Air Pollution

Explore about PM 2.5 and the problem it has created in Delhi.

Air Pollution

Dealing with air pollution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Dealing with the air pollution through regulations

Despite efforts from several levels, air pollution is getting worse day by day. The article suggests the strategy to deal with the issue of air pollution.

Solvable problem

  • Pollution is very much a solvable problem but it cannot be solved on an emergency basis.
  • It has to be dealt with firmly and gradually.
  • Why gradually? Because there are many sources of pollution and it would be prohibitively costly to stop them or even significantly reduce them all at once.

Replacing existing technologies with existing technology

  • The biggest sources air polltion nationally are cooking fires, coal-fired power plants, various industries, crop residue burning, and construction and road dust. Vehicles are further down on the list.
  • Dealing with all these sources will require a gradual replacement of existing technologies with new technologies.
  • Cooking fires must be replaced with LPG, induction stoves, and other electric cooking appliances.
  • Old coal power plants must be closed and replaced with wind and solar power and batteries while newer plants must install new pollution control equipment.
  • No new coal-fired power plants should be built — with renewables being cheaper, coal is obsolete for power generation.
  • Other industries that use coal will have to gradually switch over to cleaner fuel sources such as gas or hydrogen while becoming more energy-efficient at the same time.
  • Farmers will have to switch crops or adopt alternative methods of residue management.
  • Diesel and petrol vehicles must gradually be replaced by electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles running on power generated from renewables.

Legal measures and issues

  • Governments can make clean investments more profitable and dirty investments less profitable by taxing polluting activities and subsidising clean investments.
  • The judiciary is more powerful but has far less scientific and technical competence.
  • It tends to act only during crises and focus on past mistakes rather than planning to prevent new ones.

Reforms in regulatory agency

  • Our existing laws do not allow the central and state pollution boards to levy pollution fee or cess based on pollution emissions.
  • Since closing down an industry is a drastic step, it almost never happens.
  • We need a regulatory agency that can levy pollution fee or cess, is that the regulatory decision need not be an all-or-nothing decision.
  • Pollution fees can start small, and the EPA can announce that they will rise by a certain percentage every year.
  • The regulatory agency should be given some independence,like
  • 1) a head appointed for a five-year term removable only by impeachment.
  • 2) a guaranteed budget funded by a small percentage tax on all industries.
  • 3) autonomy to hire staff and to set pollution fees after justification through scientific studies.
  • Three advantages of the regulator with such powers would be-
  • 1) Politicians in power can pass on the blame for decisions on pollution fees to the EPA.
  • 2) Pollution fees raise revenue for the government.
  • 3) If the law establishing an independent EPA is written to require that changes to pollution fees and regulations must be published in advance, and cannot involve abrupt changes, then surprises are avoided.
  • Industry opposition will be muted, especially if industry gets a piece of the revenue to invest in new technologies.

Conclusion

Our pollution problem has taken decades to grow into the monster that it is. It can’t be killed in a day. We need the scientific and technical capacity that only a securely funded independent EPA can bring to shrink pollution down to nothing.

Air Pollution

State Pollution Control Boards

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Role of CPCB and SPCBs

Mains level : Paper 3- Issues faced by SPCBs

The article deals with the issues faced by the State Pollution Control Boards.

Role of CPCB and State Pollution Control Boards

  • The pollution crisis is a highly complex, multi-disciplinary issue with several contributory factors.
  • To address this crisis, India has a plethora of rules, laws and specialised agencies which, at least on paper, seem very impressive.
  • The footsoldiers of India’s battle against polluters are its officials at the state pollution control boards.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) based in Delhi is generally well funded and resourced, unlike the state pollution control boards (SPCBs) that are in charge of implementation of the rules that CPCB writes.

5 issues faced by SPCBs

1) Shortage of Staff

  • As an illustration, the Haryana State Pollution Control Board has been operating with a 70 per cent staff shortage.
  • What this means practically is that a single officer is tasked to handle the demands of pollution control for an entire district without any subordinate technical staff.
  • This comes at the cost of not being able to do inspections and other core pollution control work.

2) Lack of specialisation

  • The officers at the SPCBs do not get to develop any specialisation.
  • The CPCB has a decent workforce and robust laboratories, where scientists once recruited get to work and excel in a particular area.
  • On the other hand, SPCBs don’t have such a stratified system, and the same officer is in charge of all these pollution categories, making it impossible to gain expertise and excel in any one area.

3) Lack of legal skills to take on pollutors

  •  SPCBs lack the necessary legal skills to take on polluters.
  • While a legal cell may exist at the head office of a SPCB, they have few full-time public prosecutors there.
  • As a result, engineering graduates in district SPCB offices —  have to play the role of lawyers and develop legal paperwork that often falls short of holding polluters to account.
  • Clerks and superintendents at courts often refuse to file cases, pointing at flaws that someone not trained in law would naturally make.

4) Lack of funds

  • SPCBs are chronically underfunded.
  • For instance, the funds of several SPCBs such as Haryana’s largely come from “No Objection Certificates” and “Consent to Operate” that the boards grant to industries and projects, rather than budgetary allocations by the government.
  • Owing to this, SPCB officials are unable to spend on critical functions.

5) Additional duties

  • SPCB officials are at times given additional responsibilities that are unrelated to pollution control.
  • Haryana’s SPCB, for instance, has poultry farms under its ambit.

