution control should fall on the beneficiary-user, which in simple terms would translate into a tariff hike.
  • Achieving speedy implementation of the new processes covering both public and private power producers may require some form of immediate governmental support, such as grants.
  • Because, power producers that have borrowed from several institutions, including state-funded ones, are reported to be under severe financial stress.

Way Forward

  • India’s coal use represents just over 54% of the present energy mix, and the fuel will continue to retain a high share of the overall generation.
  • The challenge, therefore, is to identify the right instruments to fund the entire exercise, in the interests of pollution control and extending electricity access to the unreached.
  • A positive spin-off from sulphur-removal will be, since it can yield commercially significant quantities of synthetic gypsum.
  • The benefits of clean air to public health would make the investment well worth the effort.


Air Pollution

Emission levels rising faster in Indian cities than in ChinaPrelims OnlyPriority 1


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: Problem of Vehicular Pollution in India


  • Urbanisation is accelerating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in India at a faster than in China says a study that analysed the link between population density and emissions from transport, across India’s districts.
  • The study is to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters.

Vehicular emissions

  1. The experience in most developed countries was that urbanisation led to a reduction in emissions.
  2. More urbanisation meant shorter distances between the workplace and home and thereby, a preference for public transport.
  3. However this didn’t effectively apply to developing countries.
  4. On an average, an Indian emitted about 20 kg per capita while commuting for work, with the highest (140 kg CO2) in Gurugram district (Haryana) and the lowest (1.8 kg CO2) in Shrawasti district (UP).

Why blame New Delhi?

  1. Delhi had the highest commuting emissions per capita — a factor that also contributed to its high level of pollution — and the national capital region had 2.5 times higher commuting emissions than Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad.
  2. Delhi’s higher socio-economic status and heavy reliance on private travel modes led to higher commuting emissions than in other megacities.
  3. There were several instances of districts with similar population density but varying per capita emissions.

Indian emission exceeds China

  1. In China a 1% increase in urbanisation was linked with a 0.12% increase in CO2 emissions whereas, in India, it translated into 0.24% increase in emissions, said the study.
  2. India’s CO2 emission grew by an estimated 4.6% in 2017 and its per-capita emission was about 1.8 tonnes.
  3. In spite of being the 4th largest emitter, India’s per capita emissions are much lower than the world average of 4.2 tonnes.
  4. But those emissions have been growing steadily, with an average growth rate over the past decade of 6%, according to data from the Global Carbon Project.

Fuel Price hike has no impact

  1. Fuel price hikes aren’t always a solution to curb emissions, the study says.
  2. With a ₹1 increase in diesel price, commuting emissions decreased by 11% in some districts whereas it only fell by about 3% in low-income districts.
  3. In total, India’s transport patterns are very climate friendly, and much better than those of Europe and the United States.
  4. Some districts are mostly relying on three-wheelers for short commuting distances, while others are highly urban, rich, and rely on cars.
  5. The mean commuting distance (among commuters) is 5.9 km, with the lowest 1.3 km in Longleng district (Nagaland) and the highest 14 km in Dharmapuri district (Tamil Nadu).
Air Pollution

Airpocalypse III ReportIOCR


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Airpocalypse III Report

Mains level: Potential threats of Nitrogen Pollution from various sources


Greenpeace faults Centre’s scheme

  • There are 139 Indian cities that breach air pollution standards but are not included in the Centre’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), says a report by Greenpeace.
  • The NCAP was launched by the government earlier this month and is a ₹300 crore initiative to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.

Highlights of Airpocalypse III

  1. Airpocalypse III, as the Greenpeace report is titled, analyses air pollution data of 313 cities and towns for the year 2017.
  2. Of these 313 cities, 241 (77%) had PM10 levels beyond the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
  3. While 102 of these cities were included in the NCAP, the remaining 139 cities were left out.
  4. That’s because the government’s list of 102 cities relied on average pollution data until 2015, whereas Airpocalypse III used data updated up to 2017.

Action plan under NCAP

  1. The 102 cities, identified as hotspots of pollution, were asked to submit a plan for how they would address the problem.
  2. Broadly, the plans include increasing the number of monitoring stations, providing technology support, conducting source apportionment studies, and strengthening enforcement.
  3. As part of the NCAP, cities have been given a specified number of days to implement specific measures such as “ensuring roads are pothole-free to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce dust” (within 60 days) or “ensuring strict action against unauthorized brick kilns” (within 30 days).
  4. It doesn’t specify an exact date for when these obligations kick in.

Fault-line in NCAP

  1. Even if the NCAP were to able to reduce pollution by 30% by 2024, 153 cities would still be left with pollution levels exceeding the NAAQS, the report said.
  2. Of the 139 cities that have not been included in the non-attainment list under the NCAP, there are several cities that have a population of more than 1 million, and PM levels (recorded in 2017) above NAAQS.
  3. Since the data for 2017 was available when NCAP was finalised, it would have made more sense to update the non-attainment list to include all such cities in the final NCAP.
Air Pollution

Nitrogen PollutionPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SANH

Mains level: Potential threats of Nitrogen Pollution from various sources


  • 18 research institutions in India are among a group of 50 institutions called the South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) — in the UK and South Asia to assess and study the quantum and impact of “nitrogen pollution” in South Asia.

Nitrogen Pollution

  1. While nitrogen is the dominant gas in the atmosphere, it is inert and doesn’t react.
  2. However, when it is released as part of compounds from agriculture, sewage and biological waste, nitrogen is considered reactive.
  3. It may be polluting and even exert a potent greenhouse gas effect.
  4. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide but isn’t as prevalent in the atmosphere.
  5. Other than air pollution, nitrogen is also linked to the loss of biodiversity, the pollution of rivers and seas, ozone depletion, health, economy, and livelihoods.
  6. Nitrogen pollution is caused, for example, by emissions from chemical fertilisers, livestock manure and burning fossil fuels.
  7. Gases such as ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) contribute to poor air quality and can aggravate respiratory and heart conditions, leading to millions of premature deaths across the world.
  8. Nitrate from chemical fertilisers, manure and industry pollutes the rivers and seas, posing a health risk for humans, fish, coral and plant life.

Nitrogen emission in India

  1. NOx emissions grew at 52% from 1991 to 2001 and 69% from 2001 to 2011 in India.
  2. Agriculture is the largest contributor to nitrogen emissions.
  3. Non-agricultural emissions of nitrogen oxides and nitrous oxide were growing rapidly, with sewage and fossil-fuel burning — for power, transport and industry — leading the trend.

About South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH)

  1. The South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) is a major international research programme to tackle the challenge that nitrogen pollution poses in South Asia.
  2. The SANH will be established with funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under its Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).
  3. 18 Indian research institutions are part of a group of 50 which have received £20 million funding from the United Kingdom Government.
  4. The SANH will study the impact of the different forms of pollution to form a coherent picture of the nitrogen cycle.
  5. In particular, it will look at nitrogen in agriculture in eight countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives.
  6. Its recommendations will support cleaner and more profitable farming, as well as industrial recycling of nitrogen, fostering development of a cleaner circular economy for nitrogen.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] An inside problemop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Environment| Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of ill-effects of household air pollution.

Mains level: The news-card analyses how household air pollution is perhaps the single largest source of air pollution in India, in a brief manner.


  • According to experts, household air pollution is the invisible factor increasing ambient air pollution in India.


  • The problem of air pollution and its ill-effects on people has gained significant traction in the media recently.
  • This is largely driven by the abysmal air quality in Delhi and the dubious honour of Indian cities repeatedly topping global air pollution charts.
  • This has led the conversation to be primarily about ambient air pollution (AAP), particularly in urban areas.
  • In turn, this has turned the spotlight on issues such as emissions from transport, crop burning, road dust, burning of waste and industries large and small.
  • However, this discourse leaves out the single largest source of air pollution — the pollution from our homes.
  • Burning of solid fuels such as firewood and dung-cakes, mainly for cooking, results in emissions of fine particulate matter and form by far the single largest source of air pollution in the country.

Single largest cause of AAP is actually household air pollution (HAP)

  • According to a 2018 international study led by many reputed researchers including five Indians titled “Burden of disease attributable to major air pollution sources in India”, 11 lakh deaths were attributable to AAP in 2015.
  • Of this, as many as 2.6 lakh were due to HAP.
  • A 2015 report of the Steering Committee on Air Pollution and Health Related Issues on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s website, reached a similar conclusion that about 26 per cent of particulate matter AAP was caused due to combustion of solid fuels in households.

HAP is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in the country on its own

  • The MoHFW, 2015 report states that HAP by itself, that is apart from its 26 per cent contribution to AAP, contributed to about 10 lakh deaths in 2010 and is the second biggest health risk factor in India (in comparison, AAP was seventh).
  • A 2017 study spearheaded by the Indian Council of Medical Research titled “India: Health of the Nation’s States” found that the five leading causes of mortality and morbidity in India are, respectively, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, diarrhoeal diseases, lower respiratory infection and stroke.
  • Of which there is strong and quantifiable evidence linking HAP to four with diarrhoeal diseases being the exception.
  • In other words, the overall, total health impacts attributable to HAP are more than half the health impacts attributable to air pollution.
  • Therefore, there is a strong case to be made for tackling HAP on a war footing.
  • This requires households to predominantly use fuels that burn cleanly, because even partial use of solid fuels can have significant health impacts.

Way Forward

  • On the policy and programme front, a scheme such as Ujjwala for providing LPG connections recognises this challenge and represents an important first step to tackle the problem.
  • However, it needs to be strengthened to improve affordability and reliability of supply. Addressing this challenge requires going beyond Ujjwala.
  • In a country as large and diverse as India, LPG need not be the only solution to address this problem and consumers should be given a wider choice of clean-burning options.
  • Demand-side interventions to encourage people to switch to cleaner options, in order to address any behavioural or cultural barriers, and, to track HAP and associated health impacts, are also critical.
  • This requires a coordinated strategy involving multiple government agencies and programmes.
  • It also requires setting well-defined targets for HAP and its associated health impacts, and having systems to monitor and publish them.
Air Pollution

Methanol-blending in petrol reduces carbon dioxide emission: ARAI studyDOMR


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Controlling vehicular pollution


Govt to support research on methanol blending

  1. Methanol (M-15) blended with petrol and used in the existing BS-IV standard cars reduces carbon dioxide emission, a study conducted by Pune-based group.
  2. M-15 is a mixture of 15% Methanol with Gasoline.
  3. According to the ARAI, the study evaluated emissions in real-world conditions and used 15 per cent M-15 blend in vehicles and tested them for 3,000 km.
  4. The finding has been submitted Transport Ministry to support further research on methanol blending as the government aims to increase fuel blending to 20 per cent by 2030.

Why such move?

  1. India imports ₹7 lakh crore worth of crude oil every year.
  2. Using alternative fuels, we can divert ₹2 lakh crore for farmers to boost agriculture.

Fuel replacement plan and its benefits

  1. Adopting methanol in this scale would bring down pollution in the country by more than 40 per cent.
  2. By adopting methanol, India can have its own indigenous fuel at the cost of approximately ₹19 per litre, at least 30 per cent cheaper than any available fuel.
  3. According to NITI Aayog, at least 20 per cent diesel consumption can be reduced in the next 5-7 years and will result in a savings of ₹26,000 crore annually.
  4. Also, ₹6,000 crore can be saved annually from reduced bill in LPG in the next three years itself.
  5. Methanol blending with petrol will further reduce the fuel bill by at least ₹5,000 crore annually in the next three years.
Air Pollution

National Clean Air Programme: Good idea but weak mandatePriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: NCAP

Mains Level: NCAP and its mandate and effectiveness


  • After a long and impatient wait, MoEFCC has announced the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
  • This is the first ever effort in the country to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.

National Clean Air Programme

  1. NCAP proposes a framework to achieve a national-level target of 20-30 per cent reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by between 2017 and 2024.
  2. It will be a mid-term, five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year.
  3. The approach for NCAP includes collaborative, multi-scale and cross-sectoral coordination between the relevant central ministries, state governments and local bodies.

Prospects of the NCAP

Need stronger mandate

  1. NCAP will not be notified under the Environment Protection Act or any other Act to create a firm mandate with a strong legal back up implementation NCAP in a time bound manner for effective reduction.
  2. NCAP only mentions that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will execute this nation-wide programme in consonance with the section 162 (b) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1986.
  3. The MoEFCC has not drawn upon the precedence of the notification of Graded Response Action Plan or the Comprehensive Action Plan under the Environment Protection Act in Delhi and NCR.

Advisory in Terms

  1. If NCAP remains an advisory, why will anything change?
  2. The past experience shows that MoEFCC and the CPCB have asked non-compliant cities to prepare action plans from time to time.
  3. Legal back up for a plan also becomes important not only to establish more enforceable mandate but also to ensure inter-ministerial coordination for multi-sectoral interventions and convergence.

Need litmus test for effectiveness

  1. NCAP has certainly helped kick start the much-awaited good practice of setting air pollution reduction targets.
  2. The biggest advantage of such targets is that it helps decide the level of stringency of local and regional action needed for the plans to be effective enough to meet the reduction targets.
  3. It is interesting that NCAP has cited how Beijing has succeeded in reducing PM2.5 by 33.3 per cent in five years.
  4. NCAP must sensitize cities about the scale, depth and strictness of action with detailed pathways for clean energy and mobility transition, waste and dust management and control of combustion sources to meet this target in Beijing and other Chinese cities.
  5. This can be done with strong multi-tiered accountability system, under which various levels of government could be held legally accountable for shirking responsibilities.

Joining all dots

  1. It is encouraging to see that the NCAP this time has listed comparatively more comprehensive action points than the very minimalistic and very generic 42 action points of CPCB that were put out earlier.
  2. This time, NCAP will have to be sure about strategies for implementation with detailed indicators to enhance the potential impacts.
  3. For instance, in case of vehicular pollution, the main body of the plan has ignored mobility, transportation and urban planning strategies.
  4. Though fortunately, broadsheet of action at the end has listed public transport, transit-oriented development policies, and non-motorized transport.
  5. But these will have to be detailed out with clear pathways and milestones and integrated well with the NCAP strategies.
  6. NCAP will also have to be more nuanced and adopt appropriate approaches for small and big cities according to their dominant pollution profile while several strategies may remain uniform.

Need fiscal strategy

  1. The most baffling part of NCAP is the absence of a robust fiscal and funding strategy.
  2. Only a pittance of Rs 300 crore is being earmarked for NCAP.
  3. Clearly, NCAP cannot be sustainable nor can it gain strength or make a difference on a longer-term basis if it does not have a clear fiscal strategy.
  4. It is also not clear if the proposed allocation is a one-time exercise or a continuous support.
  5. NCAP will require long-term commitment and support.

Need for Polluter Pay

  1. It is very surprising that NCAP has not provided for innovative financing mechanism at central and state/city level.
  2. It has not taken on board the ‘polluter pay’ based taxation mechanism to mobilise resources for dedicated funding of pollution control action and also to discourage polluting products, processes and activities.
  3. It should have taken precedence from emerging practices in the country ex. pollution cess in Delhi on truck entry, big diesel cars, and diesel fuel sales and the coal cess—to generate dedicated funds to finance clean air action plan.
  4. Such funds should be managed through unified window for the purpose of admissible pollution control activities identified in the action plan.

Health  is on-board with NCAP

  1. Even though NCAP continues to express skepticism about the existing health impact studies and evidences, it is encouraging to see that it has finally proposed support for health impact studies.
  2. NCAP has now taken on board the National Health Environmental Profile of 20 cities that the MoEF&CC initiated along with ICMR with special focus on air pollution and health.
  3. It has asked the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to maintain health database and integrate that with decision making.
  4. It has recommended support for studies on health and economic impact of air pollution.
  5. But NCAP must also make provisions to integrate health database, health impact, cost benefit studies and indicators for policy making.

Way Forward

  1. Air pollution is the top killer today. Under-5 children, the ailing, elderly and the poor are most vulnerable.
  2. Air pollution control cannot remain only policy intent. Local and national action requires teeth and grit to make a difference and save lives.
  3. NCAP should not become only a top-down prescriptive approach.
  4. In fact, within the federal structure, NCAP, while ensuring compliance, will also have to create enough room for tighter action that can be even stronger.
  5. State governments and city authorities should be encouraged and enabled to take those extra steps to meet local targets.
Air Pollution

India fourth largest contributor to carbon emissionIOCR


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Carbon Project

Mains level: Trends in global carbon emission


Coal use hampers

  1. This week, representatives from more than 190 countries have begun discussions at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, on ways to equitably cut carbon emissions.
  2. However global carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high of 37.1 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project.
  3. India, the third-highest contributor, is projected to see emissions rise by 6.3% from 2017.
  4. The 2.7% projected global rise in 2018 has been driven by appreciable growth in coal use for the second year in a row, and sustained growth in oil and gas use.
  5. Though coal use contributed to the rise in 2018 from last year, it still remains below its historical high in 2013 but may exceed that if current growth continues.

China and US rocks global emission

  1. The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, US, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada.
  2. The EU as a region of countries ranks third.
  3. China’s emissions accounted for 27% of the global total, having grown an estimated 4.7% in 2018 and reaching a new all-time high.
  4. Emissions in the US, which has withdrawn from its commitment to the Paris Agreement, account for 15% of the global total, and look set to have grown about 2.5% in 2018 after several years of decline.

About Global Carbon Project

  1. The Global Carbon Project (GCP) established in 2001 is the organisation that seeks to quantify global carbon emissions and their causes.
  2. The main object of the group has been to fully understand the carbon cycle.
  3. The project has brought together emissions experts and economists to tackle the problem of rising concentrations of greenhouse gases.
  4. It releases the Global Carbon Atlas, a tool for the visualization of data related to the global carbon cycle.
Air Pollution

Ozone layer is recovering, says UNIOCR


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Montreal Protocol, Kigali Agreement

Mains level: Success of international collaboration against Ozone Depletion


  • Evidence has shown that the ozone layer in parts of the stratosphere has recovered at a rate of 1-3 percent per decade since 2000, a/c to UNEP and WMO.

Success of Montreal Protocol

  1. The four-yearly review of the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 ban on man-made gases that damage the fragile high-altitude ozone layer was held.
  2. It found that long-term decreases in the atmospheric abundance of controlled ozone-depleting substances and the ongoing recovery of stratospheric ozone.
  3. The Antarctic ozone hole is recovering, while continuing to occur every year.
  4. As a result of the Montreal Protocol much more severe ozone depletion in the polar regions has been avoided.
  5. The Antarctic ozone hole was expected to gradually close, returning to 1980 levels in the 2060s, the report said.

Complete healing

  1. At projected rates, Northern Hemisphere and mid-latitude ozone is scheduled to heal completely by the 2030s followed by the Southern Hemisphere in the 2050s and polar regions by 2060.
  2. In the Arctic, annual variations were much larger, making it hard to confirm whether there had been a definite recovery in the layer since 2000.


  1. While most of the banned gases have been phased out, the report found at least one violation of the protocol: an unexpected increase in production and emissions of CFC-11 from eastern Asia since 2012.
  2. If CFC-11 emissions continued at the same rate, return of mid-latitude and polar ozone-depleting chemicals to their 1980 values would be delayed by about 7 and 20 years, respectively.


Montreal Protocol

  1. It seeks to cut the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances (ODS) in order to protect the earth’s fragile ozone layer.
  2. It also aims at phase out HCFCs by 2030. It came into force in 1989 and has been ratified by 197 parties making it universally ratified protocol in UN history.
  3. It is also highly successful international arrangement, as it has phased-out more than 95% of the ODS so far as per its main mandate in less than 30 years of its existence.
  4. Under the Montreal Protocol, the accelerated phase out of Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) is underway with a aim to complete phase out by 2030 of these chemicals that result in ozone depletion and aid global warming.

Kigali Amendment

  1. The Kigali Amendment amends the 1987 Montreal Protocol that was designed to close growing ozone hole in by banning ozone-depleting coolants like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
  2. Thus, amended Montreal Protocol which was initially conceived only to plug gases that were destroying the ozone layer now includes HFCs responsible for global warming.
  3. This move will help to prevent a potential 0.5 degree Celsius rise in global temperature by the end of the century.
  4. The Kigali Agreement or amended Montreal Protocol for HFCs reduction will be binding on countries from 2019.
  5. It also has provisions for penalties for non-compliance.
  6. Under it, developed countries will also provide enhanced funding support estimated at billions of dollars globally.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Choked by smog: on air pollutionop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WHO air quality standards, UNEP

Mains level: Worsening air quality in most cities of India & how to tackle this problem


Winter pollution turning lethal

  1. Air pollution is choking several cities in the northern States once again, as changes in temperature and slowing winds trap soot, dust and fine particulate matter
  2. The National Capital Region is badly hit, as the burning of agricultural residue in Punjab and Haryana is releasing large volumes of smoke containing, among other pollutants, highly damaging fine particulates, or PM2.5
  3. The problem is aggravated by the burning of urban waste, diesel soot, vehicular exhaust, road and construction dust, and power generation
  4. The UN Environment Programme’s recent report titled ‘Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-Based Solutions’ has sounded a warning, pointing out that only 8% of the population in the countries of the region get to breathe air of acceptable quality
  5. One study of the degradation of Delhi’s air over a 10-year period beginning 2000 estimated premature mortality to have risen by as much as 60%

No prompt actions taken

  1. Although India has nine of the 10 most polluted cities in the world, it has not taken consistent action on pollution
  2. Tens of millions live with ambient air quality that is well short of even the relaxed parameters the country has set for fine particulates, compared with those of the World Health Organisation
  3. This year’s ‘severe’ air quality rating for Delhi and poor conditions prevailing in other cities in the Indo-Gangetic Plain should compel a decisive shift in policy

What needs to be done?

