Air Pollution

Sep, 08, 2018

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


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.
Aug, 25, 2018

Commute-related pollution: Kolkata shines among megacities


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.
Jul, 23, 2018

[pib] New SAFAR system with Air Quality Early Warning System

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
Jun, 27, 2018

Toxic air is causing malnutrition in trees


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.
Jun, 15, 2018

[op-ed snap] A drive to clean air


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
May, 03, 2018

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.
May, 03, 2018

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


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
May, 01, 2018

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


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
Apr, 25, 2018

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
Apr, 19, 2018

[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
Apr, 05, 2018

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
Mar, 27, 2018

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
Mar, 19, 2018

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
Feb, 06, 2018

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
Feb, 03, 2018

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)
Jan, 12, 2018

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
Jan, 09, 2018

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

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
Jan, 08, 2018

‘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
Jan, 05, 2018

[op-ed snap] Hope for good air

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
Dec, 28, 2017

[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
Dec, 19, 2017

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
Dec, 07, 2017

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
Dec, 01, 2017

‘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.
Nov, 29, 2017

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.



Nov, 28, 2017

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
Nov, 24, 2017

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


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
Nov, 18, 2017

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


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
Nov, 18, 2017

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
Nov, 17, 2017

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
Nov, 16, 2017

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

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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
Nov, 15, 2017

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
Nov, 14, 2017

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

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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
Nov, 13, 2017

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

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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.
Nov, 13, 2017

[op-ed snap] Crisis is in the air

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
Nov, 10, 2017

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

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
Nov, 09, 2017

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.
Nov, 09, 2017

‘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.
Nov, 08, 2017

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
Nov, 08, 2017

[op-ed snap] Choking on air


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
Oct, 25, 2017

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
Oct, 24, 2017

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.
Oct, 23, 2017

[op-ed snap] How To Clean Air

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
Oct, 21, 2017

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
Oct, 20, 2017

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


Oct, 18, 2017

[op-ed snap] The right to breathe

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
Oct, 13, 2017

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

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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
Oct, 13, 2017

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
Oct, 11, 2017

[op-ed snap] Don’t ban, say no


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
Oct, 07, 2017

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
Sep, 23, 2017

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
Sep, 09, 2017

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
Aug, 11, 2017

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

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.
Aug, 01, 2017

5 chemicals banned in firecrackers

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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
Nov, 26, 2016

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
Nov, 23, 2016

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
Nov, 18, 2016

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
Nov, 09, 2016

[op-ed snap] The arhar solution to pollution

  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
Nov, 08, 2016

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

  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
Nov, 03, 2016

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

  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
Nov, 03, 2016

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

  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
Nov, 01, 2016

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
Nov, 01, 2016

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
Nov, 01, 2016

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
Oct, 24, 2016

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
Oct, 17, 2016

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.
Oct, 06, 2016

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
Oct, 04, 2016

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
Aug, 20, 2016

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
Jul, 13, 2016

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
Jul, 13, 2016

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
Jul, 13, 2016

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
Jun, 28, 2016

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
May, 26, 2016

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
May, 13, 2016

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)
Apr, 30, 2016

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
Apr, 01, 2016

Ban on 2,000 cc diesel vehicles in NCR to continue

  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
Feb, 23, 2016

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
Feb, 19, 2016

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
Feb, 10, 2016

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
Feb, 01, 2016

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.
Jan, 22, 2016

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.
Jan, 16, 2016

Clearing the air

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.
Jan, 06, 2016

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.
Dec, 29, 2015

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.
Dec, 25, 2015

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.
Dec, 17, 2015

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.
Sep, 17, 2015

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.
Apr, 17, 2015

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.
Apr, 09, 2015

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.
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