Consider the question “Dealing with the crisis of air pollution need coordination at various levels and the State Pollution Control Boards play an important role in it. In light of this, examine the challenges and suggest the steps needed to empower them.”

Conclusion

India must empower SPCBs to act by giving them the necessary funds, human resources, tools and technologies.

Air Pollution

The cost of cleaning air

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Funds allocated for containing air pollution and issue of its inadequacy

The article deals with the issue of allocation of funds to tackle air pollution and issues with it.

Allocation in the budget

  • A ₹4,400 crore package was announced in last budget for 2020-21 to tackle air pollution in 102 of India’s most polluted cities.
  • The funds would be used to reduce particulate matter by 20%-30% from 2017 levels by 2024 under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

Issues with estimating the scale of the problem

  • It is unclear if this amount is adequate because the scale of the problem is unknown.
  • Delhi government spent money on the measurement of pollution for in Delhi that far exceeds s allocations that find mention in the Centre and State government’s budgeting books.
  • The funds allocated don’t account for the trained manpower and the support system necessary to effectively maintain the systems and these costs are likely to be significant.
  • Historically, cites have used manual machines to measure specified pollutants and their use has been inadequate.
  • An analysis by research agencies Carbon Copy and Respirer Living Sciences recently found that only 59 out of 122 cities had PM 2.5 data available.
  • Only three States, had all their installed monitors providing readings from 2016 to 2018.
  • Prior to 2016, making comparisons of reduction strictly incomparable.
  • Now manual machines are being replaced by automatic ones and India is still largely reliant on imported machines.
  • In the case of the National Capital Region, at least ₹600 crore was spent by the Ministry of Agriculture over two years to provide subsidised equipment to farmers in Punjab and Haryana and dissuade them from burning paddy straw.
  • Yet this year, there have been more farm fires than the previous year and their contribution to Delhi’s winter air woes remain unchanged.
  • This indicates that money alone doesn’t work.

Conclusion

A clear day continues to remain largely at the mercy of favourable meteorology. While funds are critical, proper enforcement, adequate staff and stemming the sources of pollution on the ground are vital to the NCAP meeting its target.

Air Pollution

Brown Carbon ‘Tarballs’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : brown , black carbon

Mains level : Glacial melting of himalayas

A study has highlighted that brown carbon ‘tarballs’ that fasten the glacial melting has been found in the Himalayan atmosphere.

We are still to find a solution for the ill-fated Delhi air,  and here comes another blow from the stubble burnings.

What are Brown Carbon ‘Tarballs’?

  • Tarballs are small light-absorbing, carbonaceous particles formed due to burning of biomass or fossil fuels that deposit on snow and ice.
  • They are formed from brown carbon, emitted during the burning of fossil fuels.
  • The median sizes of externally mixed tarballs and internally mixed tarballs were 213 and 348 nanometre respectively.
  • Primary brown carbon (BrC) co-emitted with black carbon (BC) from biomass burning is an important light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosol.
  • The black carbon from the Indo-Gangetic Plain can reach the Himalaya region and influence glacial melting and climatic change.

Highlights of the study

  • Until now, black carbon was found to be transported long distances by the wind to the Himalayan atmosphere.
  • The study revealed that a dense array of active fire spots — corresponding to large-scale wheat-residue burning on the Indo-Gangetic Plain — occurred along the pathways of Himalaya.
  • The percentage of the tarballs increased on days of higher levels of pollution and could contribute to the hastening of glacial melt and global warming.
  • The researchers concluded that tarballs from long-range transport can be an important factor in the climatic effect and would correspond to a substantial influence on glacial melting in the Himalaya region.

Air Pollution

Pusa Bio-Decomposer

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pusa Biodecomposer

Mains level : Alternatives solutions for stubble burning

Delhi CM has said that the “Pusa bio-decomposer” is a success in Delhi and he will inform the Supreme Court that it is an effective way to prevent stubble burning.

Pusa Bio-decomposer provides a unique alternative against the stubble burning practices.

Pusa Bio-decomposer

  • It is a solution developed by the scientists at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, which can turn crop residue into manure in 15 to 20 days and therefore, can prevent stubble burning.
  • It involves making a liquid formulation using Pusa decomposer capsules and readily available inputs, fermenting it over 8-10 days, and then spraying the mixture on fields.
  • It is a mix of seven fungi that produce enzymes to digest cellulose, lignin and pectin in paddy straw.
  • The fungi thrive at 30-32 degree Celsius, which is the temperature prevailing when paddy is harvested and wheat is sown.

Back2Basics: Decomposition

  • Decomposition refers to a biological process of breaking down organic material into smaller constituent parts.
  • The decomposition of organic substances is ecologically significant. It plays a part in the nutrient cycle. It is an essential process of recycling matter in the biosphere.
  • A decomposer is an organism whose ecological function involves the recycling of nutrients by performing the natural process of decomposition as it feeds on decaying organisms.
  • Examples of decomposers are fungi and bacteria that obtain their nutrients from a dead plant or animal material.
  • They break down cells of dead plants and animals into simpler substances, which become organic nutrients available to the ecosystem.

Air Pollution

Private: Stubble Burning

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pollutants released due to stubble burning

Mains level : Paper 3- Stubble burning issue

The stubble burning issue grabs the headlines every winter. And this year is no different. 