  1. The Centre and the State governments need to get into crisis mode to dramatically reduce emissions
  2. They must address the burning of carbon, which is a direct source, and emissions with oxides of nitrogen and sulphur from vehicles that turn into fine particulates through atmospheric reactions
  3. Farm stubble burning is a major contributor to the problem, and its footprint may be growing because of wider use of mechanical harvesters that is producing more waste
  4. An innovative approach could be to use climate change funds to turn farm residues into a resource, using technological options such as converting them into biofuels and fertilizers
  5. From an urban development perspective, large cities should reorient their investments to prioritise public transport, favouring electric mobility
  6. The World Bank has said it is keen to enhance its lending portfolio to tackle air pollution, opening a new avenue for this
  7. Governments should make the use of personal vehicles in cities less attractive through strict road pricing mechanisms
  8. Sharply escalated, deterrent parking fees can be implemented

Way forward

  1. Urgent correctives are needed, or lethal winter pollution will become the new normal
  2. Failure to take sustainable and urgent measures will inflict long-term harm on public health, affecting children even more by putting them at higher risk for diseases
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Rural India’s ignored air pollution problemop-ed snap


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.



  1. New Delhi’s status as national capital ensures that it will receive plenty of attention every year come winter.
  2. Rural India in the north of the country the heart of the problem does not receive equal attention.

Popular perception is Wrong

  1. India’s air pollution issue often comes off as a peculiarly urban problem.
  2. The WHO’s Air Pollution and Child Health: Prescribing Clean Air report released earlier this week contradicts the fact.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

  1. Every winter, the Indo-Gangetic plains, housing nearly a third of India’s population, are blanketed with a thick layer of ambient pollution.
  2. Stubble burning, brick kilns, coal-fired factories and wood-fires for heat all contribute.
  3. 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

  1. The report found India had almost 61,000 deaths of children under 5years due to ambient and household pollution.
  2. India’s 98% children are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution.
  3. This exposes them to a number of long-term physical and mental developmental problems.
  4. 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

  1. In 2003, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issued guidelines for ambient air quality monitoring.
  2. They differentiated between the types of pollution affecting urban and rural areas.
  3. When it comes to the latter, the guidelines focus entirely on indoor air pollution.
  4. 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

  1. The draft National Clean Air Programme put out earlier this year was an opportunity to plug the gaps.
  2. The programme aims to expand the monitoring network to include 50 rural areas with at least one monitoring station each.
  3. Though a start at best, at least 1,200 are needed to present an accurate spatial picture of rural air quality.
  4. However, the programme doesn’t envisage any cooperation and coordination across crucial ministries such as health, transport and energy.

Policies hasn’t delivered yet

  1. The government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, aimed at shifting poor households from biomass to clean LPG had the right idea.
  2. But it hasn’t quite worked out that way in practice.
  3. 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.

Way Forward

  1. Empirical evidence from rural India shows that the transition of households to move towards cleaner energy with rising incomes often doesn’t hold true.
  2. This is impacted by various factors such as Educated females, family sizes etc.
  3. The first step in the comprehensive framework should be the data collection.
  4. The draft policy should be put to immediate effect with adequate budgetary provision.
Air Pollution

Children under 15 at serious risk from polluted air: WHOIOCR


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of WHO Report

Mains level: Impact of Air Pollution on Child Health


WHO report on Air Pollution and Child Health

  1. Every day about 93% of the world’s children under the age of 15 (1.8 billion children) breathe polluted air that puts their health and development at serious risk, the WHO said in a new report.
  2. It attributed deaths of about 600,000 children under 15 years of age in 2016 to the joint effects of ambient and household air pollution.
  3. It reveals that when pregnant women are exposed to polluted air, they are more likely to give birth prematurely, and have small, low birth-weight children.
  4. Air pollution also impacts neurodevelopment and cognitive ability and can trigger asthma, and childhood cancer.
  5. Children exposed to high levels of air pollution may be at greater risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.
  6. The report was published on WHO’s first ever global conference on Air Pollution and Health.

What makes children more Vulnerable?

  1. One reason why children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution is that they breathe more rapidly than adults and so absorb more pollutants.
  2. They also live closer to the ground, where some pollutants reach peak concentrations at a time when their brains and bodies are still developing.
  3. In addition, newborns and small children are often at home.
  4. If the family is burning fuels like wood and kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting, they would be exposed to higher levels of pollution.
Air Pollution

[pib] CSIR develops Green Crackers and E-crackersPIB


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Tackling air pollution with greener alternatives


Less Polluting Crackers

  1. CSIR scientists has developed Less Polluting Firecrackers which are not only environment friendly but 15-20 % cheaper than the conventional ones
  2. These crackers have been named as SWAS, SAFAL and STAR.
  3. It has unique property of releasing water vapour and /or air as dust suppressant and diluent for gaseous emissions and matching performance in sound with conventional crackers.

I. SWAS (Safe Water Releaser)

  • SWAS crackers eliminates usage of (KNO3) Potassium nitrate and Sulphur with consequent reduction in particulate matter (30-35%) SO2 and NOx.
  • It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 dBA.
  • STAR eliminates usage of KNO3 and S with consequent reduction in particulate matter (35-40%), SO2 and NOx. It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 105-110 dBA.
  • SWAS has been tested for shelf life upto 3 weeks with consistent performance.

II. SAFAL (Safe Minimal Aluminium)

  • SAFAL has minimal usage of aluminium (only in flash powder for initiation) with consequent significant reduction in particulate matter(35-40 %) compared to commercial crackers.
  • It has matching sound intensity with commercial crackers in the range of 110-115 dBA.
  • PESO has been approached to analyse and test SWAS/STAR/SAFAL from point of view of safety, stability and other related issues.
  • Also functional prototypes of flower pots for substitution of BaNO3 (Barium nitrate) by low cost eco-friendly materials have been developed with significant reduction in particulate matter (30-35%).

III. STAR (Safe Thermite Cracker)

  • STAR has the capability to eliminate the usage of KNO3 and S with a consequent reduction in particulate matter (35-40 per cent), SO2 and NOx.


  1. CSIR-CEERI, being an electronics laboratory, is developing safe and pollution free technology of electronic crackers (E-crackers) to meet latent social aspiration of enjoying fireworks.
  2. It includes various products like E-Ladi, E-Anar, system for E-cracker show etc. At present CSIR-CEERI is ready with the laboratory level prototype of E-Ladi.
  3. E-Ladi is based on high-voltage electrostatic discharge to generate light/sound effect.
  4. It is triggered by providing heat to the thermal switch which will give the excitement of firing the conventional cracker.
  5. The E-Ladi is also programmable to give various light/sound effect.

Working of E-Ladi

  1. High voltage generator is capable of producing very high voltage using the concept of tesla coil.
  2. These pods are connected in parallel to achieve desired light/sound pattern.
  3. The controller block consists of a pulse generator and a solid state device based circuit to control the switching of these pods.
  4. The second version of this prototype will include compact form factor and thermal actuation arrangement.

Other developments

  • CSIR-NEERI has also planned to use area source control through development of new systems called PURE-WAYU as also photochip material for local dust control.
Air Pollution

SC moves to make festivals less noisySC Judgements


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  New regulations regarding selective ban on Fire Crackers

Mains level: Particulars of the Judgmen



  1. Bursting of firecrackers has seen a substantial increase in PM 2.5 level, which is a very serious health hazard.
  2. To this effect the SC judgment has come on the basis of a petition filed by two infants a six-month-old and 14-month-old through their fathers in 2015.
  3. They said the air pollution caused by various factors, especially firecrackers, made Delhi a gas chamber.
  4. They  had pleaded for their right to life.

Highlights of the Judgment

  1. The Court held that bursting of crackers during Diwali is not the only reason for worsening air quality, at the same time; it definitely contributes to air pollution in a significant way.
  2. It referred to studies by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to show that post-Diwali pollution was lesser in 2017, after the ban imposed some restrictions on sale and manufacture of crackers, than in 2016.

A Perfect balance

  1. The Supreme Court has finally struck a balance between the interests of the firecracker industry and the right to public health.
  2. It has allowed the manufacture and sale of only “green” and reduced-emission or “improved” crackers, while banned those that are loud and toxic to man, animal and the environment.
  3. The court held that only green or improved crackers would be used during religious festivals and other occasions, including weddings.

Prescribed Time Limit

  1. The judgment reduced the time for bursting crackers during Deepavali and other festivals to two hours: between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
  2. For Christmas and New Year, the time slot allowed is just half-an-hour, between 11.55 p.m. and half-past midnight.
  3. The reduced time window is applicable across the country.

Regulating the Sale

  1. The court banned the manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers (series crackers or ‘laris’), holding that they caused huge air, noise and solid waste problems.”
  2. The sale of green and improved crackers would be only through licensed traders.
  3. It banned online sale through e-commerce websites.
  4. Any e-commerce company found selling crackers online will be hauled up for contempt of court, and the court may eventually also pass orders of monetary penalties.

Ban on certain Chemicals

  1. The use of Barium salt which is used to give only attractive green colour, but emits poisonous gas causing respiratory problem has been banned by the Court.
  2. Aluminum is used as fuel in fireworks to give white brilliant sparkle. Aluminium may cause skin problems.
  3. The Court has also directed Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) to review the clinical composition of fireworks, particularly reducing Aluminium content.

Green Crackers at the Manufacturers rescue

  1. Recently the CSIR have formulated eco-friendly crackers, which would not only cause reduced emissions, but would help people get a reprieve from noise pollution during festivities.
  2. Green crackers are basically reduced emission crackers wherein we reduce some harmful components, like Barium, Aluminum and Chromium which are conventionally used to get different colours.
  3. Though their commercial use has not yet began but are expected to be adopted by manufacturers very soon.

Way Forward: Endeavoring Article 21 to effect

  1. The judgment said that the right to health was part of the fundamental right to life under Article 21 and it assumed greater importance.
  2. It held that the right to health of millions is far more important than averting an economic loss to the firecracker industry.
Air Pollution

[pib] “Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali” campaignPIB


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Green Good Deed Campaign, Harit Diwali Campaign

Mains level: Community sensitization initiatives to curb menace of air pollution.


Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali

  1. Keeping in view the detrimental effects of bursting Crackers and also the importance of the festival, MoEFCC has initiated a “Harit–Diwali” campaign.
  2. This campaign was initiated in 2017-18 in Delhi wherein large number of school children especially from eco-clubs participated and took pledge to minimize bursting of crackers.
  3. During this intensive campaign, the children were advised to celebrate Diwali in an environment-friendly manner by gifting plant sapling to their relatives and friends along with sweets etc.
  4. The children were encouraged to light up their houses and their schools with candles and diyas.
  5. The above campaign was extremely successful and the air quality had not deteriorated post Diwali in 2017 unlike what was experienced in 2016.

A pan-India Campaign this year

  1. On the above lines, the Ministry has initiated the similar campaign, but this year the campaign has been extended Pan-India.
  2. The “Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali” campaign is now merged with “Green Good Deed” movement that has been initiated as a social mobilization for conservation and protection of environment.
  3. The Ministry encourages all schools and colleges to be part of this campaign.
Air Pollution

Emergency Action Plan for Delhi to kick inPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various measures at different AQIs

Mains level: Measures undertaken to curb air pollution in the national capital.



  1. Burning of paddy straw every year during October and November and wheat straw during April in Punjab and Haryana are the major contributors of air pollution in Delhi-NCR, as the smoke travels towards the Capital.
  2. Satellite images from the NASA showed rampant stubble burning activity in Punjab and Haryana.
  3. NASA has stated that burning of crop residue in Punjab and Haryana has increased significantly over the past 10 days in and near Amritsar, Ambala, Karnal, Sirsa and Hisar.

Measure to counter Deteriorating Air Quality

  1. An emergency action plan will be implemented to combat air pollution that has begun to show a trend towards very poor category, a/c to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  2. Under the emergency plan called the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), stringent actions are implemented based on the air quality of the city.

GRAP measures based on air quality

[I]  Moderate to Poor category ( AQI: 101-300): 

  • Stopping garbage burning in landfills and other places, and enforcing all pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries would be implemented.

[II] Very Poor category ( AQI: 301-400 ):

  • Stopping use of diesel generator sets, enhancing parking fees 3-4 times and increasing frequency of metro and buses would be implemented.

[III] Severe category ( AQI: 401-500):

  • increasing frequency of mechanized cleaning of roads, sprinkling of water on roads and identifying road stretches with high dust generation.

[IV] Severe Plus Emergency category (AQI above 500):

  •  Stopping entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities), stopping construction activities and appointment of task force to take decision on any additional steps, including shutting of schools will be implemented.


Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

  1. The plan was prepared by the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA).
  2. The job of ensuring implementation of the action plan will be EPCA’s under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which will delegate the responsibility to the concerned departments.
  3. The plan puts governments under the lens and holds out the promise of improvement in air quality.
  4. The plan lays down stratified actions that are required to be taken as and when the concentration of pollutants, in this case particulate matter, reaches a certain level.
  5. It suggests various measures to be undertaken at different AQIs.
  6. The graded action plan will be implemented if PM2.5 levels stay over 300 micrograms per cubic metre and PM10 levels stay above 500 micrograms per cubic metre.
Air Pollution

[pib] Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi launchedPIBPrelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Air Quality Early Warning System

Mains level: Better monitoring and control of air pollution in the national capital.



  • Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi was launched in Delhi today by the Union Minister for Earth Sciences and Environment.

Air Quality Early Warning System

  1. The System is designed to predict extreme air pollution events and give alerts to take necessary steps as per Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) of the Govt. of India.
  2. The System can predict extreme air pollution events 72 hours in advance and give necessary alerts.
  3. It has been developed jointly by the scientists at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, India Meteorological Department and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).
  4. The warning system consists of
  • real time observations of air quality over Delhi region and details about natural aerosols like dust (from dust storms) and particulate matter using different satellite data sets
  • Predictions of air pollutants from two different air quality prediction systems based on state-of-the-art atmospheric chemistry transport models and
  • Warning Messages and Alerts and Bulletins

Improved Accuracy Model

  1. MoES has made attempts to improve accuracy of predictions models with the technical support from the NCAR, USA and Finnish Meteorological Institute.
  2. The framework typically consists of a high resolution weather prediction model with an atmospheric chemistry transport model.
  3. Both the models have data assimilation facility, which can assimilate data from satellites on dust aerosols, particulate matter from stubble burning and other air pollutants like SO2 and NO2.
  4. It will take into account the background aerosols and pollutants, long range transport of dust from dust storms and particulate matter from stubble burning.
  5. The predictions are now available up to 72 hours lead time.

Some Mitigation Measures

  1. Badarpur thermal power plan of NTPC is being shut and Western peripheral expressway is likely to become operational in the first week of November.
  2. The Union govt. has released nearly 600 crores to concerned states for in-situ management of crop-residue.
  3. A new website developed for archiving all the observational and prediction products was also launched.
  4. The website will be accessed by the officials of Environmental Pollution Authority (EPA) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for taking necessary steps depending upon the requirements.

Other Initiatives:

Mega Emission Inventory

  1. The event marked release of a mega emission inventory of Delhi which was made by scientists at IITM Pune.
  2. It is a 400 m x 400m high-resolution emission inventory of Delhi and fringe area of all eight important air pollutants (like PM2.5, PM10, NOx, CO, SO2, BC, OC and VOCs) was released.
  3. Ground level activity data about emissions from as many as 23 different sources of pollution were also collected.
  4. The emission inventory suggests that there is a substantial increase of emissions from transport and industrial sector, while the contributions from residences have shown a substantial decline.
Air Pollution

Centre reconstitutes EPCA, the authority tasked with tackling environment pollution in NCRPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EPCA

Mains level: Policy measures to tackle Air Pollution issues in the national capital.


Reconstitution of EPCA

  1. The Centre has reconstituted the Supreme Court-empowered Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority or the EPCA.
  2. It was tasked with taking various measures to tackle air pollution in the National Capital Region.
  3. The EPCA had enforced several measures, including closure of the Badarpur thermal power plant, ban on brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers, and construction activities.

Why reconstitution?

  1. The tenure of the last EPCA expired on October 3.
  2. The EPCA was constituted with the objective of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing and controlling the environmental pollution in the National Capital Region.
  3. The EPCA is also mandated to enforce Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in New Delhi as per the pollution levels.


Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA)

  1. The Union Government constitutes EPCA as Supreme Court mandated body for the National Capital Region under the section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  2. The Authority shall have the power suo-moto, or on the basis of complaints made by any individual, representative body or organization functioning in the field of environment.
  3. Such complaints may be against any individual, association, company, public undertaking or local body carrying on any industry, operation or process.
  4. It shall deal with environmental issues pertaining to the National Capital Region which may be referred to it by the Central Government.
  5. It takes all necessary steps to for controlling vehicular pollution, ensuring compliance of fuel quality standards, monitoring and coordinating action for traffic planning and management.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Up in the air — on stubble burningop-ed snap


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 problem of smog in Delhi and how to deal with it


Stubble burning in North India

  1. The onset of the winter season has come to be associated with toxic atmospheric pollution in north India
  2. While road dust and pollution from heavy vehicles are primarily responsible for the noxious pall that sets on Delhi and other urban centres, the burning of paddy stubble by farmers to clear their fields for the next crop is considered to be responsible for 20% of the smog
  3. Why stubble burning? The rising cost of labour nudged farmers to adopt mechanised equipment that, while efficient, left behind much longer stalks of paddy than what the traditional practice of removing them by hand did

Reasons for air pollution in Delhi

  1. 80% of the atmospheric pollution in Delhi in winter draws from sources other than burning stubble
  2. Given Delhi’s geography, low wind speeds and a spike in local pollution (from vehicles, biomass burning, firecrackers, etc.) raise the particulate matter count dramatically during winter

Government plan to reduce pollution

  1. Under directions from the Supreme Court-constituted Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority or EPCA, the Centre is partnering with Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to provide farmers with a range of mechanised implements to clear their fields of paddy crop residue to prepare for sowing wheat
  2. There is a 50% subsidy to farmers, and a 75% waiver to cooperative societies, agencies that rent out equipment, farmers’ interest groups or gram panchayats to buy such machines
  3. Equipment such as Happy Seeder, paddy straw choppers and Zero Till Drill will be bought under the scheme

Concerns of farmers

  1. Many farmers, particularly those with land holdings of less than 5 acres, remain sceptical of the efficiency of these machines
  2. Among their concerns is whether these machines will affect productivity
  3. They are worried that there could be damage to the soil

Way Forward

  1. Just making technological tools available may not be enough
  2. There needs to be a proactive engagement to both persuade and reassure farmers
  3. The greater availability of machines and the zero-tolerance policy need to be seen as works in progress to derive lessons on how to refine the crop-clearing process in an ecologically sound manner
Air Pollution

[pib] WAYU- Air Pollution Mitigation DevicePIBPrelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WAYU

Mains level: Measures to curb Air Pollution in the national capital.



  • Recently a air pollution control device WAYU (Wind Augmentation Purifying Unit) for traffic junctions was inaugurated in Delhi today.

WAYU (Wind Augmentation Purifying Unit)

  1. WAYU is developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) as a part of Technology Development Project funded by Department of Science and Technology.
  2. The device that has been indigenously developed has the capacity to purify air in an area of 500 meter square.
  3. The device consumes only half a unit of electricity for 10 hours of running and has a maintenance cost of only Rs. 1500 per month.

 Working of the Device

  1. The device works on two principles mainly Wind generation for dilution of air pollutants and Active Pollutants removal.
  2. The device has filters for Particulate Matter removal and activated carbon (charcoal) and UV lamps for poisonous gases removal such as VOCs and Carbon Monoxide.
  3. The device has one fan and filter for sucking and removing Particulate Matter.
  4. There are two UV lamps and half kg of activated carbon charcoal coated with special chemical Titanium Dioxide.
Air Pollution

[pib] India and France sign an implementation agreement on “MOBILISE YOUR CITY” (MYC)IOCRPIBPrelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MYC

Mains level:  Urban Transportation as major source of air pollution.



  • India and France have signed an implementation agreement on “MOBILISE YOUR CITY” (MYC).

Mobilize Your City (MYC) 

  1. It is part of an international initiative which is supported by the French and the German Governments and was launched at 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) in December, 2015.
  2. Based on a proposal made by AFD in 2015, the EU has agreed to provide funds of Euro 3.5 million through the AFD (Agence Française de Développement) to contribute to specific investments and technical assistance components within the programme in India.
  3. The MYC aims at supporting three pilot cities viz. Nagpur, Kochi and Ahmedabad in their efforts to reduce their Green House Gas (GHG) emissions related to urban transport.
  4. This will be done by implementing urban mobility plans at local level and to help India at national level to improve their sustainable transport policy.

 Components of the Programme

  1. The three pilot cities selected under the programme as well as MoHUA will benefit from the Technical Assistance activities. The main components of the proposed assistance are:
  • to support planning and implementation of sustainable urban transport projects,
  • support to strengthening institutional capacity for regulating, steering and planning urban mobility, and
  • learning and exchange formats with other cities across India for exchanges on best practices.
  1. The details of the project activities will be worked out by AFD in consultation with MoHUA and the three partner cities including institutions such as the respective Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for Smart Cities, the Municipal Corporations and any transport authority or transport related SPV.
Air Pollution

Commute-related pollution: Kolkata shines among megacitiesDOMRPrelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: “The Urban Commute and How it Contributes to Pollution and Energy” Report

Mains level: Importance of curbing Vehicular Pollution


Report on Urban pollution and energy consumption from Commuting

  1. An analysis of 14 cities in India on how they fare when it comes to pollution and energy consumption from urban commuting was conducted by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
  2. Kolkata is the top-performing megacity. Bhopal leads the list on the lowest overall emissions.
  3. Delhi and Hyderabad are the two cities that fare at the bottom of the table in terms of pollution and energy use.