Background of stubble burning

  • Stubble burning refers to the practice of farmers setting fire to plant debris that remain in farms after harvest.
  • The origin of stubble burning can be traced to the advent of the Green Revolution and mechanised harvesting.
  • The Green Revolution increased greatly rice and wheat production, which simultaneously increased stubble post harvest.
  • Combined harvesting technique was not efficacious, as machines left behind one-foot-tall stalks.
  • This prompted stubble burning as a low-cost and speedy solution.
  • Other factor was the limited time period of 20-25 days between harvesting one crop and sowing another.

Environmental Impact:

  • Air Pollution: A study estimates that crop residue burning released 149.24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), over 9 million tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO), 0.25 million tonnes of oxides of sulphur (SOX), 1.28 million tonnes of particulate matter and 0.07 million tonnes of black carbon.
  • Responsible for the haze in Delhi: Crop burning contributed nearly 40% of the near-surface PM 2.5 in Delhi in 2016, which saw one of Delhi’s severest pollution episode
  • Soil Fertility: The heat from burning paddy straw penetrates 1 centimetre into the soil, elevating the temperature to 33.8 to 42.2 degree Celsius. This kills the bacterial and fungal populations critical for a fertile soil. The solubility capacity of the upper layers of soil has also been reduced.
  • Pests in atmosphere: Burning of crop residue causes damage to other micro-organisms present in the upper layer of the soil as well as its organic quality. Due to the loss of ‘friendly’ pests, the wrath of ‘enemy’ pests has increased and as a result, crops are more prone to disease.

Legislative measures

  • In 2013, stubble burning was banned by the Punjab government.
  • In 2015, the National Green Tribunal imposed a ban on stubble burning in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
  • NGT also directed government to assist farmers by obtaining equipment like happy seeders and rotavator.
  • Stubble burning is an offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981.

Supreme Court on Stubble Burning

  • The Supreme Court, in November 2019, had directed the governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to pay farmers a financial incentive to curb the practice
  • In 2019, the Punjab government paid Rs 28.51 crore to 31,231 farmers, while Haryana’s paid Rs 1.63 crore to 4,000. This year, the Haryana government expects to pay as much as Rs 301 crore.
  • However, Supreme Court appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, or EPCA, is right in saying that an incentive of Rs 100 per quintal of grain—paid on top of the MSP during procurement by the Centre—is “not viable”.

Recent measures

  • Recently, in Aditya Dubey v. Union of India, the Supreme Court appointed a one-man committee (headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur) to monitor and provide steps to prevent stubble burning activities in Punjab, Haryana and U.P. Haryana.
  • The committee submitted that numerous steps are taken to curb stubble burning, including the development of an app to detect and notify authorities about stubble burning committed in a particular field.
  • Now the Union government has brought out an ordinance to set up a permanent commission for air quality management, which will replace the Justice Madan B. Lokur Commission.

Way Ahead

  • Short term Solution: Giving farmers easy and affordable access to the machines which allow them to do smart straw management is the short term solution to the problem
  • Dual Strategy: Both in-situ (in the field) and ex-situ (elsewhere) solutions need to be considered, apart from tackling the fundamental factors prompting the practice.
  • Affordability of Government Measures: A key factor will be ensuring affordability of service for those hiring the machines; Haryana has reserved 70% of the machines at panchayat-run CHCs for small and marginal farmers, while Punjab has prioritised service to them.
  • Utilizing Crop Stubble: Instead of burning of the stubble, it can be used in different ways like cattle feed, compost manure, roofing in rural areas, biomass energy, mushroom cultivation, packing materials, fuel, paper, bio-ethanol and industrial production, etc.
  • The long-term solution has to be crop diversification, away from paddy
  • The action plan of Punjab and Haryana focus on setting up Custom Hiring Centres which will facilitate farmers removing stubble by providing them with machinery such as the happy seeder, rotavator, paddy straw chopper, etc. on rent along with the supply of more balers.
  • As per a study by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, the application of happy seeders and super SMS machines can improve agricultural productivity by 10% to 15% while reducing labour costs and allowing the soil to become more fertile.

Conclusion

The practice of stubble burning, is harmful to environment and health of millions. But the solution to the issue must address the concerns of the farmers. So, solutions based on technology and PUSA Decomposer could be the step in the right directions.

 

Air Pollution

Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mandate of the commission

Mains level : Air pollution in Delhi

The President of India has signed the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020.

Try this question from CS Mains 2015:

Q.Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three megacities of the country but the air pollution is a much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so?

About the Ordinance

  • The Ordinance seeks to create an overarching body to consolidate all monitoring bodies and to bring them on one platform so air quality management can be carried out in a more comprehensive, efficient, and time-bound manner.
  • It came within days of the hearing in ‘Aditya Dubey vs Union of India’ in the court of the CJI, where Solicitor General had indicated the setting up of such a Commission.

Why has the central government set up this Commission?

  • The monitoring and management of air quality in the Delhi NCR region have been done piecemeal by multiple bodies including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the adjacent state PCBs and state governments.
  • They, in turn, are monitored by the Environment Ministry, and the Supreme Court itself, which monitors air pollution as per the judgment in ‘M C Mehta vs Union of India’, 1988.