A National crisis

  1. The report titled ‘The Urban Commute and How it Contributes to Pollution and Energy’, compiled by the CSE, was released in Kolkata.
  2. Motorization in India is explosive. Initially, it took 60 years (1951-2008) for India to cross the mark of 105 million registered vehicles.
  3. Thereafter, the same number of vehicles was added in a mere six years (2009-15).
  4. According to the report, though metropolitan cities scored better than megacities due to lower population, lower travel volume and lower vehicle numbers, they were at risk due to a much higher share of personal vehicle trips.

Highlights of the Ranking

  1. In the study, with an aggregate of toxic emissions from urban commuting practices, such as particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, the cities were ranked based on calculations of heat trapping (CO2).
  2. The study took two approaches to rank the cities one based on overall emission and energy consumption and the other on per person trip emissions and energy consumption.
  3. Six megacities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad) and eight metropolitan cities (Bhopal, Lucknow, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Pune, Kochi and Vijayawada) were evaluated.
  4. In terms of overall emissions and energy consumption, Bhopal was followed by Vijayawada, Chandigarh and Lucknow.
  5. Kolkata, which comes in at the sixth place on overall emissions, won among the six megacities.
  6. In fact, smaller cities such as Ahmedabad and Pune ranked below Kolkata for overall emissions.
  7. Delhi ranked at the bottom of the table for overall emission. Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai fared a little better than Delhi.

Resounding message

  1. Kolkata provides a resounding message that despite population growth and rising travel demand, it is possible to contain motorization.
  2. This is possible only with a well established public transport culture, compact city design, high street density and restricted availability of land for roads and parking.
  3. Mumbai, the report stated, had the highest GDP but a lower rate of motorization compared with other megacities, proving that income levels were not the only reason for deciding a population’s dependence on automobiles.
  4. Both Kolkata and Mumbai have grown with a unique advantage of a public transport spine well integrated with existing land use patterns.
  5. Meanwhile Chennai was the first city to adopt a non-motorized transport (NMT) policy in 2004 that aims to arrest the decline of walking or cycling by creating a network of footpaths, bicycle tracks and greenways.
Air Pollution

[pib] New SAFAR system with Air Quality Early Warning SystemPIBPrelims Only

Image Source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SAFAR and Air Quality Early Warning System

Mains level: Problem of Air Pollution in Delhi and its adjacent areas and measures for its mitigation


Advanced SAFAR

  1. Union Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan unveiled a state-of-the-art Air Quality and Weather Forecast System– SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting) at Chandni Chowk in Delhi.
  2. The giant true colour LED display gives out real-time air quality index on 24×7 basis with colour coding along with 72-hour advance forecast.
  3. The system will be an integral part of India’s first Air Quality Early Warning System operational in Delhi and will strengthen the existing air quality network of SAFAR.
  4. The system, first of its kind in the country, was developed indigenously in record time by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and operationalized by India Meteorological Department (IMD).

LED Display of advisories

  1. Based on the Air Quality Index on a particular day, Health advisory and related precaution will be notified to prepare citizens well in advance.
  2. It will also measure the sun’s UV-Index and will provide a measurement of online automatic ultrafine particles PM1 and Mercury, both of which have direct relevance to human health.
  3. Based on UVI, skin advisories will be issued on display.

Benefits of the Early Warning System

  1. According to a preliminary economic assessment of the benefits of the system, if 5% of people suffering from air-pollution related diseases take advantage of the advisories and precautions in Delhi alone, it would result in a saving of nearly Rs. 2,500 crores in terms of health-related cost benefit.
  2. It will accelerate public awareness and preparedness of air pollution and weather extremes.
  3. It will also lead to a better understanding of linkages among emissions, weather, pollution and climate by monitoring all weather parameters like temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed and wind direction.
  4. In addition to regular air quality parameters like PM2.5, PM10, Sulfur Dioxide, Ozone, Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, the system will also monitor the existence of Benzene, Toluene and Xylene.
  5. Besides health, SAFAR system would benefit cost savings to several other sectors like agriculture, aviation, infrastructure, disaster management skill, tourism and many others, which directly or indirectly get affected by air quality and weather.


System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR)

  1. Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Govt. of India, has introduced a major national initiative “SAFAR” for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India
  2. It was started under the plan scheme “Metropolitan Advisories for Cities for Sports, Tourism (Metropolitan Air Quality and Weather Services)
  3. The SAFAR system is developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, along with ESSO partner institutions namely India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF)
  4. The implementation of SAFAR is done with an active collaboration with local municipal corporations and various local educational institutions and governmental agencies in that Metro city.
  5. It was started on a Pilot basis in the cities of Pune, Ahmadabad, New Delhi and Mumbai
Air Pollution

Toxic air is causing malnutrition in treesPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mycorrhizal fungi

Mains level: The newscard discusses impacts of air pollution on Trees.


Trend in Europe is alarming

  1. Besides affecting human health, air pollution is also causing malnutrition in trees by harming a fungus that is important for providing mineral nutrients to tree roots, finds a new study.
  2. Mycorrhizal fungi are hosted by the trees in their roots to receive nutrients from the soil.
  3. These fungi provide essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from soil in exchange for carbon from the tree.
  4. This plant-fungal symbiotic relationship is crucial for the health of the tree.
  5. However, high levels of the nutrition elements like nitrogen and phosphorus in the mycorrhizae change them to act as pollutants rather than nutrients.

Impact of the malnutrition

  1. The signs of malnutrition can be seen in the form of discolored leaves and excessive falling of leaves.
  2. This leaves forests vulnerable to pests, disease and climate change.
  3. The researchers noted that ecosystem changes can negatively affect tree health.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] A drive to clean airop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WHO global air pollution database report, World Economic Forum, FAME scheme

Mains level: Rising air pollution levels across Indian cities and measures to reduce them


WHO air pollution report

  1. The WHO global air pollution database report that ranked 14 Indian cities among the 15 of the world’s most polluted, in terms of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 concentration, received great attention in India
  2. As per a World Economic Forum study, the number of million-plus urban conglomerates in India has increased from 35 in 2001 to 53 in 2011. By 2030, this number is expected to grow to 87
  3. 70 percent to 80 percent of PM 2.5 comes from vehicular emissions, domestic activity, construction activity, industry activity and road dust

Controlling vehicular emissions and domestic activity

  1. Just vehicular pollution contributes around 35 percent of the total PM 2.5 emissions today
  2. In a future with internal combustion engines (ICE) vehicles (even post BS VI rollout), urban pollution will continue to remain 25 percent to 30 percent above safe global standards because of the growth in automobiles
  3. For reducing vehicular pollution, already-proposed tighter emission norms (in form of BS VI) need to be combined with a push for shared mobility and public transport and adoption of alternate mobility technologies
  4. Shared mobility can moderate the demand for individual vehicle ownership and usage & technology solutions can allow for a sharp reduction in emissions per vehicle
  5. The movement away from kerosene, coal and wood fires for cooking will have a big impact on domestic activity
  6. We need to speed up the journey towards LPG and solar-powered stoves

Three key policy recommendations

  1. We need to assess and refine the monetary incentives that are offered to bridge the viability gap for electric vehicles for the purpose of containing urban pollution
  • These include upfront subsidies, road/registration tax, reduced taxes, and interest rate subsidy
  • It is imperative for the government to continue the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric (FAME) vehicles programme under the Ministry of Heavy Industry

Non-monetary incentives must go along with subsidies

  • Technology choices should be rewarded with exemption from tolls/taxes, special toll lanes and other preferred access to public infrastructure
  • Norway gives preference to high occupancy vehicles and China gives preferential licence access
  • London imposes congestion charges during working hours on weekdays to vehicles entering the city center

There is also a need to think about improving the provision of non-polluting public transport

  • There is a need to impose restrictions through supply-side regulations on OEMs to increase production of zero-emission vehicles to curb urban pollution
  • These include electric buses, metros, and shared EV fleets to reduce traffic and usage
  • For the alternative mobility technologies to settle, an enabling infrastructure is required
  • There is an early need to standardise charging infrastructure/equipment to ensure interoperability and make it widespread

Way forward

  1. The need to address urban pollution is urgent
  2. India needs to start learning from global examples to push enabling infrastructure
Air Pollution

North India has the foulest air in the world, says the WHO — this is why


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the WHO report

Mains level: Delhi’s air pollution crisis

Mains 2015- Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three mega cities of the country but the air pollution is much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so?


14 of the 15 highly polluted cities are in India

  1. A new global report on air pollution by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that 14 of the 15 cities with the highest levels of PM 2.5 pollutants in 2016 were in India
  2. These 14 towns and cities of northern India are stretching west to east from Jodhpur (No. 14) in Rajasthan to Gaya (No. 4), Patna (No. 5), and Muzaffarpur (No. 9) in Bihar
  3. Effectively then, the new WHO report identifies the Indo-Gangetic plain, along with Rajasthan and the Kashmir Valley, as having the worst air in the world

Why more pollution over Gangetic Plains?

  1. The Gangetic plains are like an enormous valley, trapped between the Himalayas in the north and the Vindhyas in the south, from where pollutants are unable to disperse very far.
  2. This region is land-locked — pollution cannot dissipate quickly — and does not have the advantage of the coast like Mumbai or Chennai.
  3. This region is one of the most densely populated in the world and the demand for energy sources, and the consequent burning of fuels is extremely high. This would release a large number of pollutants and particulate matter in the air.
  4. Also, a lot of the smaller cities in this region have poor waste management, there is a lot of burning, solid fuel use, they are moving from non-motorised to motorized transport.
  5. In this region, wind predominantly blows from north-west to east for most of the year carrying along with it pollutants generated elsewhere.
  6. The high levels of humidity in this region are very conducive to the formation of secondary aerosols. Water facilitates the reaction between the emitted gases whose molecules form clusters and slowly nucleate into particulate matters (PM)
  7. Stubble burning in NW India is also a major cause.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Call to action: The air pollution crisis in Indiaop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme

Mains level: The newscard briefly discusses the recent report released(on air pollution) by the WHO.


WHO report on air pollution

  1. It highlights not only how widespread air pollution is in urban India, but also how deficient air quality monitoring is
  2. The report ranks 14 Indian cities among the 20 most polluted ones globally
    (it summarised 2016 data for 4,300 cities)
  3. While Delhi comes in at number six, Kanpur, Faridabad, Varanasi, Gaya and Patna are ranked ahead of it, by PM 2.5 levels
  4. The outcome of this exercise makes it clear that air pollution is not a problem of large metropolises alone

Effects of air pollution

  1. The report puts the global death toll from air pollution at seven million a year, attributable to illnesses such as lung cancer, pneumonia and ischemic heart disease
  2. In 2016 alone, it says, around 4.2 million people died owing to outdoor air pollution, while 3.8 million people succumbed to dirty cooking fuels such as wood and cow dung
  3. About a third of these deaths occurred in Southeast Asian countries, which include India

Praise for India’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme(in the report)

  1. It has provided 37 million women living below the poverty line with LPG connections
  2. Such schemes will also help cut the indoor air pollution that plagues much of rural India, which is not covered in the WHO analysis

Pollution levels in rural India

  1. The recently published draft National Clean Air Programme noted, there are currently no air pollution monitoring stations in rural India
  2. This does not mean outdoor air pollution is not a problem here. Studies have shown that ozone levels are higher in rural areas, as is pollution from insecticide use and crop-burning

The way forward

  1. The WHO has asked Southeast Asian countries to take swift action to tackle the twin problems of indoor and outdoor pollution
  2. India must realise that its problems are larger than the WHO estimates, and take the call to action seriously


Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme

  1. It is a scheme launched by the Central Government on May 1, 2016 with the aim of bringing happiness to the faces of women of poor families of India
  2. Under this scheme, poor women will get free LPG gas connections
  3. This scheme started by the Central Government will give the poor women the freedom soon to get the clay stove
  4. The main objective of this scheme is to promote the use of LPG instead of fossil fuels used for cooking in rural areas
  5. One of the main objectives of the scheme is to promote women’s empowerment and protect their health
  6. To provide free LPG connections to the women members of the poor family, the Cabinet has approved a plan of Rs.8000 crore
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] The cost of pollution: Impact on the economy and our healthop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Prelims level: The EKC hypothesis

Mains level: India’s developmental activities are affecting the environment to a considerable extent, through over-exploitation of natural resources and indiscriminate discharge of waste. The newscard discusses some of the important issues related to it.



  1. Pollution is a challenge to developing countries which try to achieve rapid economic development without adequately managing the environment

India’s developmental activities are affecting the environment to a considerable extent: Environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) hypothesis

  1. This has been interpreted by the EKC hypothesis
  2. The hypothesis suggests that as per capita income grows, the increase in environmental impact hits the maximum and thereafter declines

More about the EKC

  1. According to the hypothesis, in the initial stages of economic growth, when more resources are used, there is greater waste generation and more emissions
  2. But when a country has achieved a certain level of development, pollution reduces with
    (1) greater protection of the environment,
    (2) technological improvements,
    (3) diversification of the economy from manufacturing to services, and
    (4) increasing scarcity and prices of environmental resources,
    leading to lower consumption

The EKC for India

  1. India is on the upward part of the EKC
  2. For achieving sustainable development, it must move to the second stage
  3. However, it is not wise to wait for that stage. India can’t ignore the environmental consequences of its rapid growth

Why is pollution increasing in developing countries?

  1. Over the last few decades, water-intensive and polluting industries such as textiles, leather, sugar and paper have shifted from developed to developing countries
  2. For example, Before 1980, countries like the U.K. and the U.S. played a vital role in textile production and export
  3. But by 2000, their dominance had substantially reduced and the share of developing countries like India and China had increased
  4. One of the factors attributed to this shift is that there are relatively less stringent environmental policies in developing nations

What are the major issues?

  1. For instance, in developing countries, water pollution has not been a major topic of political debate,
  2. but political instruments including Environmental Quality Objectives and Uniform Standards are in the political agendas of Western countries
  3. Emission-based standards have not been very effective so far, since they are rarely monitored and only occasionally enforced
  4. The ‘polluters pay’ principle is not in force
  5. For the most part, polluters are not willing to internalise the external and social costs
  6. Pollution is also neglected by funding agencies worldwide and by governments in budgets

What should be done?

  1. To tackle pollution, there should be
    (1) public awareness about its consequences,
    (2) adequate pollution-linked databases,
    (3) integration of pollution prevention policies into the development sector,
    (4) strict enforcement of pollution control policies,
    (5) reliance on renewable energy, and increase in ecosystem resilience through the conservation of biodiversity
  2. Experiences from the U.S. and Europe reveal that pollution mitigation can yield large gains to human health and the economy
Air Pollution

New system to measure air quality


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SAFAR, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

Mains level: Initiatives being taken to tackle air pollution

International tie-up

  1. India is tying up with the United States and Finland to develop a pollution-forecast system
  2. It will help anticipate particulate matter (PM) levels at least two days in advance and at a greater resolution than what is possible now
  3. A key focus would be to develop forecasts around the “stubble-burning season” that adds to Delhi’s pollution woes in the winter

Present system

  1. Currently, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) serves as the apex forecaster of pollution trends in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Ahmedabad
  2. It generates a likely air quality profile, a day in advance, for these cities
  3. It is run out of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune
  4. IITM is an organization under the MoES

NCAP draft

  1. The Union Environment Ministry has released a draft of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) that aims to improve air quality monitoring in India
  2. It proposes increasing the number of pollution monitoring stations and, incorporating it into a pollution forecast system


System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR)

  1. Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Govt. of India, has introduced a major national initiative “SAFAR” for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India
  2. It was started under the plan scheme “Metropolitan Advisories for Cities for Sports, Tourism (Metropolitan Air Quality and Weather Services)
  3. It has been combined with the early warning system on weather parameters
  4. The SAFAR system is developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, along with ESSO partner institutions namely India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF)
  5. The implementation of SAFAR is done with an active collaboration with local municipal corporations and various local educational institutions and governmental agencies in that Metro city
Air Pollution

[pib] National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

Mains level: Initiatives to combat air pollution


Objective: To play a crucial role in addressing the increasing air pollution across the country in a comprehensive manner –

  • comprehensive management plan for prevention,
  • control and abatement of air pollution
  • Augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country.

Focuses on:

  • Collaborative and participatory approach covering all sources of pollution and coordination between relevant Central Ministries, State Governments, local bodies and other stakeholders
  • Intensive awareness, training and capacity-building drive, with specific impetus on augmentation of manpower and infrastructure facilities of CPCB and SPCB under the capacity building component of NCAP.

Technology is one of the critical elements of NCAP: solutions that are nationally acceptable, but more importantly, which are locally possible

Key components of NCAP include –

  • City-specific air pollution abatement action plan for 100 polluting cities of the country similar to one for Delhi,
  • Increasing the number of monitoring stations, data dissemination, public participation on planning and implementation
  • Setting up of Air Information Centre for data analysis, resource apportionment studies, setting up of national inventory, guidelines for indoor air pollution and setting up of rural monitoring stations
Air Pollution

Stubble burning doubles Delhi pollution: Harvard study


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulate matter

Mains level: The is an another proof showing the affect of stubble burning on Air Pollution.


Research by the Harvard University and NASA

  1. According to the study, agricultural fires are to blame for about half of the pollution experienced in Delhi in October and November, a peak stubble burning season in Punjab
  2. The researchers came to this conclusion by analyzing data from a satellite of the NASA
  3. the study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, used satellite data from NASA to identify hotspots corresponding to active fires

Source of this agricultural fires

  1. Many farmers in northwest India typically burn abundant crop residue on the fields after harvest season, to prepare their fields for subsequent planting

Pollution level in Delhi

  1. On average, without fires, urban Delhi experiences about 150 microgrammes per cubic metre of fine particulate air pollution
  2. To put that into perspective, the WHO puts the threshold for safe air at 25 microgrammes per cubic metre, and India’s Central Pollution Control Board limits exposure to 60 microgrammes per cubic metre
  3. Extreme fires during the post-monsoon season can pump on average about 150 microgrammes per cubic metre of fine particulate matter into the city,
  4. doubling the amount of pollution and increasing total levels 12 times higher than WHO recommendations, and even 20 times higher on some days
Air Pollution

SC asks Centre to consider rolling out BS-VI fuel in 13 cities by April 2019


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BS emission norms, differential pricing

Mains level: Rising air pollution and measures to curb it

Possibilty of early rollout of BS-VI norms

  1. The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to consider if it was possible to roll out BS-VI fuel in thirteen metro cities by April 2019
  2. SC also directed the Centre to look into the question of differential pricing for diesel to disincentivize the use of the fuel

SC verdict on BS norms application

  1. The apex court had, in March last year, banned the sale and registration of vehicles, which were not BS-IV compliant, in India from April 1, 2017, when the new emission norms came into force

Differential pricing for diesel

  1. The Centre said that increasing the price of the fuel would impact the movement of heavy vehicles which in turn would lead to rise in the price of vegetables and other essential items
  2. SC said that differential pricing can be introduced in a way which ensures that price of diesel does not act as a stimulus for the purchase of commercial and passenger vehicles and also does not impact the running of heavy vehicles


BS emission norms

  1. Bharat stage emission standards (BSES) are emission standards instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engines and Spark-ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles
  2. The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change
  3. The standards, based on European regulations were first introduced in 2000
  4. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been in place since April 2010 and it has been enforced for entire country since April 2017
  5. In 2016, the Indian government announced that the country would skip the BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020
  6. While the norms help in bringing down pollution levels, it invariably results in increased vehicle cost due to the improved technology & higher fuel prices
Air Pollution

Government issues dust deadline: March 31 or face suspension


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Ambient Air Quality standards, Environmental Performance Index

Mains level: Rising menace of air pollution and measures to curb it

Implementing measures for dust mitigation by March 31

  1. The Environment Ministry has asked major infrastructure agencies, including the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), to implement measures for dust mitigation by March 31 or face suspension of construction work
  2. The ministry has cited recent rule amendments that make it mandatory for projects needing environment clearance to ensure mitigation of dust

Rules for curbing air pollution

  1. No building or infrastructure project requiring environmental clearance shall be implemented without approved Environmental Management Plan inclusive of dust mitigation measures
  2. The rules are applicable in all cities where particulate matter, PM 10 and PM 2.5, exceeds limits prescribed in the National Ambient Air Quality standards

Limits for PM 2.5 and 10 pollution

  1. The annual PM 10 limit is 60 micrograms per meter cube
  2. For PM 2.5 it is 40 micrograms per metre cube
  3. The daily cut-off for both is 100 micrograms per metre cube and 60 micrograms per metre cube, respectively

Environmental Performance Index

  1. India was ranked the fourth worst country in the world in terms of curbing environmental pollution
  2. India ranked 177 out of 180 countries on Environmental Performance Index
  3. The rank was 141 two years ago
  4. The EPI rankings were published on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos


National Ambient Air Quality standards

  1. Ambient air quality refers to the condition or quality of air surrounding us in the outdoors
  2. National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the standards for ambient air quality set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that is applicable nationwide
  3. The CPCB has been conferred this power by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  4. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 was enacted by the Central Government with the objective of arresting the deterioration of air quality
  5. The current National Ambient Air Quality Standards were notified on 18 November 2009 by the Central Pollution Control Board
Air Pollution

Steps needed to curb pollution or people will fall sick, says Supreme Court


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPCB, OBD scanners

Mains level: Rising problem of air pollution

Tackle air pollution

  1. The Supreme Court said that all steps were required to be taken to tackle air pollution otherwise the government health programmes would “completely go haywire”
  2. People will fall sick since 13 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India

Issue of ban on import of pet coke

  1. Government told the SC bench that there was deficit in availability of pet coke domestically and consultation was going on with Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) over this
  2. The use of pet coke may be allowed in calcium carbide-based industries as per the recommendations of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

Making use of OBD scanners compulsory

  1. Issue whether onboard diagnostic (OBD) scanners could be made compulsory for vehicle pollution test centres in grade A cities like Delhi would be considered separately
  2. OBD is an automotive term referring to a vehicle’s self-diagnostic and reporting capability
  3. OBD II is designed to inform a car owner about any malfunction, including problems with brake or with the emission control system
Air Pollution

Dust mitigation plan must for firms


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Dust mitigation plan, CPCB, National Ambient Air Quality Standards

Mains level: Rising air pollution and ways to tackle it

Mitigation plan for dust mandatory

  1. The Environment Ministry has made it mandatory for companies seeking environment clearance to ensure that they put in place a dust mitigation plan
  2. A study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and commissioned by the Delhi government reported, in 2015, that road dust, burning of biomass and municipal solid waste, constituted the lion’s share of the city’s air pollution


  1. The requirements say that roads leading to or at construction sites must be paved and black-topped
  2. There could be no soil excavation without adequate dust mitigation measures in place
  3. A water sprinkling system was mandatory
  4. The grinding and cutting of building materials in open area is prohibited
  5. The standards were developed by the Central Pollution Control Board as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Role of dust in air pollution

  1. Dust is a generic term for a vast mix of metals and non-metals — silicon, aluminium, titanium, manganese, copper, barium, antimony, selenium and zinc
  2. Road dust contributed 56% of all PM10 pollution, while it was 38% for PM2.5


National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

  1. Ambient air quality refers to the condition or quality of air surrounding us in the outdoors
  2. National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the standards for ambient air quality set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that is applicable nationwide
  3. The CPCB has been conferred this power by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  4. A new National Air Quality Index (AQI) has been launched in October 2014 to disseminate information on air quality in an easily understandable form for the general public
  5. The measurement of air quality is based on eight pollutants, namely, PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb
  6. National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed for all of these pollutants
  7. The 2005 World Health Organization’s “WHO Air quality guidelines” offer global guidance on thresholds and limits for 4 key air pollutants that pose health risks – particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2)
Air Pollution

Domestic biomass burning deadliest source of air pollution: Study


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Burden of Disease report, PM 2.5

Mains level: Rising air pollution and ways to tackle it

Deadliest air pollution source in India

  1. Emissions from domestic biomass burning has emerged as the deadliest air pollution source in India
  2. It is responsible for around a quarter of the deaths caused by PM2.5, a global study has found

Global Burden of Diseases (GBD MAPS) report

  1. The report is published by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute
  2. It builds on the GBD report, which was launched in November last year
  3. That report had attributed over 1.1 million deaths recorded in 2015 to outdoor exposure to PM2.5
  4. PM 2.5 are ultrafine air-borne particulates as tiny as 30 times the width of a human hair

Role of biomass burning

  1. The latest study focuses on the major sources of PM2.5 that are behind the deaths namely, residential biomass burning, coal combustion in industries and thermal power plants, burning of crop residue and vehicular combustion
  2. The study does not take into account indoor exposure to biomass burning, especially in rural areas where charcoal, firewood and animal dung are used for cooking in the absence of cleaner fuels
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] The much-neglected pollutant: Surface Ozoneop-ed snap

Image Source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Surface ozone

Mains level: Pollution is a hot topic of discussion these days. Surface ozone is one of the many gases which are contributing to pollution levels in India.


What is the issue?

  1. A much-neglected pollutant in discussions about pollution is surface ozone (O3)
  2. A recent study shows that O3 levels will continue to rise drastically, particularly in north India

Prevalence of the Ozone gas

  1. The Energy and Resources Institute (New Delhi), the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (Pune) with some foreign institutions analysed the prevalence of O3 in the subcontinent
  2. Their paper, “Impact of regional climate change and future emission scenarios on surface O3 and PM2.5 over India”, was published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
  3. The researchers examined the rise of pollutants due to
    a) anthropogenic pressures and inorganic aerosols, and
    b) climate change which affects atmospheric conditions which have diluted or dispersed the pollutants

Future predictions

  1. In terms of climate change-driven variations, by the 2050s, ozone levels will increase by up to 4.4% (or by 2 parts per billion) in large swathes of north India, particularly Uttar Pradesh

Other factors affecting ozone levels

  1. There will be a decrease over forest patches of the Western Ghats in the south of 3.4% (1.4 parts per billion)
  2. Climate change will adversely impact soil moisture, rains, or vegetation density, which will further impact the absorption of ozone
  3. The scenario is scarier when tabulating man-made sources such as vehicles, power plants, or any machinery that uses fossil fuels, where the O3 component will increase by up to 45% in parts of north India “in the absence of a policy effort” to curb the pollutant


Surface ozone

  1. Ozone (O3) is a constituent of the troposphere (it is also an important constituent of some regions of the stratosphere commonly known as the ozone layer)
  2. The troposphere extends from the Earth’s surface to between 12 and 20 kilometers above sea level and consists of many layers
  3. Ozone is more concentrated above the mixing layer, or ground layer. Ground-level ozone, though less concentrated than ozone aloft, is more of a problem because of its health effects.
  4. Photochemical and chemical reactions involving it drive many of the chemical processes that occur in the atmosphere by day and by night
  5. At abnormally high concentrations brought about by human activities (largely incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, etc.), it is a pollutant, and a constituent of smog
  6. Many highly energetic reactions produce it, ranging from combustion to photocopying. Often laser printers will have a smell of ozone, which in high concentrations is toxic
  7. Ozone is a powerful oxidizing agent readily reacting with other chemical compounds to make many possibly toxic oxides
  8. Tropospheric ozone is a greenhouse gas and initiates the chemical removal of methane and other hydrocarbons from the atmosphere
  9. Thus, its concentration affects how long these compounds remain in the air
Air Pollution

‘Green’ crackers on the anvil

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Environment-friendly crackers, CSIR, perchlorate

Mains level: Harmful effects of firecrackers and ways to reduce their usage

Environment-friendly crackers

  1. In a bid to fight air pollution, Science and Environment Minister has tasked the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to come up with a way to make crackers that are “environmentally friendly”
  2. Several CSIR laboratories have come together and are putting together a robust S&T strategy for development of eco-friendly firecrackers and fireworks

How will this be done?

  1. The first phase will cover reduction of pollutants, while future strategies will cover removal of pollutants from the compositions
  2. A key ingredient in several crackers is perchlorate and replacing them with nitrogen-rich materials or nitrocellulose could make them burn cleaner and produce less smoke

Harmful effect of crackers

  1. Other than smoke-aggravating partially-burnt paper that sheaths the gunpowder in crackers, metals in fireworks such as strontium and barium are toxic to human and animal health
  2. The burning process produces other harmful emissions such as polychlorinated hydrocarbons
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Hope for good airop-ed snap

Image Source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EPCA, GRAP, etc.

Mains level: The newscard discusses seriousness of the NGT and government in countering issues related to the Air Pollution(briefly).


Various actions taken by India on Pollution front

  1. The past year began with a plan by the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) promising a departure from the knee-jerk methods of countering pollution
  2. The Supreme Court mandated agency’s Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) envisaged taking progressive steps before waiting for a red alert to be sounded
  3. Also, two another graded action plans by the NGT, and a draft report of a high-level task force headed by principal secretary to the prime minister, are proof that policymakers seem to have learnt a lesson

Particulars of the action plans(mentioned above)

  1. The NGT and high-level task force show an inclination to engage with an aspect largely neglected in the official discourse on pollution — public transport
  2. The task-force talks of integrating ticket services across DTC, cluster buses and the Metro

What went wrong?

  1. The Metro’s daily ridership has come down by three lakh after fares were increased in October
  2. The loss of commuters will seriously undermine the Metro’s role as a pollution-reducing agent
  3. Environmental agencies cannot wash their hands off the issue

Some issues with the diktats issued by the NGT

  1. NGT talks of prohibiting construction activity during a pollution crisis, even though the green court has itself admitted that such strictures have “remained unexecuted” in the past
  2. The plan(discussed above) also talks about the odd-even scheme, without mentioning the contention between the Delhi government and the NGT
  3. These contentions came in the way of the scheme being implemented last year

The way forward

  1. It’s a shame that the glitches that have prevented odd-even from being a permanent pollution control fixture have not been sorted out
  2. Apart from fresh ideas, dealing with pollution also requires course correction
Air Pollution

[pib] Environment Ministry Launches a Regional Project to Tackle Stubble Burning


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC)

Mains level: Government efforts for combating stubble burning and air pollution


  • To combat climate change, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has approved a regional project on ‘Climate Resilience Building among Farmers through Crop Residue Management’ under the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC)
  • The project was approved at the meeting of the National Steering Committee on Climate Change


  • To mitigate climate change impacts and enhance adaptive capacity, but will also counter the adverse environmental impacts that arise from burning
  • The project will be implemented following a phased approach. Initially, awareness generation and capacity building activities will be undertaken to encourage farmers to adopt alternate practices which would also help diversify livelihood options and enhance farmer’s income
  •  A slew of technological interventions will be undertaken for timely management of crop residue in addition to effective utilisation of existing machineries
  • Implementable and sustainable entrepreneurship models will be created in rural areas through upscaling successful initiatives and innovative ideas

Reasons for residues being  burnt in field

  • Increased mechanization, declining number of  livestock,  long  period  required  for  composting  and  no  economically  viable  alternate  use  of  residues

Effects oh health and environment

  • This not only has implications for global warming
  • It also has an adverse impact on air quality, soil health and human health
Air Pollution

Centre formulates plan to tackle air pollution across the country


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Clean Air Programme

Mains level: Rising air pollution in country and measures needed to control it

Long-term time-bound national level strategy

  1. The Centre has formulated the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to tackle increasing air pollution across the country in a comprehensive manner
  2. NCAP has been formulated as a “long-term time-bound national level strategy”

About the plan

  1. The objective is to augment and evolve an effective ambient air quality monitoring network across the country
  2. It will also be ensuring a comprehensive management plan for prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution
  3. The NCAP focuses on a collaborative and participatory approach comprising all sources of pollution and coordination between relevant central ministries, state governments, local bodies and other stakeholders
Air Pollution

Pollution from traffic affects foetal growth: study


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: Effects of pollution on Infants


Results of a study

  1. According to the British Medical Journal, pregnant women who are exposed to road traffic pollution are more likely to deliver babies with low birth weight
  2. Why is weight important: Weight at the time of birth has an immediate bearing on an infant’s chances of survival — those with low birth weight are more likely to develop a range of complications

Particulars of the Study

  1. The findings suggest that air pollution from road traffic in London is adversely affecting foetal growth
  2. The results suggest little evidence for an independent exposure-response effect of traffic related noise on birth weight outcomes
  3. It observed that long-term exposure during pregnancy to NO2, NOx, PM2.5 overall, and specifically from traffic exhaust and non-exhaust sources, and PM10, were all associated with increased risk of low birth weight at term, across London


Issue of Low weight among children

  1. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), birth weight less than 2,500 g (5.5 lb) is considered low
  2. Low birth weight is regarded as a significant public health problem globally, and is associated with a range of both short- and long-term consequences
  3. Overall, it is estimated that 15-20 per cent of all births worldwide are affected by low birth weight, representing over 20 million births annually
Air Pollution

‘To end crop burning, govt must give free machines to farmers’


Mains Paper 3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation
Prelims level: Turbo Happy Seeder(THS); Super Straw Management System (S-SMS)
Mains level: 2015 Question: Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three mega cities of the country but the air pollution is much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so?
,Steps Needed to check Delhi Pollution

  1. Over 30 million tonnes of paddy straw are annually generated in Punjab and Haryana, which are later burnt by farmers to reduce turnaround time between harvesting paddy and sowing wheat crop.
  2. Report submitted to the Supreme Court by an Amicus Curiae on November 17 in an ongoing case related to air pollution.
  1. The Centre and state governments must provide machines to every panchayat for common use.
  2. The most “promising technologies” in this are:
a.Turbo Happy Seeder (THS), which allows for seeding without till and
b.the Super Straw Management System (S-SMS) (developed by Punjab Agricultural University), which allows for straw to be spread on the field.
  1. If even three sets of these machines are given free to each panchayat, it would only require some Rs 2,000 crores to be spent in Punjab and Haryana.
  2. The payment for this programme should come from a pollution charge on petrol and diesel fuel sold in Delhi.
  3. The objective of the charge should also be to reduce the differential between the price of petrol and diesel
  4. If a cess of Rs 1 is imposed on petrol; Rs 5 is imposed on diesel per litre then the city alone will contribute Rs 900 crore in one year.
Air Pollution

India loses billions to air pollution: UN


                Mains Paper 3| Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Prelims: UNEP and its report ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’, Minamata Convention

Mains level: The news card talks about the recently released report by UNEP titled ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’ according to which India has the highest share of welfare costs in South and south-East Asia from mortality due to air pollution.




  • India had the highest share of welfare costs (or a loss of income from labour), of about $220 billion (about ₹1.4 trillion), in South and South-East Asia  of a combined total of $380 billion from mortality due to air pollution, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).


  1. The report, ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’, was launched during the first Conference of Parties for the Minamata Convention, which addresses mercury issues, and ahead of the annual U.N. Environment Assembly, to be held in early December.

Key Takeaways from the Report

  1. The global mortality costs from outdoor air pollution are projected to rise to about $25 trillion by 2060 in the absence of more stringent measures.
  2. At regional and national scale, China’s welfare costs from mortality were the highest at nearly $1 trillion followed by the Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD) countries with a combined total of $730 billion, the report added quoting a 2016 projection by the OECD.
  3. Although certain forms of pollution have been reduced as technologies and management strategies have advanced, approximately 19 million premature deaths are estimated to occur annually as a result of the way societies use natural resources and impact the environment to support production and consumption.
  4. If consumption and production patterns continue as they are, the linear economic model of ‘take-make-dispose’ will seriously burden an already polluted planet, affecting current and future generations.

Way Forward

  1. To curb pollution in various forms, the UNEP called for strong high-level political commitment and engagement of the local government, civil society and other stakeholders.
  2. To achieve high level political commitment in key economic sectors, there is a need to go beyond the environmental ministries and include other relevant ministries such as finance, agriculture, industry, urban, transport, energy and health.
  3. Reporting on the progress that comes from acting on pollution whether through voluntary measures or formal laws is a crucial step in this transition.


Minamata Convention

  1. It is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
  2. The Convention was in 2013.
  3. The Convention is named after the Japanese city, Minimata.
  4. This naming is of symbolic importance as the city went through devastating incident of mercury poisoning. 
  5. The convention has prohibited a myriad of products containing mercury, and their production and trade will be altogether prohibited by 2020.
  6. These products include batteries, compact fluorescent lamps, switches and relays, soaps and cosmetics, thermometers, and blood pressure devices.
  7. Furthermore, it has gone as far as prohibiting vaccines containing mercury, as well as dental fillings which use mercury amalgam.
  8. The biggest mercury release comes from coal-fired power stations and usage of mercury to separate gold from ore-bearing rock. Mercury from the factories is released into a river system.
  9. The Convention requires countries to come up with plans to reduce the amount of mercury used by gold miners.
  10. The treaty also organizes and support financially mercury awareness campaigns by which it gives support for mercury-free alternatives.


  1. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
  2. UNEP also has six regional offices and various country offices.
  3. The activities of UNEP cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy.
  4. It has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.



Air Pollution

New ‘gas standards’ in the works to fight pollution


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CSIR, NPL, National Ambient Air Quality standards, Air Quality index

Mains level: Air pollution and measures being undertaken to reduce its effect


Government looking to prepare a unified testing methodology

  1. To ensure that all agencies that map air pollution use accurate instruments, the government is looking to prepare a unified testing methodology
  2. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) -National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is in the process of setting up ‘gas standards’

What will be the standards?

  1. These will be reference samples of Carbon Monoxide (CO), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrous Oxide (NO2) and Particulate –Pb (lead), –As (Arsenic) and –Ni (Nickel)

Present status

  1. Currently, the National Ambient Air Quality standards specify the upper limits for pollutants
  2. Based on this, the Air Quality Index — that grades air quality in cities from ‘Good’ to ‘Severe’ — is prepared for several Indian cities
  3. CPCB has prescribed guidelines for the maximum permissible levels of 12 gases and pollutants, depending on residential, rural or industrial locations

Way forward

  1. NPL would talk with environment-monitoring agencies like the the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to see if these can become reference standards for use by all private and public agencies that measure pollution levels
  2. The NPL has also developed a custom air sampler that claims to measure PM2.5 levels far more accurately than existing devices
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Delhi’s air pollution is both a challenge and an opportunityop-ed snap


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: Solutions given in the article to counter the menace of Pollution(these are important because the article is written by ex-Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission)


Is Pollution problem confined to Delhi only?

  1. Delhi is not the only polluted city in the country
  2. Eleven of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India

How can success in Delhi(on pollution front) be fruitful for future?

  1. Given the massive expansion we expect in the urban population over the next 20 years, and the need to attract investment to create quality jobs, we need to make our cities liveable and attractive to tourists
  2. Success in Delhi could provide a much needed template for the other cities

The first step of recognizing the issue

  1. Recognizing the problem is the first step towards corrective action and there is progress in this area
  2. A few years ago, an American journalist stationed in Delhi wrote a farewell piece saying that he was leaving Delhi because of air pollution
  3. There was an outburst of nationalistic outrage that the embassy was probably exaggerating the problem
  4. Since then, a number of government monitoring stations have been established in Delhi and they confirm that the problem is indeed serious

CPCB data on pollution

  1. The figure given below reports the level of air pollution by PM 2.5 particles at the Siri Fort station in New Delhi for the 12 months from mid-November 2016 to mid-November 2017

Medical warning by experts

  1. Medical experts in India have warned that children exposed to this level of pollution will develop asthmatic problems much earlier than normal
  2. Pregnant women exposed to high levels of air pollution are more likely to deliver low birth weight babies, with all the permanent health problems that it causes
  3. Senior citizens are also at risk

Limit upto which judiciary can act

  1. Many activists have been working hard at raising consciousness and even pushing the judiciary to act
  2. But judicial pushing can only go so far.
  3. It cannot devise a carefully crafted strategy operating on many fronts

Is it possible to control pollution?

  1. Until a few years ago, Beijing was more polluted than Delhi
  2. The Chinese government took firm action to control local industrial pollution, reduce the use of coal in power plants, and also restrain the sale of cars in Beijing
  3. NASA’s satellite data show a 17% decline in the concentration of fine particulate matter over China between 2010 and 2015. The same data show an increase of 13% over India in the same period

Comprehensive action plan for Delhi
What should be done?

  1. If we want to bring pollution down from the average of 142 to the national standard of 40, we need to
    (a) reduce pollution by as much as 72% and
    (b) ensure that it stays at that level notwithstanding growth of population and economic activity
  2. This will require action on a massive scale by many central ministries and Delhi state government bodies acting on different areas

Plan by the Environmental (Prevention and Control of) Pollution Authority (EPCA)

  1. It was established by the Supreme Court
  2. It has prepared a comprehensive multi-dimensional action plan for control of pollution in Delhi
  3. It includes proposals for
    (1) shifting to cleaner vehicles and fuels,
    (2) restraining the growth in cars and expanding public transport as an alternative,
    (3) stopping pollution from coal-based power plants,
    (4) controlling pollution from industry,
    (5) putting a stop to burning garbage,
    (6) preventing pollution from construction activities and controlling burning of crop residues in neighbouring states

How to control Road Dust?

  1. It contributes about 38% of the pollution
  2. This component is particularly difficult to control since it reflects both poor road conditions with unpaved footpaths, and the use of traditional technology
  3. Vacuum cleaning devices attached to mechanical sweepers will help, but that would require massive investment in equipment, which may be beyond the funding budget of the municipality

How to control Vehicle emission?

  1. Vehicle emissions account for 20% of the pollution and this component is likely to increase as the number of cars multiplies
  2. There is much that could be done in this area
  3. The decision to advance BS VI fuel to 2018 for Delhi, and 2020 for the whole country, is a welcome move
  4. It needs to be accompanied by action to ensure that new cars are all equipped with engines designed for BS VI fuel
  5. The two together will reduce particulate pollution by 70% to 80%

Discouraging car ownership will help

  1. Despite BS VI implementation, the large stock of older cars will remain for many years, and the total number of cars is also expected to expand
  2. Therefore, the total pollution load from automobiles may not come down sufficiently over the near future.
  3. There is no alternative to actively discouraging car ownership and plan a massive shift to public transport in the capital
  4. Discouragement of cars needs to be accompanied by a parallel effort to expand bus and Metro services

Coal power plants near Delhi

  1. We should definitely consider ending the use of coal in power plants located close to Delhi
  2. The present cess on coal needs to be increased steadily over time
  3. And we should encourage the use of gas-based power plants

Burning of waste

  1. Burning mixed municipal waste in Delhi is highly polluting
  2. We need to shift within the next three years to an effective system of separating municipal waste into biodegradable waste which can be converted into
    (1) compost and energy,
    (2) recyclable waste including plastic which can be recycled,
    (3) inert waste which can be converted into refuse-derived fuel for power generation, and
    (4) residual non-combustible waste which has to go to scientific landfills

The way forward

  1. Something along these lines would put us on a credible path to reducing pollution over time
  2. It will take time, but at least we will know when we can start breathing easy
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Reflections from inside a toxic cityop-ed snap


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: Solutions given in the article against Pollution


  1. The article talks about the menace of pollution going on these days in Delhi
  2. And some possible solutions for it

Changes seen in last few decades

  1. In the past two decades much has changed
  2. The economics of pollution control is now a flourishing sub-discipline within the burgeoning field of environment studies
  3. Air quality monitoring has also become quite sophisticated with continuous monitoring of a whole vector of pollution indicators and readings available
  4. along with an air quality index (AQI), on a daily basis from multiple city locations

What is not changed?

  1. However, the regulatory framework has remained largely unchanged, still dependent on the “command and control” (C&C) approach instead of market-based instruments (MBI)
  2. The same fatal flaw that had rendered the pollution control Acts ineffective 20 years ago still applies today
  3. Consequences: The consequences are there for all to see
  4. Emission levels from individual sources like motor vehicles and industrial plants did come down progressively after standards were mandated in 1981
  5. Yet the ambient pollution load kept getting worse as the number of vehicles and factories kept growing

 Suspended particulate matter (SPM) in Delhi’s air

  1. During the past week Delhi is experiencing a pollution emergency
  2. For the main pollutant of concern, suspended particulate matter (SPM) the ambient pollution load has been about 7-10 times the specified standard and the overall AQI is well past the danger level

What can be done to avoid such crises in the future?

  1. The question is best addressed in four parts:
    (1) pollution drivers over which government has no control,
    (2) pollution sources which require inter-governmental cooperation
    (3) pollution sources which the government can regulate through MBIs
    (4) and sources or actions which it can directly control

What should be done to stop stubble burning?

  1. Following the “polluters pay” principle, some suggest that farmers burning stubble should be penalized to contain the burning
  2. This is a non-starter
  3. No state government would have either the political courage or the administrative capacity to impose such penalties on millions of farmers who are already under stress
  4. However, a reduction in stubble burning can also be achieved by the opposite policy of rewarding farmers who incur the cost of disposing of stubble by other means, e.g, processing it for manure

How could such a programme(of rewarding farmers) be funded without unduly burdening the fiscal?

  1. Since the National Capital Region (NCR) would be a major beneficiary of the programme, the Central government should lead with a centrally sponsored scheme, partnering with concerned states on a cost-sharing basis
  2. The Central share could be financed by cutting poorly targeted non-merit subsidies, like on fertilizers or kerosene
  3. The states’ share could be similarly financed by cutting their tax expenditures and non-merit subsidies, like on power

What should be done to counter the pollution from Motor vehicles?

  1. Motorized vehicles are the other important source of high SPM 2.5 pollution in Delhi, especially in winter
  2. As explained earlier, merely enforcing individual vehicle-emission standards will not help to achieve ambient air quality standards if the total number of vehicles grows without any limit
  3. To achieve ambient standards, it is essential to restrain the growth in number of vehicles
  4. How can that be done: To simply cap the total number of vehicles of a given type and ban further registration once a cap is reached is a blunt C&C policy which is neither practical nor desirable
  5. However, such an approach can be considered only if there are adequate alternative means of public transport like the mass transit systems seen in most modern cities
  6. For this, the rapidly expanding Delhi Metro network has to be complemented by other transport modes, especially for last-mile connectivity

The way forward

  1. The Delhi government cannot by itself fix the air pollution problem
  2. There is much that is beyond its control
  3. But there is also much that it can do in collaboration with other neighbouring states, and much that it can do on its own to help mitigate the problem
Air Pollution

SC for nationwide ban on furnace oil, pet coke


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: As the pollution is a hot topic of discussion these days. Therefore, all the SC judgements on the issue are important from the UPSC perspective.


Request by the Supreme Court

  1. The SC has requested all States and Union Territories to move forward towards a nationwide ban on the use of pet coke and furnace oil to power up industries, in a bid to fight pollution
  2. The Environment Bench of the Supreme Court had already ordered a ban on the industrial use of pet coke and furnace oil in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan on October 24


  1. This ban specifically came after an Environment Pollution Control Authority Report recommended the ban on sale, distribution and use of furnace oil and pet coke in the National Capital Region (NCR)
  2. Their use is already prohibited in Delhi

Other important observation by the SC bench

  1. We may note that the pollution caused by pet coke and furnace oil is not a problem confined only to NCR but appears to be a problem faced by almost all the States and Union Territories in the country,” the Bench observed in their written order
Air Pollution

Delhi smog: Gulf dust storm had a bigger role than stubble burning

Image source


Mains Paper 3 | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Prelims level: System of Air quality And Weather Forecasting and Research

Mains level: This news card discusses the study by SAFAR and IMD that highlights main reason behind Delhi Smog



Reason for Delhi Smog apart from Stubble Burning

  1. Besides stubble burning, a “multi-day dust storm” in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia was the main cause of Delhi’s smog between November 6 and 14.
  2. According to a study by the System of Air Quality And Weather Forecasting And Research(under the Ministry of Earth Sciences) and India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Key Points from the Study

  1. There was a large multi-day dust storm that emerged in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the last week of October 2017 and continued up to November 3 and 4.
  2. This dust storm was carried by relatively cool winds.
  3. Winds at a height and low wind speed close to the surface meant that the pollutants were carried towards Delhi.
  4. Also, stubble burning in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana was very high on November 6 and upper-air winds became North Westerly (towards Delhi) with high speed and started pumping pollution in Delhi.
  5. The study says that the dust storm was responsible for 40 percent of the pollution on November 8, when the average air quality index was 478, indicating “severe” levels of pollution.
  6. While stubble burning was responsible for 25 percent of the pollution, “local sources” also played a role.

What if there was no Multiday Storm?

  • According to the study, if external sources had not affected air quality, the average concentration of PM 2.5 would have been about 200micrograms per cubic meter instead of 640 micrograms per cubic meter

Weather Conditions in Delhi

  • The weather conditions that persisted locally between November 8 and 14 were calm winds, cool temperature, inversion layer trapped pollution within Delhi territory.

Impact of measures taken under Graded Action Plan

  • According to the SAFAR and IMD report, the imposition of emergency measures such as a ban on construction and entry of trucks in Delhi made a positive difference of around 15 percent


System of Air Quality & Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR):

  1. SAFAR envisages a research-based management system where strategies of air pollution mitigation go hand in hand with nation’s economic development to target a win-win scenario.
  2. It helps in knowing the City Air Quality- Overall city pollution and Location specific Air Quality.
  3. The SAFAR system is developed by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, along with ESSO partner institutions namely India Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).
  4. It has been introduced for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.
  5. It has been combined with the early warning system on weather parameters.
  6. The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for betterment of air quality and related health issues
Air Pollution

Difficult to have BS-VI vehicles for Delhi by 2018: Auto industry

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims level: BS VI Norms

Mains level:  This news card talks about the announcement by Ministry of Petroleum and natural gas to advance the introduction of BS VI fuels by April 2018 in NCR. Also lists out the issues involved in the advance implementation and whether feasible for the automobile industry or not


Industry not in a position to implement BS VI

  1. Auto industry said the government’s move to advance introduction of BS VI fuels in the Capital is a step in the right direction to fight pollution but it is not in a position to launch vehicles complying with the strict emission norm before April 2020
  2. Industry players also said there has to be a holistic approach to combat pollution in the national Capital and focus must also be on phasing out old vehicles

Announcements by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas

  1. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas had announced the advanced introduction of BS VI fuels by April 2018 in the national capital territory considering the serious pollution levels in Delhi and adjoining areas
  2. The ministry also said oil marketing companies have also been asked to examine the possibility of introduction of BS-VI auto fuels in the whole of NCR from April 1, 2019

Views of Automobile Industry regarding advanced introduction of BS VI fuels in Delhi

  1. Many from the industry are of the view that no mainline player with multiple models will be able to launch complete portfolio of BS VI compliant vehicles by April 2018
  2. Automobile industry was given a roadmap by the ministry of road transport for implementation of BS-VI norms by April 2020 and they are working on the basis of that timeline
  3. It is not possible for the industry to advance that date at this stage
  4. However, it is still working on a stretched deadline to launch BS VI vehicles by April 2018 in New Delhi

Issues involved with advancing the date for introduction of BS VI fuels

  1. The potential problem with the launching of BS-VI vehicles only for Delhi is that the fuel will not be available outside the Capital and BS-VI vehicles cannot run on BS-IV fuel
  2. Also, if we are only looking at addressing vehicular pollution then old vehicles above 10-15 years depending on the type of fuel used need to be phased out
  3. A holistic approach is needed to address the pollution issue


BS-VI Norms

  1. The particulate matter emission in BS-V and BS-VI is same for diesel cars though it is 80% less than BS IV
  2. The nitrogen oxide (NOx) level is, however, 55% less in BS-VI over BS-V which in itself is 28% lower than BS IV
  3. The sulphur content in fuel norms for diesel and petrol under both BS-V and -VI standards does not change at 10 ppm, though it is substantially less than 50 mandated for both the fuels under BS-IV
Air Pollution

Outdoor air pollution accounts for 6% of total diseases in 2016: report


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the report

Mains level: Suggestions given by the EPCA


Outcomes of a recent study

  1. According to the first state-level disease burden and risk factors estimates released by the ministry of health and family welfare, outdoor air pollution was responsible for 6% and household pollution for 5% of the total disease burden in India in 2016
  2. The report is jointly prepared by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)

Other particulars of the study

  1. Air pollution also remained the second leading risk factor after malnutrition in India as a whole, posing a significant and growing challenge to population health
  2. While outdoor air pollution caused 6.4% of India’s total Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) in 2016, household air pollution caused 4.8%
  3. The DALY is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill health, disability or early death
  4. Although, progress has been made in India in reducing household air pollution from solid fuels, yet this remains a significant problem, particularly in the EAG states and Assam
  5. For household air pollution, too, the DALY rate in 2016 was higher in the EAG states and Assam, with the highest rates in Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh

Suggestions by the the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA)

  1. EPCA is tasked with implementation of the comprehensive pollution-tackling plan in Delhi-NCR cleared by Supreme Court
  2. It had suggested measures like
    (1) closure of brick kilns and stone crushers,
    (2) intensification of public transport services,
    (3) increase in the frequency of Delhi Metro services,
    (4) intensification of mechanized road sweeping and sprinkling of water,
    (5) continuation of the ban on use of generator sets in Delhi,
    (6) immediate enhancement of parking fees by four times,
    (7) ban on use of coal and firewood in hotels and eateries
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] India needs a federal green agencyop-ed snap

Image Source


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 possible solutions of countering the issue of Smog.



  1. The article talks about the current environmental issue of smog and proposes some solution for it

What is the issue?

  1. Smog: The public health emergency
  2. The callous response by various government agencies
  3. Every state blames the other
  4. The weak policy response is also an indication of an institutional vacuum to deal with public goods issues in a federal political system

Is it possible to change the incentives for farmers who burn biomass?

  1. The standard economic solution is to impose a Pigouvian tax on farmers to ensure the polluter pays for his actions
  2. Such a tax would change incentives by increasing the cost of stubble burning

Ronald Coase way of  dealing with the effects of stubble burning

  1. Coase argued, in a landmark paper published in 1960, that the solution to externalities such as pollution is not unilateral action but complex bargaining between different interest groups
  2. The bargaining will be based on how much farmers value stubble burning on the one hand and how much city dwellers value clean air on the other

How can it be implemented in India?

  1. In the case of the smog in north India, it could mean that farmers should be paid to invest in better technologies to deal with the stubble left over from the previous harvest
  2. A subsidy will change their incentives. Such a Coasean bargain is premised on two preconditions
  3. First, property rights need to be assigned
  4. Second, there needs to be a credible agency to manage the negotiation
  5. India has neither right now

More practical solution

  1. The more practical solution is that the state governments of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana be considered the representative agencies for their respective citizens
  2. They should negotiate on how the cost of changing farming practices will be shared. A first step will be to estimate the amount to be paid for every hectare of farmland that is shifted away from stubble burning
  3. The second problem is the lack of an institutional structure to deal with such federal negotiations, especially when the three state governments are run by three different political parties
  4. This is where the Union government needs to step in as a coordinating agency
  5. It can also offer to bear half the fiscal costs of any green bargain between the three states

What can we learn from the US?

  1. A better solution over the long term is to set up a federal agency like the Environmental Protection Agency in the US, with powers to get states to the bargaining table
  2. The exact contours of such an agency will need to be debated by climate change scientists, economists, environmental activists and political parties
Air Pollution

Crop-burning could have been avoided this year, but finding money was a problem

Image source


Mains Paper 3 | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Stubble Burning, CII-NITI Aayog Cleaner Air initiative

Mains level: The article talks about the financial package that was suggested last year by a task force under NITI Aayog to dissuade farmers from stubble burning and associated issues with it



  1. This season’s stubble-burning in the north and north-western India, believed to be largely responsible for the heavy smog over Delhi, could have been avoided if the Centre and the states concerned had agreed on a formula to share the burden of a newly finalized financial incentive package to dissuade farmers from burning their crops
  2. The package worth more than Rs 3,000 crore was recommended by one of the task-forces set up under the CII-NITI Aayog Cleaner Air initiative earlier this year
  3. Among the easy alternatives, the task force had suggested the burning of waste in a brick-and-clay dome-like structure in the absence of oxygen to produce biochar or prali-char, a carbon-rich residue which has commercial value as a soil nutrient.
  4. It was realized that farmers needed to be provided money not just to build the brick-and-clay structures but also to pay for the labour needed to cut the waste and take it to the burning facility.

Financial Package

  1. The proposal for the financial package was discussed with officials of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh at a video-conference organized by NITI Aayog, in which senior officers of the Central government also participated
  2. After assessing the quantity of crop-burning in each of these states, the task force had calculated that farmers in Punjab alone required nearly Rs 1,500 crore this season
  3. Farmers in other states together required a similar amount

The Issue: Who would pay money for the financial package?

  1. State government officials asked the Centre to provide them this money
  2. Punjab, in particular, is learned to have said that it did not have the requisite funds for the financial package.
  3. The Centre, on the other hand, argued that there was no existing scheme or budget head under which money to prevent crop-burning could be transferred to the states
  4. Center also expressed apprehension that even if it did find some way to make a payment to these four states, there could be similar demands from other states as well
  5. Accordingly, it urged the state governments to find funds from their own resources, and distribute the money quickly so that crop-burning could be avoided this season itself
  6. However, the issue of who would pay the money remained unresolved and it became apparent that the financial package could not be rolled out this season

Subsequent Communications regarding the issue

  1. In subsequent communications, the Centre and state governments agreed to continue the discussions to work out a mutually agreeable burden-sharing formula in time for the next season of crop-burning
  2. It was realized that it would also give the governments adequate time to finalize the logistics of the exercise, like calculating the payment to be made to each farmer after assessing his or her land-holding and the quantity of agricultural waste generated
  3. It was decided that the payments could be made through the direct benefits transfer route, directly into the bank accounts of farmers

Other measures

  1. In the nearly year-long window, the governments also hope to sensitize the farmers to other financially rewarding alternatives of crop-burning, in which the agricultural waste could be put to more meaningful uses, like production of bio-CNG and bio-ethanol
  2. But all this, including the sustainable long-term production of biochar or prali-char, requires the creation of suitable markets which will put a monetary value on agricultural waste, thus discouraging farmers from burning the stubble, which currently has zero value to them.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Crisis is in the airop-ed snap

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Health Organisation (WHO), Particulate matter

Mains level: Rising air pollution in Delhi and other Indian cities and measures that can be taken to curb it


Delhi has become world’s air pollution outcaste

  1. Everyone was forewarned (execute as well as legislature) and cannot pretend to be taken unawares
  2. Three years ago, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that Delhi was the most polluted city in the world
  3. Particulate matter — PM of less than 2.5 microns — was at an annual average of 153 micrograms per cubic metre that year, well above the WHO limit of 35

Consequences of declaring Delhi’s air a “national emergency”

  1. Visitors — whether on business or diplomats — will think three times before visiting Delhi this winter
  2. Children can’t attend school or play outside
  3. There will be financial losses due to days missed at work

Causes of air pollution

  1. Burning of farm residue
  2. Pollutants from thermal power stations in and around the capital
  3. Dust from construction
  4. Pollutants from vehicles

What measures can be taken?

  1. Burning of farm residue require a carrot and stick approach to encourage farmers to recycle crop waste rather than burn it
  2. Stiff penalties can be imposed on thermal power plants and construction sites for not complying with pollution standards
  3. Pollution caused by private vehicles, whether they are four- or two-wheelers, can be curbed by restricting their numbers
  4. Odd-and-even number plate scheme, ought to be extended through the winter
  5. Parking fees ought to be drastically increased, and payable even at night time

International examples

  1. Beijing and other Chinese cities have successfully decreased private vehicles and greatly increased public transport
  2. Shanghai has emulated Singapore’s example of setting a limit on the number of cars permitted on its roads
  3. Singapore allows market forces to decide the price of such a license, which can exceed the cost of a car sometimes
  4. Following London’s example, the proceeds from fine and parking fees should be ploughed back into bettering the bus service

Where are cities going wrong?

  1. Mumbai is building an Rs 15,000-crore coast road only for cars
  2. Mumbai has been spared the ignominy of Delhi when it comes to air pollution, one reason being that the sea breezes waft pollutants away
  3. Once this road is built, all that will change since the prevailing winds are in a south-west direction
  4. All cities are making the mistake of prescribing metros as the solution for local transport
  5. Although far superior to adding roads, these are expensive
  6. In Delhi, the 200-km-plus Metro network doesn’t seem to have reduced the number of cars appreciably, only two-wheelers

What public transport then?

  1. Buses, which can run both long distances in cities, as well as provide last-mile connectivity to and from metros and local railway stations
  2. Reserved bus lanes are the most cost-efficient and egalitarian means of city transport
  3. These penalize the polluters — cars and two-wheelers — and carry commuters comfortably and cleanly
Air Pollution

[op- ed snap] What Delhi hasn’t learnedop-ed snap

A soldier stands guard in the North block at Vijay Chowk in the midst of a very smoggy day in New Delhi on wednesday. Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal New Delhi 081117


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: Mexico’s pollution mitigation strategy



  1. In the article, the writer talks about the pollution mitigation strategy of the Mexican city

Pollution in the Mexico City

  1. Mexico City was considered to be the most polluted city in the world by the United Nations in 1992
  2. But now it has made considerable progress in air quality during the last 25 years
  3. Difficult geographical features:  Mexico’s capital is located in a valley, which makes it difficult for poisonous air to escape
  4. This means it still has periods in which it struggles with its air quality

Efforts done by Mexco to counter pollution

  1. In the early 1990s when Mexico City’s inhabitants first became aware of the extent of the devastation that could be caused by pollution
  2. Ever since, the local government has mandated a series of measures on a war footing
  3. These include
    (1)  the compulsory use of catalytic converters in every car,
    (2) mandatory verification of car emissions every six months,
    (3) a serious improvement of public transportation, including the expansion of metro lines, a bus rapid transit system by the name of Metrobus, a bike sharing programme, among others
  4. Hoy No Circula: A road space rationing strategy called “Hoy No Circula” (roughly, A day without a car), which was started by civil society
  5. And then adopted by the government, restricts the circulation of cars one day per week depending on the last number of their license plates

Programme for Atmospheric Environmental Contingency

  1. It was a two phase programme, created in case of serious spikes in the levels of pollutants
  2. Phase 1 is declared when the levels of ozone reach an equivalent of 0.166 ppm (1 hour average) or when levels of PM10 reach 221 µg/m3 (24 hour average)
  3. With Phase 1, the authorities set in motion actions to protect the health of citizens in four different categories: Recommendations, transportation, services, and industries
  4. Schools and government institutions are expected to cease all outdoors activities, civic and recreational
  5. Citizens are advised that exercising outdoors represents a health hazard
  6. Healthcare professionals are on alert to receive vulnerable patients and are responsible for spreading information

What we can learn from the Programme for Atmospheric Environmental Contingency?

  1. It can be a powerful tool for shielding vulnerable groups from intense exposure to pollutants, as well as generating awareness among the population about the health risks that extreme air pollution poses
  2. A contingency programme means the issue has a direct impact on the lives of the people
  3. And in the case of Mexico City, this disruption has created awareness and dialogue about the importance of air quality

Other steps taken by the Mexican Government

  1. One of the most important steps was the relocation of heavy industry to outside the Mexican city limits, and the enforcement of stringent standards regarding emissions
  2. Considering the impact transportation has on air pollution, the Mexico City government recently signed an agreement with 12 other cities in the C40 group
  3. to procure only zero-emission buses by 2025 and ensure that the city is fossil fuel free by 2030

Will Delhi ever learn even a few lessons from Mexico City?