Consolidating the efforts

  • The Centre seeks to relieve the Supreme Court from having to constantly monitor pollution levels through various pollution-related cases.
  • The body indicates the central government’s push to bring all stakeholders on one platform.
  • This is important because the management of air pollution in Delhi NCR will involve controlling stubble-burning (Agriculture Ministry and state governments), and the control of industrial emissions (Commerce and Industries Ministry), etc.

About the Commission

  • The Commission, which will be a permanent body, will have over 20 members and will be chaired by a retired official of the level of Secretary to the GoI or Chief Secretary of a state.
  • It will include a representative of the Secretary of the MoEFCC, five Secretary level officers who will be ex officio members and two joint secretary-level officers who will be full-time members.
  • The Commission will also have representation from the CPCB, ISRO, air pollution experts, and three representatives of non-government organisations (NGOs).
  • As associate members, the Commission will have representatives from various other Ministries including the Ministries of Agriculture, Petroleum, Power, Transport, Housing etc.

Power and functions

  • In matters of air pollution and air quality management, the Commission will supersede all existing bodies.
  • It will have the powers to issue directions to the states.
  • The Commission will also coordinate efforts of state governments to curb air pollution, and will lay down the parameters of air quality for the region.
  • It will have powers to restrict the setting up of industries in vulnerable areas and will be able to conduct site inspections of industrial units.

Penal powers

  • The Commission will have some penal powers.
  • If its directions are contravened, through say, the setting up of an industrial unit in a restricted area, the Commission will have the power to impose a fine of up to Rs 1 crore and imprisonment of up to 5 years.

Wasn’t EPCA effective?

  • The one body with powers similar to the new Commission’s was the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).
  • It was not a statutory body but drew legitimacy from the Supreme Court, which has been looking at cases of air pollution as part of the judgment in M C Mehta vs Union of India (1988).
  • The EPCA was not, however, supported by a legal framework in the form of a law. It did have the authority to issue fines or directions and guidelines to the governments in other states.

How is the new commission expected to alter the situation?

  • By forming a new commission, the government has taken the issue of air pollution out of the purview of the judiciary.
  • As per the Ordinance, only NGT, and not civil courts, is authorised to hear cases where the commission is involved.
  • The central government has got itself out of the clutch of Supreme Court and closed down SC-appointed EPCA.

Challenges ahead

  • The Commission has a large number of members from the central government, which has not gone down well with the states.
  • It is full of officials from the central government. Taking away any say from the state government is not the way to go further.
  • Also, political differences will also now play a part in the functioning of the Commission because states are not happy with the overarching powers being vested in it.

Air Pollution

What is Yellow Dust?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Yellow dust

Mains level : Air pollution

North Korean authorities have urged citizens to remain indoors to avoid contact with a mysterious cloud of ‘yellow dust’ blowing in from China, which they have warned could bring Covid-19 with it.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following

  1. Birds
  2. Dustblowing
  3. Rain
  4. Windblowing

Which of the above spread plant diseases?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 3 and 4 only

(c) 1, 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

What is yellow dust?

  • Yellow dust is actually sand from deserts in China and Mongolia that high-speed surface winds carry into both North and South Korea during specific periods every year.
  • The sand particles tend to mix with other toxic substances such as industrial pollutants, as a result of which the ‘yellow dust’ is known to cause a number of respiratory ailments.
  • Usually, when the dust reaches unhealthy levels in the atmosphere, authorities urge people to remain indoors and limit physical activity, particularly heavy exercise and sport.
  • Sometimes, when the concentration of yellow dust in the atmosphere crosses around 800 micrograms/cubic meter, schools are shut and outdoor events cancelled in the affected areas.

Air Pollution

State of Global Air Report, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Particulate Matter

Mains level : Pollution induced mortality in India

Air pollution now biggest health risk in India, says the State of Global Air 2020 Report.

State of Global Air Report

  • The State of Global Air report brings into one place the latest information on air quality and health for countries around the globe.
  • It is produced annually by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease project.

India’s exposure to pollution

  • Long-term exposure to outdoor and household air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases and neonatal diseases in India in 2019.
  • Overall, air pollution was now the largest risk factor for death among all health risks, the report noted.
  • Outdoor and household particulate matter pollution also contributed to the deaths of more than 1,16,000 Indian infants in their first month of life last year.
  • For the youngest infants, most deaths were related to complications from low birth weight and preterm birth.

A comparison with peers

  • India faced the highest per capita pollution exposure — or 83.2 μg/cubic metre — in the world.
  • It is followed by Nepal at 83.1 μg/cubic metre and Niger at 80.1.
  • Countries with the least population exposure are below 8 micrograms (μg) per cubic metre.

Back2Basics: Particulate Matter

  • PM is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye.
  • Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.
  • Particle pollution includes:
  1. PM10 : inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometres and smaller; and
  2. PM2.5: fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometres and smaller.

Sources of PM

  • These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.
  • Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.
  • Most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.

Harmful effects of PM

  • Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems.
  • Some particles less than 10 micrometres in diameter can get deep into your lungs and some may even get into your bloodstream.
  • Of these, particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter, also known as fine particles or PM2.5, pose the greatest risk to health.

Air Pollution

Towards cleaner air in Delhi

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Delhi air-pollution issue

The article suggests the three-pronged strategy to deal with the emission from transportation and highlights the importance of coordination at various level to deal with the issue of pollution.

Anti-pollution campaign in Delhi

  • With air pollution returning to pre-COVID levels, the Delhi administration has launched a major anti-pollution campaign this month.
  • The campaign is focused on cutting the deadly smoke from thermal plants and brick kilns in the National Capital Region as well as on chemical treatment of stubble burning from nearby States.

Abating emission from transportation

  • Delhi’s long-term solution will depend importantly also on abating emissions from transportation.
  • Delhi needs a 65% reduction to meet the national standards for PM2.5.
  • Vehicles, including trucks and two-wheelers, contribute 20%-40% of the PM2.5 concentrations.
  • Tackling vehicle emissions would be one part of the agenda, as in comparable situations in Bangkok, Beijing, and Mexico City.

Three-part action to combat emissions from transportation

  • A three-part action comprises emissions standards, public transport, and electric vehicles.

1) Stricter enforcement of emission controls

  • Two-wheelers and three-wheelers were as important as cars and lorries in Beijing’s experience.
  • Bangkok ramped up inspection and maintenance to cut emissions.
  • The first order of business is to implement the national standards.

2) Strengthening public transport

  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)  around the world show how the sizeable investment cost is more than offset by the benefits, and that financing pays off.
  • Delhi has lessons from its BRT experience in designating better BRT lanes, improving the ticketing system and synchronising with the Metro.
  • The Supreme Court’s ruling to increase Delhi’s bus fleet and align it with the Metro network must be carried out.
  • The ‘odd-even’ number plate policy can help, but the system should reduce exemptions, allow a longer implementation period, and complement it with other measures.

3) Adoption of electric vehicle: A long term solution

  •  Subsidies and investment will be needed to ensure that EVs are used to a meaningful scale.
  • The Delhi government’s three-year policy aims to make EVs account for a quarter of the new vehicles registered in the capital by 2024.
  • EVs will gain from purchase incentives, scrappage benefits on older vehicles, loans at favourable interest and a waiver of road taxes.

Need for coordination at various level

  • Transport solutions need to be one part of pollution abatement that includes industry and agriculture.
  • Delhi’s own actions will not work if the pollution from neighbouring States is not addressed head on.
  • Technical solutions need to be underpinned by coordination and transparency across Central, State, and local governments.
  • Public opinion matters.
  • Citizen participation and the media are vital for sharing the message on pollution and health, using data such as those from the Central Pollution Control Board.

Conclusion

  • It is a matter of prioritising people’s health and a brighter future. Once the pandemic is over, Delhi must not stumble into yet another public health emergency. The time to act is now.

Air Pollution

Global Nitrous Oxide Pollution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various GHGs

Mains level : Hazards of N2O pollution

Human emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) — a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) — increased by 30 per cent between 1980 and 2016.

Observe the above image carefully and try to find out the major contributor of nitrous oxide emission in the Global N2O Budget.

What is Nitrous oxide?

  • Nitrous oxide is a dangerous gas for the sustainable existence of humans on Earth.
  • It has the third-highest concentration — after CO2 and methane — in our atmosphere among greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
  • N2O can live in the atmosphere for up to 125 years.
  • Most N2O emissions have come from emerging countries like India, China and Brazil.

About the research

  • Nitrous oxide global concentration levels have increased from 270 parts per billion (ppb) in 1750 to 331 ppb in 2018 — a jump of 20 per cent.
  • The growth has been the quickest in the past five decades because of human emissions.
  • The research was conducted through an international collaboration between the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) and the Global Carbon Project of Future Earth, a partner of the World Climate Research Programme.

Why N2O matters?

  • N2O is also the only remaining threat to the ozone layer, for it accumulates in the atmosphere over a long period of time, just like CO2.
  • The increase in its emissions means that the climatic burden on the atmosphere is increasing from non-carbon sources as well, while the major focus of global climate change negotiations is currently centred on carbon.
  • A major proportion of the N2O emissions in the last four decades came from the agricultural sector, mainly because of the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers.
  • The growing demand for food and feed for animals will further increase global nitrous oxide emissions.

Air Pollution

What is Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GRAP

Mains level : Not Much

The Supreme Court has directed Delhi and neighbouring States to implement air pollution control measures under “very poor” and “severe” category air quality of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

Note the various measures under the GRAP under various grades of Air Quality.

Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

  • In 2014, when a study by the WHO found that Delhi was the most polluted city in the world, panic spread in the Centre and the state government.
  • Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, the plan was formulated after several meetings that the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) held with state government and experts.
  • The result was a plan that institutionalized measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates.
  • GRAP works only as an emergency measure.

How does it work?

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

Measures taken under GRAP

1)Severe+ or Emergency

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

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

2) Severe

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

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

3) Very Poor

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

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

4) Moderate to poor

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

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

Has GRAP helped?

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

Air Pollution

[pib] Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDC, TIA

Mains level : India's NDC

NITI Aayog will virtually launch the India Component of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)–Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA).

Try this PYQ:

Q.The term Intended Nationally Determined Contribution is sometimes seen in the news in the context of:

(a) Pledge made by the European countries to rehabilitate refuges from the war-affected Middle East.

(b) Plan of nation outlined by the countries of the world to combat climate changes.

(c) Capital contributed by the member countries in the establishment of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

(d) Plain of action outlined by the countries of the regarding SDGs.

What is NDC-TIA?