  1. Delhi has refused to put in place even the most elemental emergency pollution measures that acknowledge the seriousness of health hazards its outrageously polluted air brings
  2. That is why this question arises
Air Pollution

Capital crisis: on Delhi’s deteriorating air quality



Mains Paper 3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Causes of environmental pollution
Mains level: Measures to reduce air pollution


1. The article talks about the the reasons for deteriorating air quality in Delhi
2. The central idea of the article is follows: There is an urgent need to address the issue of deteriorating air quality through state action.
Current Situation in Delhi
1. The extremely hazardous levels of air quality have turned into a public health emergency in the capital
2. The smog is worsened by the burning of biomass in Punjab and Haryana and the winter atmosphere is marked by poor ventilation
3. Construction dust, vehicular pollution, domestic and industrial emissions add to this poor quality of air
4. Civic agencies are ignoring the problem of rising dust levels that are caused by unpaved surfaces
Effects of this air pollution
1. Such toxic air causes extreme suffering especially among people with respiratory ailments and impaired lung function.
2. The post monsoon burning of rice and wheat residues release aerosols that contribute to the volume of PM2.5 that gets embedded in lungs.
3. Exposure to PM2.5 produces morbidity from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and leads to premature death
Measures undertaken
1. Ban on deepavali crackers
2. Shift to Compressed Natural Gas for commercial vehicles
3. Odd and Even Policy
4. Ministry of Environment’s Orders in 2015 under the Air(Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,1981 for greening Delhi’s road margins
Way Forward
1. Governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, assisted by the Centre, should address the problems of farm residue burning and construction dust
2. The State Machinery should support the farmers for sustainable residue removal
3. Shifting more of the city’s travel to public transport will reduce the emission of fine particles
4. Measures undertaken in China to reduce PM2.5 emissions could be implemented here
A determined response and an integrated state action is essential for reducing the pollution levels in the National Capital.
Air Pollution

‘Like the Great Smog of London’


Mains Paper 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Prelims: Great Smog London

Mains level: This news card talks about the alarming air pollution in Delhi and its impact along with comparing it to the great London smog.


  1. As air pollution hit alarming levels in Delhi, major city hospitals on November 8 experienced a surge in the number of patients complaining of respiratory problems with AIIMS Director comparing the situation to the killer Great Smog of London in 1952.
  2. There is a need for implementation of long-term measures to tackle the crisis.
  3. There was a spurt in fresh cases in hospitals and conditions of patients with history of asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases deteriorated.

Breathlessness, coughing

  1. It leads to breathlessness, coughing, sneezing, tightness in chest, allergy and asthma complications.
  2. There is about 20 per cent rise in patients seeking treatment due to respiratory and cardiac issues.
  3. Pollution is at such a severe level that patients with respiratory and cardiac problems may develop life-threatening conditions.


London Smog

  1. On December 5, 1952, thick yellow smog brought London to a standstill for four days and is estimated to have killed more than 4,000 people.
  2. Sulfurous smog is also called “London smog,” (first formed in London).
  3. Sulfurous smog results from a high concentration of SULFUR OXIDES in the air and is caused by the use of sulfur-bearing fossil fuels, particularly coal.
  4. This type of smog is aggravated by dampness and a high concentration of suspended particulate matter in the air.
Air Pollution

Stubble burning the main reason for poor air in Delhi: HC


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read Back2basics

Mains level: We can mention this statement given by the HC in the Mains Exam.


Delhi High Court on Stubble burning

  1. Delhi HC in one of its observation on pollution has said that Stubble burning is the ‘main villain’ behind the severe pollution in Delhi and neighbouring areas
  2. It has asked the Delhi government and the neighbouring States to spell out the steps taken to address the issue


Stubble Burning

  1. Stubble burning is the deliberate setting fire of the straw stubble that remains after wheat and other grains have been harvested

Harmful effects on the environment:

  1. Loss of nutrients in the soil
  2. Pollution from smoke
  3. Damage to electrical and electronic equipment from floating threads of conducting waste
  4. Risk of fires spreading out of control

Why is it famous among farmers around the world?

  1. It quickly clears the field and is cheap
  2. It kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide
  3. It kills slugs and other pests
  4. It can reduce nitrogen tie-up in the soil
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Choking on airop-ed snap


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the EPCA

Mains level: Suggestions given by the EPCA



  1. The article talks about the severe pollution level in Delhi and the suggestions given by the EPCA

“severe” Air Quality Index (AQI)

  1. With a ban against firecrackers and a graded response action plan (GRAP) in place, Delhi’s authorities seemed better equipped than in the past two years
  2. But these hopes have been belied
  3. The post-Diwali smog never receded
  4. And the city registered “severe” on the AQI
  5. According to AQI website, “Everyone may experience serious health effects”

Suggestions by the Environment Pollution and Prevention Control Authority (EPCA)

  1. It is a SC-mandated body
  2. The EPCS also enforced GRAP two days before Diwali
  3. It has asked the Delhi government to put more emergency measures in place
  4. It has suggested that parking fees be quadrupled
  5. It also asked Delhi Metro to lower fares during non-peak hours for at least 10 days and introduce more coaches
  6. There are problems with this course of action
  7. The GRAP envisages progressively tougher action as pollution levels rise, without waiting for an emergency to impose strict measures

Passive attitude of the Delhi Government

  1. In the past two years, the government has waited for pollution to assume emergency proportions before reacting
  2. And then done nothing more than respond to courts or court-mandated bodies like the EPCA
  3. The Delhi government implemented the odd-even policy last year only after the Delhi High Court asked it to submit a time-bound plan

The way forward

  1. The EPCA, though, wants to enforce the odd-even policy if the city’s pollution levels aggravate
  2. Its other proposals will require at least 16 authorities to work together
Air Pollution

SC bans use of pet coke in NCR

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Central Pollution Control Board, Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA)

Mains level: Lethargy on part of the executive and active involvement of judiciary in providing measures to control air pollution


Prohibition on the industrial use of pet coke and furnace oil in NCR regions

  1. The Supreme Court directed the prohibition of industrial use of pet coke and furnace oil in NCR regions from November 1, 2017
  2. In its order on May 2, the court had directed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to fix sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxide standards for these industries
  3. The order follows the recommendation of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) to ban the sale, distribution, and use of furnace oil and pet coke in the NCR
  4. Their use is already prohibited in Delhi

Fine on Environment ministry, order to demolish parking lot near Taj Mahal

  1. SC also imposed a fine of Rs. 2 lakh on the Ministry of Environment for not fixing any emission standards for industries using pet coke and furnace oil in the NCR region
  2. The Supreme Court said fixing emission norms for industries using these toxic materials was vital for public health
  3. In a separate hearing, the same SC Bench ordered the demolition of a high-tech, multi-parking lot built a kilometer from the Taj Mahal


Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA)

  1. It is a Central Government constituted committee for the National Capital Region in compliance with the Supreme Court order dated January 7, 199893
  2. It was constituted under subsection (1) and (3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 by MoEFCC
  3. This authority was constituted with sole objective of assisting SC for protecting and improving the quality of environment and preventing, controlling and abating air pollution in Delhi NCR

Harmful effects of use of furnace oil and pet coke

  1. Petroleum coke, also called pet coke or petcoke, is a solid carbon material that resembles coal; it is a product of oil refining
  2. Petroleum coke or Pet Coke is used by industries as fuel and contains various dangerous chemicals and heavy metals such as Chromium, Vanadium, etc
  3. Pet coke also has high Sulphur contents which on burning releases large amounts of Sulphates into the atmosphere
  4. These harmful chemicals cause air pollution and lead to various health risks
Air Pollution

Centre eases norms for sewage plants


Mains Paper 3: Environmental Pollution

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: CPCB, BOD.

Mains: Nothing much.




  1. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has relaxed standards for upcoming sewage treatment plants (STP), including those to come up on extremely polluted stretches of the Ganga.
  2. It is part of the government’s ₹20,000 crore push to clean the river was a 2015-proposal to have higher standards for STPs.
  3. The government earlier hsd planned that the biochemical oxygen demand (Bod) — a marker for organic pollutants — in the treated water had to be no more than 10 mg/litre.
  4. Existing laws permit BoD up to 30 mg/litre.
  5. But a recent notification by Union Environment Ministry says that STPs coming up after June 2019 except in major State capitals and metropolitan cities need only conform to 30 mg/litre of BoD.
  6. New STPs in State capitals, however, have to cap BoD at 20 mg/litre.


  1. The 10 mg criteria was impractical and required advanced technology that was too costly for most States.
  2. The recent notification is a step forward because now we also have standards for faecal coliform, which has never been part of our standards.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] How To Clean Airop-ed snap

Image Source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Effects of particulate matter

Mains level: Air pollution is an important topic of discussion these days, due to the SC’s ban on firecrackers. Also, these issues are specially mentioned in the Mains Syllabus.



  1. The article talks about the rising level of air pollution in winters, its effects and possible sollutions

Increase of Pollution Level in India in winters

  1. The transition of Monsoon to Winter will end the temporary respite from air pollution
  2. A combination of festivals, post-harvest crop burning, firing of brick kilns and reduced wind speed will soon increase the level of particulate air pollution in India

Data on deaths related to pollution

  1. According to the Global Burden of Disease study estimates, ambient air pollution is responsible for 3,283 premature deaths every day, in India

Comparison of pollution levels between India and China

  1. Half of the top 20 polluted cities in the world are in India
  2. India has seen the steepest increase in air pollution since 2010
  3. Although China achieved global notoriety some years ago, it is India that has experienced a nearly 150 per cent increase in ozone-attributable deaths over the past 25 years
  4. In comparison, the number of people who died due to diseases caused by pollution in China did not increase much in the same period

Not all pollution related deaths are due to lung problems

  1. Till now, almost all air pollution-related deaths were thought to be due to lung diseases
  2. Evidence, however, is accumulating that links short and long-term exposure to air pollution with other diseases: these include heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cancer
  3. In fact, the highest proportion of pollution-related deaths are due to these other conditions

How Particulate Matter effects our body?

  1. Studies have shown that ultrafine particulate matter, rapidly enters the bloodstream after being inhaled
  2. These particles then interfere with the normal reactivity of blood vessels, and are distributed to many organs including the kidneys
  3. Particulate matter accounts for over 90 per cent of the particles emitted by road traffic

Other effects of air pollution

  1. Even when air pollution does not kill, it reduces the number of years lived in full health
  2. It increases asthma attacks, eye and skin disorders, and increasing the risk of development of high blood pressure, obesity, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, psychiatric disorders and frailty

What we need?

  1. We need
    (1) better urban planning starting with proper land-use assessment,
    (2) reducing major transport activity close to communities,
    (3) relocating traffic sources (roads, airports) from crowded areas,
    (4) avoiding the mixing of industrial and residential areas,
    (5) making better roads,
    (6) reducing uncovered areas in cities by planting more grass and plants,
    (7) improving transport technologies,
    (8) and increasing awareness of the societal burden imposed by air pollution
  2. Interdisciplinary academic groups should evaluate the full range of impacts of air pollution on human health
  3. And should develop tools to identify pollutants, find origin of particles, and develop culturally-appropriate solutions


Particulate Matter

  1. Atmospheric aerosol particles, also known as atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter (PM), particulates, or suspended particulate matter (SPM) are microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in Earth’s atmosphere
  2. The term aerosol commonly refers to the particulate/air mixture, as opposed to the particulate matter alone
  3. Sources of particulate matter can be natural or anthropogenic
  4. They have impacts on climate and precipitation that adversely affect human health
Air Pollution

Most pollution-linked deaths occur in India


Mains Paper 3: Environmental pollution and degradation.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Nothing Much.

Mains level: This news talks about the findings of a study published in Lancet which ranks India number one globally on toll taken by pollution. The statistics from the study can be quoted in essay and mains answer.




According to a recent study published in the Lancet, nearly a quarter of fatalities in 2015 were in country.

The Statistics

  1. India is ranked number one globally on the toll taken by pollution, with a staggering 51 million deaths in 2015, an international commission has reported.
  2. Of an estimated 9 million premature deaths linked to pollution worldwide, the India accounted for about 28%.
  3. More than half of all global deaths due to ambient air pollution occurred in India and China during the year of study
  4. India and Bangladesh recorded the largest increases in pollution-related deaths among the 10 most populous countries for the year.
  5. While Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, and Kenya too reported one in four deaths due to the same cause.
  6. Air pollution took the heaviest toll in India, followed by water.
  7. China had the second highest mortality from air pollution and has far less fatality linked to water pollution than India


The leading cause of death

  1. Ambient air pollution was the leading cause in the country.
  2. While deaths from household air polluted by solid fuels came a close second.
  3. Half a million deaths were caused by unsafe water sources, while unsafe sanitation was behind
  4. Particulate matter pollution in the air was severe in several cities in India and China: average annual concentrations of PM 2.5 were greater than 100 microgrammes per cubic metre.
  5. Industrialisation, Urbanisation and Globalisation have acted as the drivers for the air pollution.


Diseases implicated

  1. Deaths linked to air pollution were a result of non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Pollution has been responsible for most deaths
  2. Pollution was also responsible for three times as many deaths as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria
Air Pollution

At 2.5 million, India tops list of pollution-linked deaths: Study

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, NGO Pure Earth, Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, Global Burden of Disease study

Mains level: Various aspects related to air and other forms of pollution

India has highest death rate due to pollution

  1. India has topped the list of countries with pollution-related deaths in 2015
  2. 2.51 million people died prematurely in the country that year due to diseases linked to air, water and other forms of pollution
  3. This is according to a new study published in the reputed medical journal, The Lancet

Pollution is now the largest environmental cause of disease and death

  1. The Lancet study concluded that pollution is now the largest environmental cause of disease and death in the world today
  2. Three times more than those from HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria put together
  3. The report found that pollution from outdoor and indoor air, water and soil contamination, and chemical pollutants is one of the largest risk factors leading to premature death

Low and middle-income countries more affected

  1. Most of the pollution-related deaths — 92 percent — were reported in low and middle-income countries
  2. And in rapidly industrializing nations such as India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya

Diseases caused by pollution

  1. Most of these deaths were due to non-communicable diseases caused by pollution
  2. Such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

About Study and stakeholders

  1. The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health’s study is part of a two-year project that involved more than 40 international health and environmental authors
  2. These include Philip Landrigan, an environmental scientist, and Richard Fuller, founder of NGO Pure Earth
  3. The secretariat of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution is also involved
  4. For the study, researchers also used data from the Global Burden of Disease study
  5. It brings together comprehensive estimates on the effects of pollution on health, provides economic costs, and reveals the extent of contaminated sites across the world for the first time

Aim of commission

The aim of the Lancet Commission is to

  1. raise global awareness on pollution,
  2. end neglect of pollution-related diseases, and
  3. mobilize resources and political will to effectively confront pollution


Global Alliance on Health and Pollution

  1. The Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) was formed in 2012 by Pure Earth, the World Bank, UNEP, UNDP, UNIDO, Asian Development Bank, the European Commission, Ministries of Environment and Health of many low- and middle-income countries to address pollution and health at scale
  2. GAHP envisions a world where the health of present and future generations, especially children and pregnant women, is safe from toxic pollution
  3. GAHP is a collaborative body, made up of more than 50 members and dozens of observers that advocates on behalf of its low- and middle-income country members for resources and solutions to pollution problems
  4. GAHP seeks to build demand for pollution prevention and mitigation programs that are implemented by its members
  5. GAHP builds public, political, technical and financial support to address pollution globally, tracks pollution impact and interventions, promotes scientific research on pollution and raises awareness on the scope and impacts of all types of pollution
  6. GAHP also directly assists low- and middle-income countries to prioritize and address pollution through health and pollution action planning (HPAP) and other development planning processes, in collaboration with its members


Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] The right to breatheop-ed snap

Image Source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Not much

Mains level: Most probable consequences(related to pollution) are discussed in the article. Specially mentioned in the Mains syllabus.



  1. The article talks about the recent judgement of the SC on firecrackers and the effects of pollution on Delhi(in different areas)

Pollution figures same as last year

  1. Air quality readings in Delhi are extremely poor, once again
  2. In November 2016, Delhi witnessed a public health emergency with the air pollution hitting perilous levels and smog covering the city
  3. Given that the situation repeats itself year after year

Issues related to the recent SC judgement on firecrackers ban

  1. Yes, the apex court’s ban on firecrackers may hurt the interests of the traders in the short run
  2. But then, clean air is a basic human right

Particulate matter in firecrackers

  1. Diwali firecrackers produce extremely high levels of PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less) over a short period of time, especially in the breathing zone (within a three-feet radius of the lit firework)
  2. PM 2.5 enters the blood stream through the lungs and cannot be filtered out
  3. They act as silent killers causing cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases

Pollution effect on Delhi’s children

  1.  Delhi is silently suffering from a severe paediatric respiratory crisis with children suffering from irreversible lung damage
  2. Half of Delhi’s school children will never recover full lung capacity, surveys reveal
  3. Its deathly air has led to generations with choked lungs, weak hearts and a failing immune system

Serious impact on foreigners

  1. Delhi is among those with the poorest air quality, according to a WHO report
  2. To contend with the poor air quality, embassies and international businesses in Delhi considered reducing staff tenures, advised staff to reconsider bringing their children to Delhi and provided high-end air purifiers

Why is it important for India to solve the problem of pollution?

  1. As an aspiring global super power, India needs to showcase its capital by meeting international standards on pollution control, and adhering to the quality of living index etc
  2. While trying to project itself as the world’s manufacturing hub and seeking foreign investment, the country needs to attain global standards
  3. Delhi needs to be safe and inviting for the global community

History of solving pollution related issues in Delhi

  1. Delhi has managed to clean up its air before
  2. At the turn of the century, polluting industries were made to leave the city
  3. Coal-burning power plants were shut down
  4. A historic SC judgment in 1998, compelling all public transport vehicles to run on CNG, had reduced levels of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) significantly
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] The wrong approach to environmental regulationop-ed snap

Image Source


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 recent decision decision of the SC on Diwali crackers is a hot topic of discussion these days. It is important to go through the issues related to this judgement.



  1. The article talks about the recent SC order banning the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), which has expectedly turned into a controversy

There are two distinct issues that need to be separately analysed:
a) the scope of the state’s regulatory power vis-à-vis a religious celebration

  1. On this account, the matter is relatively clear
  2. The bursting of firecrackers releases a heavy dose of carcinogens in the atmosphere, presenting a public health challenge for the entire city
  3. As soon as it is clear that bursting of firecrackers by one person presents a health challenge to another, any argument of religion cannot reign supreme in a constitutional, secular republic

b) the agency of the state that such regulation should vest with

  1. The more difficult question is the choice between regulation
  2. The decision requires numerous inputs from scientific organizations, regulatory institutions, public policy experts and civil society
  3. Since a court of law does not have in-house expertise in these domains, it should leave such matters to the executive
  4. The Supreme Court delivered its arguments in the broader framework of the “right to breathe clean air” and the “right to health”
  5. But it went about dismissing the commercial considerations of the firecracker industry.
  6. These considerations could have equally been framed in terms of the right to livelihoods of thousands who depend heavily on the sale of firecrackers during Diwali

Possible harm to the credibility of the SC

  1. Bans are rarely effective
  2. It is difficult to imagine that no firecracker sale will happen in the entire territory of Delhi and NCR as a result of the SC order
  3. If the police fail to enforce the order, the credibility of the SC, particularly in cases of environmental regulation, will suffer immensely

Dealing of this matter by the SC

  1. The manner in which the SC has dealt with this particular case also raises a number of concerns
  2. It first passed an order on 11 November 2016 (after Diwali) banning the sale of firecrackers
  3. Then it partially lifted the ban on 12 September 2017
  4. To make matters worse, the court has ordered suspension of all the temporary licences issued after its 12 September 2017 verdict which allowed the grant of these licences

These kind of issues are not new

  1. In an earlier instance, the SC had increased the entry tax on trucks entering Delhi without factoring in the demand elasticity of goods (carried in those trucks) transported to Delhi

The way forward

  1. The elected government is in the best position to elicit scientific and economic inputs and take a call, even if it involves expending political capital
  2. The governments at the Centre and the states should involve different agencies like the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation and the pollution control boards and invest in setting regulatory standards
  3. This can solve environment issues, better than Judiciary
Air Pollution

Simply put: How firecrackers work, impact your health

Image source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Central Pollution Control Board, Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA), Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), Yanshui Festival, Guy Fawkes Night

Mains level: Air pollution and various aspects related to it


  1. Citing toxins in the air, Supreme Court has banned the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR this Diwali
  2. In November 2016, as a great smog enveloped Delhi for days after Diwali, the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) told the Supreme Court that the capital’s terrible air quality had been “compounded” by the burning of firecrackers

Document available for impact of fireworks

  1. The only official document on the ‘known health impact’ of fireworks is a compilation of findings of surveys, put together by Central Pollution Control Board
  2. This was also done after the court ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, to study the harmful effects of firecrackers following the EPCA’s submission
  3. The CPCB did not carry out the detailed study that the Supreme Court asked for
  4. Why? It said the competence lay with the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), the explosives regulator under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Existing guidelines

  1. The CPCB affidavit refers to four types of explosive firecrackers — atom bombs, Chinese crackers, garland crackers and maroons — for which guidelines exist
  2. According to these guidelines, the sulphur content must not exceed 20%, nitrates 57%, and aluminium powder contents, 24%
  3. The guidelines were silent on heavy metals such as cobalt, copper and magnesium, extremely toxic compounds of which are widely used as colouring or regulating agents
  4. In July 2016, the Supreme Court ordered that “no firecrackers manufactured by the respondents shall contain antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead”

How firecrackers impact health

  1. Studies in Europe, Canada and China have found links between increases in the concentration of fireworks, and variations in air quality
  2. Most of these studies have focused on festivals such as the Yanshui Festival in Taiwan, Montreal International Fireworks competition, Lantern Festival in Beijing, Guy Fawkes Night in the UK, etc
  3. According to 2014 study, ‘Potential Impact of Fireworks on Respiratory Health’, in Lung India, “Adults exposed to high levels of ambient air pollution have shown increased prevalence of chronic cough, phlegm, and breathlessness and are, therefore, at an increased risk of developing respiratory symptoms, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, allergic rhinitis, lower respiratory tract infections, and lung cancers.”
  4. A 2007 study, ‘Recreational Atmospheric Pollution Episodes: Inhalable Metalliferous Particles from Firework Displays’, had found that children were susceptible in particular since their defenses against particulate matter and other gaseous air pollutants were weaker


Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO)

  1. The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) formerly Department of Explosives, Nagpur is the nodal Organization to look after safety requirements in manufacture, storage, transport and use of explosives and petroleum
  2. This Organisation comes under, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Government of India
  3. As a statutory authority, PESO is entrusted with the responsibilities under the Explosives Act, 1884; Petroleum Act, 1934; Inflammable Substances Act, 1952, Environment (Protection Act), 1986

Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA)

  1. It is a Central Government constituted committee for the National Capital Region in compliance with the Supreme Court order dated January 7, 199893
  2. It was constituted under subsection (1) and (3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 by MoEFCC
  3. This authority was constituted with sole objective of assisting SC for protecting and improving the quality of environment and preventing, controlling and abating air pollution in Delhi NCR
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Don’t ban, say noop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms & institutions

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Air pollution and factors related to it

Mains level: Efforts being done by government, society to reduce air pollution and their outcomes, way forward


  1. The Supreme Court has put its weight behind the 2016 ban on the sale of fireworks in Delhi-NCR
  2. This was imposed in response to an unusual plea filed by children affected by air pollution

Is ban a right step?