  • It is a joint programme, supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).
  • On behalf of the GoI, NITI Aayog will be the implementing partner.
  • It aims to promote a comprehensive approach to decarbonize transport in India, Vietnam, and China.
  • It is implemented by a consortium of seven other organisations.

Working

  • The programme has a duration of 4 years.
  • The India Component will focus on establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform for decarbonizing transport in India, strengthening GHG and transport modelling capacities.
  • It would help in financing climate actions in transport, offering policy recommendations on electric vehicle (EV) demand and supply policies.

Why need TIA?

  • India has a massive and diverse transport sector that caters to the needs of billion people.
  • It has the world’s second-largest road network, which contributes to maximum GHG emissions through all means of transportation.
  • With increasing urbanisation, the fleet size i.e. the number of sales of vehicles is increasing rapidly.
  • It is projected that the total number of vehicles will be doubled by 2030.

Air Pollution

[pib] Himalayan Geothermal Springs release huge amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Geothermal springs

Mains level : Not Much

The Himalayas, which hosts about 600 geothermal springs needs to be considered while estimating emissions to the carbon cycle and thereby to global warming says, Indian researchers.

Note the following hot springs in India:

1) Panamik in Nubra valley

2) Kheer Ganga in Kullu, Himachal

3) Manikaran Sahib, Himachal

4) Tattapani, Chhattisgarh

5) Gaurikund, Uttarakhand

6) Yumthang, Sikkim

7) Reshi, Sikkim

Geothermal springs

  • Geothermal or Hot springs are heated by shallow intrusions of magma (molten rock) in volcanic areas. Some thermal springs, however, are not related to volcanic activity.
  • The water is heated by convective circulation: groundwater percolates downward & reaches depths of a kilometre or more where the temperature of rocks is high because of the normal temperature gradient of the Earth’s crust.

Why consider the Himalayas?

  • The Himalayan geothermal springs which cover about 10,000 square km in the Garhwal region of Himalaya show a significant discharge of CO2 rich water.
  • The estimated carbon dioxide degassing (removal of dissolved gases from liquids, especially water or aqueous solutions) flux is nearly 7.2 ×106 mol/year to the atmosphere.
  • Such CO2 degassing should be taken into account to assess global carbon outflux in the earth’s atmosphere.

Where does this CO2 come from?

  • Carbon outflux from Earth’s interior to the exosphere through volcanic eruptions, fault zones, and geothermal systems contribute to the global carbon cycle that effects short and long term climate of the Earth.
  • The CO2 in the thermal springs are sourced from metamorphic decarbonation of carbonate rocks present deep in the Himalayan core along with magmatism and oxidation of graphite.
  • Most of the geothermal water is dominated by evaporation followed by weathering of silicate rocks.
  • Isotopic analyses further point towards a meteoric source for geothermal water.

Air Pollution

What is a ‘Smog Tower’?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Smog towers

Mains level : Air pollution in Delhi

In January this year, the Supreme Court has directed that two smog towers should be installed in the capital by April on a pilot project basis considering a proposal by the IIT-Bombay.

Try this question from CS Mains 2015:

Q.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?

What is a ‘Smog Tower’?

  • A smog tower is a structure designed to work as a large-scale air purifier, fitted with multiple layers of filters which trap fine dust particles suspended in the air as it passes through them.
  • Air is drawn through fans installed at the top of the tower, passed through filters, and then released near the ground.
  • The large-scale filters expected to be installed in the towers in Delhi would use carbon nanofibres as a major component.
  • It would be fitted along the peripheries of the towers and the height would be 20 metres.

How does it work?

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

Has anyone else experimented with a smog tower?

  • Yes, smog towers have been experimented with in recent years in cities in the Netherlands, China, South Korea and Poland.
  • The first such tower was erected in 2015, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, created by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.
  • The towers to be installed in Delhi are to be the result of a collaboration between the IITs at Mumbai and Delhi, and the University of Minnesota.

Why New Delhi?

  • Air pollution in the national capital has been an issue of concern for quite some time as Delhi and its suburbs have ranked among the most polluted cities in the world frequently.
  • In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared Delhi the most polluted city in the world.
  • Pollution levels in Delhi increase dramatically during winter — on some days to nearly 10 times above the limits prescribed by WHO, posing a serious risk to vulnerable and also healthy populations.
  • This is large because sources of emissions — construction work, industrial and vehicular pollution — in and around the city remain more or less consistent.
  • The situation is aggravated at the start of winter by smoke from stubble-burning in northwestern states, coupled with unfavourable meteorological conditions, such as calm winds, low temperatures, and fewer sunny days.

How effective are smog towers?

  • An estimate on air quality shows that a tower would reduce 50% of the particulate matter load in an area of 1 kilometre in the direction of the wind, as well as 200 metres each along the sides of the tower and against the direction of the wind.
  • In an open field in calm weather, it can reduce the particulate matter of 10 micrometres (PM10) up to 45%, and PM2.5 levels up to 25% in an area of 20 metres around the tower, as per details on the ENS Clean Air website.

Air Pollution

‘Decarbonizing Transport in India (DTI)’ Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ITF, OECD

Mains level : Policy measures for cleaner transportation

http://www.newsonair.com/writereaddata/News_Pictures/NAT/2020/Jun/NPIC-2020622172010.jpg

NITI Aayog in collaboration with International Transport Forum (ITF) is set to launch the “Decarbonising Transport in India” project with the intention to develop a pathway towards a low-carbon transport system for India.