  1. A ban is an inefficient instrument
  2. Aimed at restricting a celebration, the ban on firecrackers may alienate people who were otherwise receptive to the idea of giving up or cutting down on the fireworks
  3. Besides, it would have the predictable effect of driving sales underground at inflated prices

Effect on Supreme court’s authority

  1. A Supreme Court ban which cannot be implemented in spirit would have the unfortunate effect of undermining the authority of the apex court in the eyes of the people

Other factors

  1. While the court has admitted that other factors like stubble burning contribute to the disastrous air quality of Delhi, the focus on fireworks makes its response seem unequal
  2. Livelihoods will be harmed by the court’s order

Judicial overreach?

  1. Matters of policy and implementation are ideally left to the legislature and executive
  2. The court has a moral obligation to step in if they are in complete dereliction of their duty to the people
  3. Since governments and society itself have shown an inclination to stop polluting practices, the last resort has been unnecessarily invoked

What court should have done?

  1. The Supreme Court could have urged government to intensify its efforts to influence the public will, and the process could have played out under its cautionary eye
  2. That would have been a better solution than to impose a ban which may be observed more in the breach
Air Pollution

India’s greenhouse gas emissions up by 4.7% in 2016


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Green House Gases, Non-green house gases.

Mains level: The article comprehensively shows the recent data on green house gas emissions, not only for India but also for the rest of the world.


Report by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

  1. According to the report, trends in global CO2 and total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions show that India’s emissions have gone up by 4.7% in 2016
  2. For most major GHG emitters in the world, the emission figures have gone down, barring India and Indonesia
  3. The report’s data is based on the Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) produced by the European Union

What about other GHG emitters?

  1. The report shows that emissions in the U.S. saw a fall of 2%, the Russian Federation 2.1%, Brazil 6.1%, China 0.3%, and, the United Kingdom 6.4%

Non-CO2 emissions

  1. In 2016, the five largest emitting countries and the European Union accounted for 68% of total global CO2 emissions and about 63% of total global GHG emissions
  2. Most of the emissions consist of CO2, about 72%
  3. But methane , nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases also make up substantial shares of 19%, 6% and 3%, respectively
  4. The combined share of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions is about 28% in total GHG emissions, but it varies for the largest countries:
    (a) 11% for Japan
    (b) 31% for India
    (c) 20% for China
    (d) 23% for the US
    (e) 25% for Russia
Air Pollution

HC asks Delhi, neighbouring states to implement ban on burning of crop residue


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Not Much

Mains level: It is a serious issue causing pollution. These kind of issues are specially mention in the Mains syllabus.


Direction from Delhi High Court

  1. Court has directed the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and the NCR of Delhi
  2. Why: to implement notifications and directions issued under the Air Pollution Act to ban burning of crop residues
  3. The Court recognised the need for companies and industries to comply with their corporate social responsibility towards curbing air pollution
  4. The Court directed that orders must be issued to these entities to collect crop residue from fields of farmers by providing them money as consideration for lifting the agricultural residue

It is Suo Motu Action by the HC

  1. In response to alarming air pollution levels in the NCR, the Delhi HC had taken up the matter suo motu (on its own motion) in August this year
Air Pollution

Pollution watchdog issues guidelines to manage odour at urban solid waste landfills

Image result for solid waste management

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

How effective was demonetisation as a policy, in achieving its stated goals? Critically examine.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Demonetisation implications


  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issues detailed guidelines for proper monitoring and management of odour at urban municipal solid waste landfills

Solid waste management

  1.  As per official estimates, at present around 62 million tonnes of solid waste is generated every year and it is expected to reach 165 million tonnes in 2030.
  2. Of the 62 million, only 43 million tonnes is collected and only 12 millions tonnes is treated
  3. The Solid waste Management Rules 2016, identified odour as a public nuisance.
  4. Odour regulation” is still in nascent stage in India. Odorous compounds may have a direct effect on human health. It generally leads to vomiting, headaches, nausea etc


  1. It suggested a green belt around landfill sites and advocated for selection of “appropriate plant species for vegetation cover” to assist in reducing odours.
  2. MSW Landfill system be designed for tapping LFG (landfill gases) efficiently to mitigate fugitive odorous emissions
  3. The guidelines also batted for initiating legislative norms for creating baseline data on odour
  4. Need for gradual shift for installation of Continuous Odour Measurement Systems (sensor based)  for getting real-time data.
  5. It also outlined challenges to odour monitoring like lack of source-based database on odour levels, low awareness on odour (public nuisance) and lack of legislative obligations
  6. It stated that the selection and number of landfill sites for a city should be based on factors like requirement of land for the disposal site by considering the present population and projected growth over the next 20 years at least.
  7. Other factors include whether the selected site is free from the influence of other odorous sources and the topography of the site (slope, proximity to water sources like river and natural springs).
  8. Selection of landfill site should be integrated with the urban development planning so that even expansions of city in next two or three decades are not encompassing the selected MSW site
  9.  Guidelines have been prepared keeping in view the various mandatory and statutory provisions and the climatic conditions that accelerate biodegradation of organic wastes
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] It’s time to focus on the toxic air we breatheop-ed snap

Image result for National energy policy

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Op-ed discusses about the draft National Energy Policy and its shortcomings.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

Critically examine the features of  Niti Aayog’s draft National Energy Policy?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Air pollutants, National ambient air quality Index

Mains level: Features of National Energy Policy



  1. Niti Aayog released the draft National Energy Policy.
  2. Several public policy research and civil society organisations criticised the policy from various standpoints.

Public health and growth

  1. It ignores is public health, especially in the context of the energy mix envisaged under the NITI Ambition Scenario
    • Ambition Scenario is a tool to arrive at a range of possible energy futures for the energy sector till 2040.
  1. National Health Policy of 2017 views reducing air pollution as vital to India’s health trajectory.
  2. However, the National Energy Policy neither reflects nor supports the commitment outlined by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Ministry

Air pollution menace

  1. WHO reports that air pollution is the number one environmental health risk. In 2012, about 3 million premature deaths were attributable to ambient air pollution.
  2. Children are most affected by air pollution and will be the primary beneficiaries of policies to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
  3. Research has also established links between public health and a nation’s economic growth.
  4. The estimated cost of ambient air pollution in terms of the value of lives lost and ill health in OECD countries, India and China is more than $3.5 trillion annually.
  5. Joint study by the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that the aggregate cost of premature deaths due to air pollution was more than $5 trillion worldwide in 2013 alone.
  6. In East and South Asia, welfare losses related to air pollution were about 7.5% of GDP.


WHO’s  Health Indicators of Sustainable Energy

  1. It lays out a few core and expanded indicators that can help monitor the progress of a nation’s energy policy.
  2. The core indicators address issues related to health equity where health impact assessments become an integral part of energy policy design and implementation.
  3. It stress on the need to develop baseline data by generating emission inventories and source apportionment of urban air pollution that can inform mitigation and intervention policies.

Way forward

  1. National Energy Policy have to strive to minimise the unavoidable health impacts of energy production, and their associated health costs, especially given the policy’s stated objectives of sustainability and economic growth.
  2. It should include a health impact assessment framework to weigh the health hazards and health costs associated with the entire life cycle of existing and future energy projects and technologies
  3. Ensure that policies directed at energy security are compatible with public health goals.
Air Pollution

5 chemicals banned in firecrackers

Image Source


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims Level: Effects of using prohibited chemicals

Mains Level: This SC order is more important because it is related to environment degradation, a hot topic these days.


Prohibition of toxic chemicals

  1. The Supreme Court has prohibited the use of five chemicals, in the manufacture of firecrackers
  2. These chemicals are labelled as toxic by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
  3. Prohibited Chemicals: antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead
Air Pollution

IIT team tracks brown carbon’s effect on atmospheric warming

  1. Source: Study by a team of researchers from IIT Kanpur
  2. Finding: The effect of biomass burning in increasing atmospheric aerosols and in turn atmospheric warming through light absorption
  3. The role of black carbon produced by biomass burning in increasing atmospheric warming is already known
  4. Brown carbon: This study highlights the lesser-known role of brown carbon
  5. Though brown carbon is 10 times more than black carbon in terms of mass, the absorption capacity of black carbon is 50 times more than brown carbon
  6. The study was conducted in Kanpur and can be extended to the entire Indo-Gangetic Plain because the sources of aerosol are the same
Air Pollution

Air pollution: NGT directs setting up of monitoring panels

  1. What: NGT passed a slew of directions including setting up of centralised and state level monitoring committees
  2. Purpose: To prepare action plans to combat pollution
  3. It also asked 4 northern states to consider banning old diesel vehicles, in a bid to tackle environment emergencies
  4. The NGT directed that every state committee should, in their first meeting, notify one district where land use of agriculture is high
  5. It should then be made a model district for implementing orders to stop stubble burning
  6. It came down heavily on states for not taking action against farmers burning farm residues
  7. And asked them, particularly Punjab, to consider withdrawal of incentive including grant of free power to farmers burning crops
  8. It said that providing breathable air to citizens is the “constitutional” obligation of the state governments
Air Pollution

India overtook China in number of deaths due to pollution: Report

  1. Source: Greenpeace India report
  2. Findings: India had more people dying every day as a result of outdoor air pollution in 2015 than China – a first since 1990
  3. India had 3,283 premature deaths due to ambient air pollution every day, as opposed to China’s 3,233 per day
  4. The number of deaths per day due to air pollution in India has risen from 2,139 per day in 1990 to 3,238 in 2015
  5. After toxic levels of particulate matter between 2005 and 2011, China implemented some harsh measures to curb air pollution
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] The arhar solution to pollutionop-ed snap

  1. Context: Pusa Arhar 16 has the potential to be grown in the paddy-growing regions of India, with yield greater than those of the existing varieties
  2. Its uniform size will make it amenable to mechanical harvesting
  3. Advantages over paddy: Arhar straw, unlike paddy straw, is green and can be ploughed back into soil
  4. Paddy straw has high silica content, which does not allow for easy decomposition
  5. Social Benefits: Pulses will use less fertiliser, less water, fewer emissions, and will replenish the soil with nitrogen unlike paddy which depletes the soil
  6. However, because of guaranteed MSPs in paddy, it is less risky to grow than pulses
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Persisting smog-reasons and measures to be takenop-ed snap

  1. Two-pronged approach needed: policy changes to help farmers stop burning crop waste and tackle problems created by urbanization
  2. Role of farmers: Farmers not at fault for trying to remove waste from land, they need help
  3. In northwestern States, they resort to burning straw to prepare for a wheat crop weeks after harvesting rice
  4. Indian Agricultural Research Institute’s report: emphasis on converting paddy straw into livestock feed, compost, raw material for power generation, biofuel production and as substrate for mushroom farming
  5. State support needed: for straw to be used as fodder, farmers should be assisted with supplemental stocks of urea and molasses, green fodder and legume waste
  6. State-guided modernisation programme needed: pave all roads well to curb dust, show zero tolerance to civic agencies leaving exposed mud after executing projects
  7. Clean transport sector- bus fleet should be augmented, preferably doubled, with modern high-capacity zero emission electric vehicles
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] India has 13 of the 20 most polluted cities of the world-WHO IIop-ed snap

  1. Financial efforts: Adopt new technologies that cut down on harmful emissions, rural women should be compensated for switching to cleaner-burning cook stoves
  2. Farmers who now burn agricultural stubble need both financial and technical help to instead gather up that waste and convert it to energy
  3. Build new coal-fired power plants, use less-expensive solar power
  4. India’s advantages over China: Independent courts, free media, thriving environmental watchdogs
  5. India is at an earlier stage of development, it has a chance to avoid some of the mistakes its larger neighbour made
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] India has 13 of the 20 most polluted cities of the world-WHO Iop-ed snap

  1. Context: India’s air has become unbreathable. Urgent action is needed to cleanse Indian skies
  2. Measures: Government has agreed to speed the adoption of tougher vehicle emissions standards, making them mandatory by 2020
  3. SC has doubled the fees for commercial trucks entering Delhi, Capital’s taxis ordered to switch from highly polluting diesel to compressed natural gas
  4. Bans on burning garbage and agricultural waste, fines levied for spreading construction dust
  5. Efforts needed: Rethink existing car-centric policies, more investment needed in buses and commuter rail lines
  6. To make driving more expensive, cities should raise parking fees, impose traffic-congestion charges and even institute an auction system like Singapore’s that imposes a cost on every car
  7. Urban areas need more walking and cycling paths, encourage shift of freight from roads to railways and waterways
  8. Construction companies that fail to minimize dust levels should be fined aggressively, cities need to invest in vacuum sweepers to clean roads frequently
  9. Where possible, streets should be paved “wall to wall,” eliminating dusty and debris-filled roadsides
Air Pollution

2 billion children breathe toxic air worldwide, UNICEF says II

  1. Measures to reduce pollution: New Delhi has barred cargo trucks from city streets
  2. Required drivers to buy newer cars that meet higher emissions standards
  3. Carried out several weeks of experimental traffic control, limiting the number of cars on the road
  4. But other pollution sources including construction dust and cooking fires fueled by wood or kerosene continue unabated
  5. It launched a smartphone application called “Change the Air” inviting residents to send photos and complaints about illegal pollution sources
Air Pollution

2 billion children breathe toxic air worldwide, UNICEF says I

  1. Source: A new report from UNICEF
  2. Finding: Most of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries
  3. Result: They risk serious health effects including damage to their lungs, brains and other organs
  4. New Delhi’s air pollution spikes every winter because of the season’s weak winds and countless garbage fires set alight to help people stay warm
  5. Children breathe twice as quickly, taking in more air in relation to their body weight
  6. Also, their brains and immune systems are still developing and vulnerable
Air Pollution

Pollution cloud hangs over northern cities after Deepavali

  1. What: Cities in northern India were choked by particulate matter pollution due to Deepavali
  2. Locations: The Air Quality Index (AQI) reading for Agra was 384, Ahmedabad 385, and Faridabad and Delhi the worst, at 428 and 445
  3. An AQI of 100 is the limit for good air quality
  4. Safe cities: Bengaluru, Chennai and Mumbai were in the ‘moderate’ to ‘satisfactory’ category, similar to last year’s Deepavali
  5. Other reasons: The AQI has also deteriorated from October 27 in northern cities due to an ‘anticyclone’ effect
Air Pollution

Lung friendly: Palampur to set the standards for air quality

  1. Event: The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), a CSIR organisation, has set up instruments in Palampur
  2. Issue: They will measure atmospheric levels of a wide range of pollutants including ozone, nitrous oxides, ammonia and particulate matter.
  3. NPL: It is best known for the being the repository of physical standards such as the kilogram, second and the centimetre
  4. Result: With this, Palampur, a hill station in Himachal Pradesh may soon set the bar for clean air in India
Air Pollution

Burning of municipal waste discolouring Taj Mahal?

  1. Issue: Burning of municipal solid waste in the vicinity of the iconic Taj Mahal is significantly contributing to the discolouring of the world heritage monument.
  2. Airborne particulate matter in cities poses a range of problems, including degradation in air quality leading to health concerns and also the discolouration of ancient buildings.
  3. Other steps taken in Agra to protect the Taj Mahal: restricting vehicles near the complex, requiring iron foundries to install scrubbers and filters on their smokestacks;
  4. Prohibiting new polluting enterprises from being built in buffer zone around the mausoleum, and — most recently — banning the burning of cow dung cake as cooking fuel.
Air Pollution

Bulk of Delhi’s pollution comes from neighbouring States

  1. Source: An analysis of Delhi’s air pollution and future trends by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a CSIR body
  2. 60% of Delhi’s particulate matter pollution comes from neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh
  3. Moreover, even if Delhi were to adopt the cleanest-grade fuel available, ensure that power plants in the vicinity adopt stringent emissions and ensure tidy pavements, pollution would persist well above globally-recommended safe levels, unless neighbouring states too adopted similarly stringent policies
  4. Even if Delhi’s neighbours were to cooperate, it would at best halve Delhi’s pollution and still be short of the government-ideal of 40 microgram/cubic metre
  5. Why? This is because of Delhi’s geographical location and land-use pattern are such that a fixed mass of PM will persist
  6. Delhi’s PM pollution hovers between 300 and 900 microgram/cubic metre, depending on the weather
  7. Transport sector contributed nearly a fifth of the PM 2.5
Air Pollution

Delhi tops most polluted megacity list, says WHO

  1. Source: World Health Organization (WHO)
  2. Delhi’s air is the worst among world megacities
  3. IndiaSpend‘s #breathe network of air-quality sensors reported PM2.5 levels were almost four times above daily safe levels, on average, for the seven-day period from September 22 to 28, 2016
  4. For long-term exposure, these 24-hour levels are nearly 11 times above the WHO health standards
  5. Over the monsoons, Delhi’s air was relatively cleaner because the rain and wind diminished the impact of pollutants
  6. But with the season changing, three of five sensors in the National Capital Region (NCR) registered ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ air-quality levels
  7. In December 2015, week-long analysis of data from #breathe devices showed Delhi’s air pollution was one-and-a-half times worse than in Beijing
Air Pollution

41 Indian cities have bad air quality, CPCB survey finds

  1. In 2015, 41 Indian cities with a million-plus population faced bad air quality in nearly 60% of the total days monitored
  2. Context: A latest analysis released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
  3. Coimbatore and Rajkot had highest number of good quality days, while Varanasi, Gwalior and Allahabad didn’t have even one good air quality day among all the days when their air quality was monitored
  4. Good day: Days wherein all monitored parameters like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter are within the prescribed norms
Air Pollution

IEA report on energy and air pollution – implications for India

  1. Current: Less than 1% of India’s population lives in areas that meet World Health Organisation air quality guidelines
  2. Future: If stringent air pollution regulations are in place, this could increase to almost 10% by 2040, as per the International Energy Agency (IEA)
  3. Scenario: Housing over 16% of the world’s population but using only 6% of energy, India’s energy use is bound to rise
  4. India is taking important steps to tackle air pollution with policies that are in place and those that have been announced, but much more can be done
Air Pollution

IEA report on energy and air pollution – Clean air scenario

  1. Clean air scenario, involving three key areas of stronger action
  2. First, set an ambitious long-term WHO-benchmarked air quality goal
  3. Second, a clean AIR strategy for the energy sector: Avoid pollutant emissions, Innovate to reduce pollution abatement costs and Reduce emissions
  4. Third, it calls for effective monitoring, enforcement, evaluation and communication using reliable data
  5. The scenario could cut down PM2.5 emissions by almost 80% relative to the existing policies scenario, NOx emissions by half and SO2 emissions by 70%
  6. This will also lower average life expectancy loss by 8 months compared to the existing policy scenario and cut premature deaths linked to outdoor and household air pollution
Air Pollution

IEA report on energy and air pollution

  1. News: The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released the ‘Energy and Air Pollution, World Energy Outlook Special Report’
  2. 2 scenarios: The report assesses the role of energy in air pollution and makes emissions projections for 2040 based on two scenarios
  3. The existing policy scenario includes policies adopted or announced by the government- the clean air scenario highlights what could be achieved through stronger action
  4. 3 big pollutants: NOx (nitrates – transport), SO2 (sulfates – power sector) and PM2.5 (particulate matter – residential)
  5. Without policy efforts, sulfates and particulates would roughly double by 2040 and nitrates would grow almost 2.5 times
Air Pollution

IEA report on air pollution

  1. Context: A report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found that air pollution has become a major public health crisis
  2. It leads to around 6.5 million deaths each year
  3. Reiterated to need to work with new emerging energy economies (China and India) who are emerging as major energy consumers and polluters
  4. Proposal of low-cost actions that could make major strides in reducing pollution over the next 25 years
  5. Includes adopting more ambitious clean air standards and more effective policies for monitoring and enforcement
  6. IEA: Was founded in response to the Arab oil embargo in 1973 to coordinate international responses to energy issues
  7. Agency has 29 wealthy, industrialized countries as members
Air Pollution