Note the following things about ‘Decarbonising Transport in India (DTI)’ Project:

  1. Associated international institution

  2. Whether the institution is a UN body or not

  3. If India is a member of that body

The DTI Project

  • The India project is carried out in the wider context of the International Transport Forum’s “Decarbonising Transport” initiative.
  • It is part of the “Decarbonising Transport in Emerging Economies” (DTEE) family of projects, which supports transport decarbonisation across different world regions.
  • India, Argentina, Azerbaijan, and Morocco are current participants.
  • The DTEE is a collaboration between the ITF and the Wuppertal Institute, supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Objectives of the project

  • The project will design a tailor-made transport emissions assessment framework for India.
  • It will provide the government with a detailed understanding of current and future transport activity and the related CO2 emissions as a basis for their decision-making.

About International Transport Forum (ITF)

  • The ITF is an inter-governmental organisation within the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) system.
  • It is the only global body with a mandate for all modes of transport.
  • It acts as a think tank for transport policy issues and organises the annual global summit of transport ministers.
  • The ITF’s motto is “Global dialogue for better transport”.
  • India has been a member of ITF since 2008.

Back2Basics: OCED

  • The OECD is an international, intergovernmental economic organization of 36 countries.
  • OECD was founded in the year 1961 to stimulate world trade and economic progress.
  • OECD originated in 1948, as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC).
  • The Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) was founded to govern the predominantly US-funded Marshall Plan for post-war reconstruction on the continent.
  • The OEEC was instrumental in helping the European Economic Community (EEC). The EEC has evolved into the European Union (EU) to establish a European Free Trade Area.
  • India is NOT a member of OECD.

Air Pollution

Aerosols Radiative Effects in the Himalayas

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aerosols

Mains level : Assessing the potential of aerosols in global warming

Indian researchers have found that the effect of anthropogenic aerosols is much higher over the high altitudes of western trans-Himalayas.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q. In the context of which of the following do some scientists suggest the use of cirrus cloud thinning technique and the injection of sulphate aerosol into the stratosphere?

(a) Creating the artificial rains in some regions

(b) Reducing the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones

(c) Reducing the adverse effects of solar wind on the Earth

(d) Reducing the global warming

What are Aerosols?

  • An aerosol is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in air or another gas.
  • They can be natural or anthropogenic.
  • Examples of natural aerosols are fog, mist, dust, forest exudates and geyser steam. Examples of anthropogenic aerosols are particulate air pollutants and smoke.
  • The liquid or solid particles have diameters typically less than 1 μm; larger particles with a significant settling speed make the mixture a suspension, but the distinction is not clear-cut.
  • Technological applications of aerosols include dispersal of pesticides, medical treatment of respiratory illnesses, and combustion technology.

Heat pump over the Himalayas

  • The transport of light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosols and dust from the polluted Indo-Gangetic Plain and desert areas over the Himalayas constitutes a major climatic issue due to severe impacts on atmospheric warming and glacier retreat.
  • This heating over the Himalayas facilitates the “elevated-hat pump” that strengthens the temperature gradient between land and ocean and modifies the atmospheric circulation and the monsoon rainfall.

Findings of the research

  • The monthly-mean atmospheric radiative forcing of aerosols leads to heating rates of 0.04 to 0.13 C per day.
  • Further, the temperature over the Ladakh region is increasing 0.3 to 0.4 degrees Celsius per decades from the last 3 decades.

How are aerosols fuelling the heat?

  • The atmospheric aerosols play a key role in the regional/global climate system through scattering and absorption of incoming solar radiation and by modifying the cloud microphysics.

Assessing the Aerosol potential

  • Despite the large progress in quantifying the impact of different aerosols on radiative forcing, it still remains one of the major uncertainties in the climate change assessment.
  • Precise measurements of aerosol properties are required to reduce the uncertainties, especially over the oceans and high altitude remote location in the Himalayas where they are scarce.
  • Researchers have analysed the variability of aerosol optical, physical and radiative properties and the role of fine and coarse particles in aerosol radiative forcing (ARF) assessment.
  • ARF is the effect of anthropogenic aerosols on the radiative fluxes at the top of the atmosphere and at the surface and on the absorption of radiation within the atmosphere.

Significance of ARF study

  • A scientific study of aerosol generation, transport, and its properties has important implications in our understanding and mitigation of climate change via atmospheric warming.
  • Aerosols impact the snow and glacier dynamics over the trans-Himalayan region.
  • The results from the study can help better understanding of aerosol effects in view of aerosol-climate implications.

Air Pollution

What is Urban Ozone?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Urban Ozone

Mains level : Good and Bad Ozone

A Manchester (UK) based research has found that the nationwide lockdown may be leading to the generation of a dangerous pollutant, urban ozone.

The Ozone is formed due to different factors in the Troposphere and the Stratosphere (where the ozone acts as a protective layer). Note these differences from prelims perspective.

Urban Ozone

  • The photochemical production of ozone may become more important in urban areas during summertime in these low conditions of oxides of nitrogen.
  • As nitrogen oxides reduce, photochemical production may become more efficient and can lead to higher ozone concentrations in the summertime.
  • The higher summer temperatures increase emissions of biogenic hydrocarbon from natural sources such as trees. These biogenic hydrocarbons significantly affect urban ozone levels.
  • While ozone is important for screening harmful solar UV radiation when present higher up in the atmosphere, it can be a danger at the Earth’s surface and can react to destroy or alter many biological molecules.