New PCB data on air pollution less scary

  1. Context: The Ambient Air Quality monitoring report by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB)
  2. Report: Two of the major air pollution parameters, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide were well within the permissible limits in the State during the past five years
  3. Also the Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter of sizes between 2.5 micron and 10 micron recorded a dip in 2015
  4. It is contrary to perception that pollution is going up in state
  5. Earlier: NGT has banned diesel vehicle with the capacity of 2000 cc, whether light or heavy, which are more than 10 years old within Kerala
  6. Nitrogen dioxide is emitted by vehicles and sulphur dioxide by industries
Air Pollution

Delhi not ‘most polluted’, but dirty air fouls many cities

  1. Context: The latest ‘Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database (update 2016) released by WHO
  2. Delhi has improved its ranked in terms of most polluted city and Delhi’s place as most polluted is taken by Zabol in Iran
  3. Delhi stands 11th among 3000 cities of 103 countries in terms of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and 25th in terms of bigger particulate matter (PM 10)
  4. Earlier: In 2014, Delhi was ranked as most polluted city in terms of PM 2.5
  5. Four cities of India are among the 10 world’s most polluted cities- Gwalior (2nd), Allahabad (3rd), Patna (6th), Raipur (7th)
Air Pollution

Emissions lower, but dust pollution up, finds study

  1. Context: Study on air quality by SAFAR
  2. The level of harmful dust particles is more than previous year
  3. Emission from all sources have reduced in Delhi
  4. The harmful fine particulate matter level has increased
  5. The levels of dangerous ozone gas are found to be less
  6. SAFAR: air quality analysis station by the Union Ministry of Earth Science
Air Pollution

Odd-even 2.0 findings to decide scheme’s future

  1. News: Delhi govt, on the basis of scientific data and public opinion, will decide whether the odd-even scheme will be institutionalized
  2. How? Govt. will do assessment of traffic congestion and pollution levels between April 15 and April 30
  3. Focus: The air quality challenge will be posed by ozone and nitrogen dioxide, which are the main pollutants during summer months
  4. Challenge: The Capital’s transport infrastructure requires a complete overhaul for this to become a reality
  5. The January version of the odd-even scheme had only managed to bring down congestion on city roads
Air Pollution

Ban on 2,000 cc diesel vehicles in NCR to continueSC Judgements

  1. Context: The rising air pollution in Delhi
  2. Background: In Dec 2015, Supreme Court had imposed a ban that was effective till March 31, 2016
  3. News: The SC has decided to continue the ban on registration of diesel vehicles with engine capacity of 2,000 cc and above in the NCR
  4. Future: The court would consider whether to impose an environmental cess on the sale of diesel cars in New Delhi
Air Pollution

India’s pollution levels beat China’s: study

  1. Context: Rising air pollution in India and China
  2. News: Greenpeace analysed NASA’s satellite data of particulate matter from 2003 to 2015 in India and China
  3. Basis: The study looked at the aerosol optical depth, which is the amount of fine solid particles and liquid droplets in air
  4. Report: The average Indian was exposed to more particulate matter than the average Chinese citizen in 2015
  5. The levels in India have increased over the years, North India being the most polluted
  6. Model: China implemented a national air pollution action plan in 2013 that included stricter emission norms for coal-based power plants and industries and greater enforcement of standards
Air Pollution

Don’t wait for 10 years like China: environmentalists

  1. Context: India’s air pollution problem, especially in metropolitan cities
  2. Experts: Environmentalists who worked on China’s successful pollution control measures offered their learnings
  3. Proposal: India should put in place the regional and national level action plans quickly
  4. Challenge: The measures restricted to Delhi can not have any substantial impact on the air quality
Air Pollution

Delhi’s air not worst in India: CPCB data

  1. CPCB has published air quality indices (AQI) for 24 cities across India for the month of January
  2. The reports suggests that in January, while air quality indices in Varanasi, UP and Muzaffarpur, Bihar had ‘severe’ values of 409, Delhi scored a ‘very poor’ with 362
  3. Faridabad was worse with an AQI values of 399
  4. Bengaluru, Haldia and Panchkula are the only three cities out that had moderate air quality during the period
Air Pollution

Govt aid helps car makers go green and cheap to fight smog crisis

  1. Car makers are gearing up to launch affordable hybrid and electric cars for India in the next few years.
  2. They are lured by govt incentives for fuel-efficient vehicles as India accelerates efforts to cut worsening air pollution.
  3. FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric cars) was launched last year & offers concessions of up toRs.1,38,000 on the sale of Hybrid cars.
  4. Meanwhile, Maruti has already invested in developing a low-cost version of hybrid technology, irrespective of government incentives.
Air Pollution

Begin with a rigorous studyop-ed snap

Delhi’s odd-even trial was brave, but policy needs good research at design stage.

  1. Good evidence on the impact of any public policy requires a willingness to experiment, quality data, and a rigorous study design.
  2. That can identify what changes can be attributed to the policy alone.
  3. The sources of pollution in Delhi are varied, and so will be the solutions.
  4. Odd-even policy is a clear departure from how policymakers have sought to tackle worsening pollution.
  5. However, it reflects only one of the potential policy innovations.
  6. That need to be carefully designed, piloted and evaluated for impact as well as the costs imposed, until there’s a sustained improvement in Delhi’s air quality.
Air Pollution

Public reluctant to drop diesel for CNG: Centre

  1. The Centre remained non-committal on phase out of old diesel fleet to cut air pollution.
  2. It blamed the common man’s reluctance to dump diesel for CNG fuel.
  3. Govt. pointed out that already 32% of total CNG stock in the Capital were not utilised by the public.
  4. The lack of interest may be due to the increased VAT charged, making diesel cheaper than CNG.
  5. The court is looking at various measures to solve roadblocks to implement a more effective and accessible public transport system in Delhi and the outskirts.
Air Pollution

Clearing the airop-ed snap

China has declared war on air pollution. India needs to resume a long-detailed discussion on air quality.

  1. China has acknowledged that environmental problems have hit crisis levels, and its growth model would have to be adjusted to account for the alarming degradation of air and water quality.
  2. India could also do with a renewed focus on air pollution but official response is one of denial questioning the methodology of various studies.
  3. Yale Environmental Performance Index ranked India a dismal 174 (out of 178) on air quality, the official response was, predictably, to question its methodology
  4. India’s own Central Pollution Control Board in 2011 found that nearly all cities were in violation of national standards for respirable particulate matter.
  5. Health costs of such pollution is huge with one even suggesting that air pollution is the fifth-largest killer in India and another estimating a loss of 3.3 years from life expectancy at birth.
  6. Paralysing confrontation has been set up between environmental concerns and growth, a false choice that has hurt both growth prospects and the vital project to protect the environment.
  7. The environment debate needs to explore the opportunities that are created when industry is greened and growing incomes open up spaces for the adoption of more eco-friendly policies.
Air Pollution

Is govt not a polluter, asks SC

  1. The SC bench asks Centre why its fleet of ageing diesel vehicles should not be scrapped.
  2. Govt. should join forces with the citizen who is forgoing his personal comfort to fight pollution in the National Capital.
  3. The apex court asked why the government apparatus required differential treatment from the citizen.
Air Pollution

Cars not the biggest polluters

  1. According to a IIT Kanpur study, road dust contribute a far greater share of the city’s air pollution.
  2. Road dust contributed 56% of all PM10 pollution while it was 38% for PM2.5.
  3. It is relatively hard to tackle dust because of Delhi’s geographic location and propensity to dust from the Thar desert.
  4. Also, the winter air traps dust along with a host of other airborne pollutant.
  5. The lack of larger policy to contain road-side construction and the regular cleaning of roads is also a major cause.
Air Pollution

Women, bikers out of Delhi’s odd-even formula

Delhi government has released the blueprint for its odd-even vehicle formula, which comes into force from Jan 1 for a 15-day trial.

This is India’s first attempt at controlling air pollution by disallowing vehicles with odd and even registration plates to ply on roads on alternate days.

Who are all exempted?

  • 2-wheelers and cars driven by women.
  • Vehicles that are run on compressed natural gas (CNG).
  • Vehicles of very important persons (VIPs), and those carrying differently-abled people.
  • Ambulances, fire brigade, hospital, prison and hearse vehicles.
Air Pollution

More Chinese cities issue red alerts for heavy smog

More Chinese cities are issuing their first red alerts for pollution in response to forecasts of heavy smog.

  1. Shandong province in eastern China issued alerts in 4 cities after warning that the density of particulate matter in the air would exceed high levels for more than 24 hours.
  2. China’s air pollution is notorious after 3 decades of breakneck economic growth.
  3. Beijing issued its first two red alerts in December under a 4-tier warning system that has been in place for two years.
  4. Environmental authorities said that their forecasting model must predict 3 or more days of smog at particular levels on the city’s air quality index.
Air Pollution

Once again, it’s SC cracking down to clean up air

Ban on registration of over 2000 cc diesel vehicles until March 31.

  1. SC has banned the registration of all diesel SUVs and luxury cars in the entire NCR of Delhi.
  2. The SC ruling aims at curbing the alarming pollution level in Delhi.
  3. Trucks carrying goods for Delhi will have to shell out a steep environment compensation charge (ECC).
  4. These diesel vehicles produce much more carcinogenic nitrogen oxide than petrol cars and are one main source of Particulate Matters.
Air Pollution

Premature deaths due to air pollution

India second highest in premature deaths caused by outdoor air pollution, with 1.35 million deaths annually.

  1. In 2010, the rate was 0.65 million in India and the overall rate in the world was 3.3 million.
  2. China has the highest numbers with the premature deaths.
  3. Major reasons? Residential energy used for heating and cooking. Power generation causing nearly 90,000 deaths in 2010.
  4. At 42,000, industry and biomass burning caused equal number of deaths, followed by 30,000 deaths from land traffic in India.
Air Pollution

Paris car ban imposed after pollution hits high

  1. Only motorists with odd-numbered number plates were allowed to drive.
  2. Public transport was made free of charge for three days in an attempt to encourage people to leave their cars at home.
  3. The capital’s air quality has been one of the worst on record, rivalling the Chinese capital, Beijing, one of the world’s most polluted cities.
  4. PM10 particulates are emitted by vehicles, heating systems and heavy industry. They crossed their safe limit of 80 microgrammes.
Air Pollution

CPCB officials stress need for uniform air quality data

India now grades air quality along a colour-coded chart based on pollutant levels.

  1. The new National Air Quality Index measures – PM2.5, PM10, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide.
  2. Officials warned that the quality of new monitoring stations was mixed across the country – This augurs bad for such a comprehensive move.
  3. 12 Indian cities were among the WHO list of the world’s worst 20 for air quality.
  4. Also, India does not yet have a mechanism in place to bring down peak pollution levels.

On the morning of 29 November, Beijing woke up to air pollution levels not seen in over a year. The city’s government immediately issued an alert and ordered factories to stop or reduce production.


The same morning, Delhi woke up to pollution levels much higher than Beijing’s.

And it hosted the Delhi half marathon.

In the name of health awareness, the runners breathed air laced with pollutants exponentially beyond safe levels. And they inhaled 10-20 times as much air as a sedentary person does.

In sharp contrast, the embassies of Norway and the United States have taken urgent steps to safeguard their personnel. While Norwegian officials are set to get “hardship pay” for working in New Delhi, the US embassy’s school has cancelled outdoor activities for its students.

The stark difference in attitudes, perhaps, is because most Delhiites know little about how exactly the city’s air is killing them. Slowly. Daily.

The government has largely failed to make people aware of how the pollution affects them, what the main pollutants are, what precautions they should take, the types of masks they should wear, and suchlike.

It only dumps air pollution data on a rather glib website, on a page full of numbers and technical terms befitting a chemistry textbook.

There is no air warning system in Delhi that could alert citizens, shut down schools and prohibit outdoor activity when pollution reaches hazardous levels.

Most of all, though, the residents should know what exactly makes Delhi’s air so toxic. Even if you know what it is – the toxin is called PM 2.5 – there is no easy way to know how harmful it is.

So, here’s a primer.

Why are we talking about PM2.5?

Delhi’s air is not polluted as much with poisonous gases as it’s with really tiny particles known as PM2.5. And its levels are consistently 16-20 times higher than the prescribed standard. At the time of the half marathon, it was 48 times the limit.

Greenpeace recently found that even inside Delhi’s classrooms, PM2.5 levels were 11 times the limit.

What is PM2.5?

PM stands for particulate matter, while the number refers to the size of the particles. So, PM2.5 is like extremely fine dust whose particles are just 2.5 microns wide — that’s thirty times smaller than the width of a human hair.
The tiny size makes it harder to prevent PM2.5 from getting into the body, making it deadlier.

What exactly is PM2.5 made up of?

There is no easy answer to this since the toxin is identified more by its size than what it contains. It could be a variety of solid or liquid chemicals.

According to the United States’ Environment Protection Agency, a PM2.5 particle, depending on where it’s emitted from, could contain compounds of any of these four materials:

Carbon – from cars, trucks, waste burning
Nitrate – from cars, trucks, thermal power generation
Sulphate – from thermal power generation
Crustal – suspended soil and metals
While individual particles obviously can’t be seen without special equipment, large amounts are visible as haze or smog.

Why is PM2.5 bad?

  1. Being tiny, these particles easily reach the lungs. From there, they can travel through the bloodstream and reach the heart.
  2. Long exposure to PM2.5 can worsen asthma and heart conditions. They also cause runny nose, sneezing and coughing.
  3. 5 coming from diesel vehicles contains carbon and is a carcinogenic.
  4. It can also cause other heart and lung diseases, or make them worse.
  5. It slow down development of lungs in children and can leave them with reduced lung function for the rest of their lives, according to the WHO.
  6. Illnesses caused by PM2.5 kill at least 3.1 million people a year across the world.
  7. The WHO estimates that exposure to PM2.5 reduces a person’s life expectancy by an average of 8.6 months.

How much of PM2.5 is safe?

The WHO says there is no safe level, PM2.5 is harmful in any amount. Still, there are standards on how much PM2.5 is too much.
As per the WHO’s own standards, the average PM2.5 levels should not exceed 10 mg per cubic metre in one year.
In one day, it should be under 25. Indian safety limits, however, are more relaxed – at 60.
WHO says PM2.5 level mustn’t exceed 25 mg/cubic metre. Yet, India has relaxed the limit to 60

What’s the best protection from PM2.5?

  1. Protecting yourself from PM2.5 doesn’t require gas masks, but cotton masks that can block very fine particles.
  2. It is recommended to use an N-95 mask, the same one used to protect against the H1N1 virus.
  3. Unfortunately, planting more trees does nothing to solve the problem.
  4. Since PM2.5 are particles and not gases, they can’t be processed by the leaves.
  5. In fact, a high tree density can make the exposure worse because the extra moisture in the air would trap the particles instead of letting them fly away with the wind.
  6. The only way to cut down PM2.5 levels is to stop it at the source – cars, factories, waste burning, thermal power plants. Until then, strap on the N-95s.

Only way to reduce PM2.5 is to stop it at source – cars, factories, waste burning, thermal plants


Source - CatchNews | Pic - Vox-cdn

Everything that you want to know on Delhi’s Odd-Even Policy

Delhi Government releases blueprint for Odd-Even formula December 25, 2015. In an attempt to curb alarming levels of pollution in the Indian capital, Delhi, authorities have announced that private cars with even and odd number plates will be allowed only on alternate days. Let’s see it in brief!


How will odd-even policy work out?

  • The Odd-Even formula plan seeks to curb the number of vehicles plying in the national capital by limiting 4-wheelers on alternate days.
  • Under it cars with licence plates ending in an odd number will ply on odd dates and those ending with an even number can run on even dates.
  • This will be on a trial basis from 1 to 15 January, 2015.
  • During this implementation, public transport including buses and the Metro will be run at high frequency.
  • The government plans to run 6,000 more buses to accommodate those who can’t drive their cars.

Then, Who is exempted?

  • The list of 20-plus exemptions from the restrictions include emergency vehicles, fire engines, ambulances, hospitals, hearses, prisons, VIPs, enforcement vehicles and defence ministry vehicles.
  • Among VIPs, leaders of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Chief Ministers of states, Judges of the Supreme Court and high court and Lokayukta are exempt. <CM of Delhi is not exempted>
  • CNG and electric vehicles are also exempt.
  • Two-wheelers and vehicles driven by or occupied by handicapped persons and female drivers are also exempt.

So, Will it really help clean the Delhi air?

  • The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has welcomed the “emergency action to reduce vehicle numbers on the road” but questioned the absurdity of exempting 2-wheelers, which account for more than 30% of air pollutants generated by the transport sector in Delhi, and women drivers.
  • According to the scientists of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), 80 per cent of PM 2.5 air pollution is caused by vehicular traffic and reduction in its levels, even in outer areas of Delhi shows that reduction of four wheeled vehicles on roads.
  • The latest set of ambient air data collected at 18 locations across Delhi through mobile dust samplers shows a consistent trend of declining levels of PM 2.5 air pollution levels.
  • If we take 250-300 as an average, then there is a drop of 100 points in PM 2.5 levels. This means there is a drop in pollution by about 25 percent. [ Isn’t it great! ]


But, Where did the odd-even idea come from?

Car rationing has been tried in many countries around the world.

  • Rationalisation of the movement of private vehicles has been adopted in many countries, starting with Sweden (Stockholm) and extending to other European countries.
  • China (Beijing), Mexico and Colombia (Bogota) have also implemented such measures.

Let’s glance over some international experiments?


  • The city initiated the alternate day car driving restrictions just ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games and saw pollution levels drop by almost 20%.
  • Currently, Beijing imposes this rule periodically, on days with high air pollution.
  • The city has also restricted its car sales since 2011 to 20,000 car plates every month.
  • However, they have made tremendous efforts to increase public transport such as bus connectivity and metro services. [ Lesson for Delhi ]

Paris, France

  • The city has been imposing the odd-even number plate rule during periods of high air pollution. On such days, public transport is free.
  • The rule was last implemented in March 2015 when a smog alert was issued.


  • The “Hoy No Circula” was introduced in Mexico around 1989 to combat air pollution.
  • It called for citywide bans, one day per week, based on last digit of the number plates.
  • For example, plates ending in 5 and 6 were not allowed to drive on Mondays while 7 and 8 were not allowed to drive on Tuesdays and so on.
  • This measure was highly successful in bringing carbon monoxide (CO) levels down by almost 11%.
  • However, in the long run, people eventually started buying more cars, rendering the ban inefficient. Therefore, it actually ended in a rise in CO levels in the long run by almost 13%.

Oh! Are these measures short-term?

  • Yes, these examples show that the system has better potential as a short-term measure.
  • It show that temporary restrictions on vehicles may not reduce air pollution in the long term.
  • Drivers inevitably buy more cheap and inefficient cars with different number plates to get around the rules.
  • Hence, such an initiative must be complemented by other measures to ensure that we have a stable system in the long run.

So, Are there any long-term measures available?

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has suggested some long-term measures –

  • There is a need to impose restrictions on diesel vehicles to promote electric and alternative fuel vehicles.
  • The electric vehicles should be exempted from any such alternate number plate restriction.
  • The number plate measure needs to be combined with high parking charges and intensified public transport strategy. <This should be the strategy for the entire period of poor air quality as well as a long-term measure>

International Example

  • Paris has set an example by deciding to phase out diesel cars completely by 2020.
  • London is also planning to ban diesel cars despite having a fuel quality as high as Euro 6.
  • China has already banned diesel cars on roads.India, on the other hand, is still juggling between BS-III and BS-IV norms<With accepted ground reality, we can not directly implement BS-V/BS-VI in one go>

What Delhi can do more?

Immediately link and scale up metro, bus, autos, taxis-walk and cycle –

  • This is needed immediately to connect doorsteps of people with their destinations for effortless movement without the car.
  • Connect each and every neighbourhood with efficient and reliable public transport service.

Provide safe and barrier free walking and cycling infrastructure –

  • Redesign roads and road network to give safe and priority infrastructure to walkers, cyclists and public transport users.

Adopt parking policy and taxation measures to restrain car usage –

  • Currently, parking charges in Delhi are one of the lowest in the world.
  • Limit legal parking areas across the city and demarcate them on the ground. Impose high penalty for illegal parking on public space.
  • Impose higher taxes on cars for their congestion and pollution impacts. Use the revenue to build public transport.<Congestion tax can be a good case in this regard>

How will it affect automobile industry sector?

  • Delhi’s odd-even decision will upset powerful automobile lobbies.
  • The stakes for the car industry are too high in the capital, which is India’s biggest car market.
  • The city has the largest population of registered motorised vehicles in the country, about 89 lakh as on March 31, 2015.
  • Of them, 26 lakh are cars, 28 lakh motorcycles and 27 lakh scooters.
  • In comparison, the number of commercial vehicles like taxis, buses and three-wheelers is about 3.5 lakh.
  • The national capital region (NCR) accounts for 12% of car sales in India and is the biggest car market in the country.
  • The temporary ban, according to reported estimates, will prevent 12,000 new diesel cars from coming on the Delhi roads.

So, the Odd-Even vehicle formula restriction is a good initiative, it is only a start. To control congestion, reduce pollution and improve liveability, there must be a comprehensive strategy in Delhi.

At national level, how odd-even policy will affect Make in India programme? Critically analyse.


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