Back2Basics: Ozone Gas

  • It is a gas that occurs both in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and at ground level.
  • Ozone occurs in two layers of the atmosphere. The layer closest to the Earth’s surface is the troposphere.
  • Here, ground-level or “bad” ozone is an air pollutant that is harmful to breathe and it damages crops, trees and other vegetation. It is the main ingredient of urban smog.
  • The stratospheric or “good” ozone protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Formation of Ozone

  • Ozone is produced naturally in the stratosphere when highly energetic solar radiation strikes molecules of oxygen, and cause the two oxygen atoms to split apart in a process called photolysis. If a freed atom collides with another O2, it joins up, forming ozone.
  • The majority of tropospheric ozone formation occurs when nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight, specifically the UV spectrum.

Air Pollution

Environmental regulations: go or no go?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDMA, NDMA-2005 and its provisions.

Mains level : Paper 3- Lowering of environment standard is not a good strategy to revive the economy in the wake of corona pandemic.

As the world struggles to restart the economic activities amid the pandemic, various strategies are being advised to salvage the damaged economies. One amongst them is to cut down on the environmental standards to spur the economic activities. This article explains why India should not be short-sighted to lower the environmental standards.

What is this fuss about environment and lockdown?

  • The lockdown exit strategies are focused on saving livelihoods.

  • But the lockdown is causing fiscal pressures on governments which further motivates it to lower the environmental standards, suspend environmental monitoring requirements and reduce environmental enforcement. (Well to save some bucks.)

  • And also in the belief that this is necessary to secure economic growth.

  • But it would be a mistake to assume that there is a trade-off between saving livelihoods and protecting the environment.

  • The crisis of COVID-19 has highlighted that improving the quality of air in our country is not a matter of choice but an emergency.

How countries around the world are reacting?

  • The US announced a significant reduction in fuel efficiency standards for new cars.

  • This move could result in increased gasoline consumption by 80 billion tonnes, pumping increased carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

  • The US Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it will not be enforcing compliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations of environmental protection, for an indefinite period.

  • 13 European ministers have been outspoken about resisting the temptations of short-term solutions in response to the present crisis- need to maintain and strengthen EU’s effective regulatory tools to stick to its 2030 climate goals.

5 Arguments that Indian authorities that look into viz a viz environmental standards

1. Pollution increases risk to COVID-19

  • People living in areas with higher levels of air pollution face increased risk of premature death from COVID-19.

  • New Delhi was the world’s most polluted capital city for the second straight year in 2019.

  • And India was also home to 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities, Swiss-based group IQ AirVisual said in a recent study.

  • The State of Global Air 2019 Report finds air pollution responsible for over 1.2 million deaths in China and India each, based on 2017 data.

2. The poor are the most affected by air pollution

  • There is enormous inequality in the impact of the COVID-19 fallout.

  • Those who suffer the most from air pollution are the millions who live and toil in the open, who cannot afford air-purifiers or other mitigating measures, as also the elderly and children.

3. Risk of future pandemics

  • There is good evidence that three-quarters of the emerging infectious diseases migrate from wild or domesticated animals into humans.

  • This includes Ebola, SARS, MERS and now COVID-19.

  • Deforestation, industrial agriculture, illegal wildlife trade, climate change and other types of environmental degradation increase the risk of future pandemics.

4. Public support for environment protection

  • From Delhi to Sao Paulo, Bangkok to Bogota, the dramatic improvement in the quality of air and water in the most polluted cities around the world has been transmitted by social media.

  • This may well result in a groundswell of public support for measures to protect the environment.

5. The environment will get the value it deserves

  • The corona pandemic will jolt the markets into giving a clean, healthy and sustainable environment the economic value it deserves.

  • There’s a possibility that the gulf between what markets value, and what people value, will close.

Environment conservation as a silver lining in this Pandemic

  • We have never treated air pollution as a national emergency, failing to coordinate between the Centre and state governments.

  • The COVID pandemic has been declared a national disaster in India, under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005.

  • This legislation mandates the disaster authorities coordinate among themselves and take measures for the prevention and mitigation of the pandemic.

  • Preventing and mitigating the risks of COVID-19, therefore, means the mandate for the disaster authorities is also to tackle air and other forms of pollution head-on.

Questions based on disasters have been a recurring theme in the UPSC. In 2014, a question was asked with respect to drought, the same could be asked about air pollution. In 2017 again a question based on role of NDMA and tsunami was aksed. In 2018, a question based on Sendai Framework was asked.

 

Conclusion

The NDMA is a platform which should be used to combat air pollution as an emergency, similar coordination will be required at an international level to continue to work towards reduced emissions under the Paris Agreement. It is a great pity that it takes a pandemic to bring the realisation that economic growth versus clean air is a false dichotomy.


Back2Basics: NDMA

  • On 23 December 2005, the Government of India enacted the Disaster Management Act, which envisaged the creation of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
  • It is headed by the Prime Minister, and State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by respective Chief Ministers.
  • It aims to spearhead and implement a holistic and integrated approach to Disaster Management in India.

Air Pollution

Private: Cleaner air: Can we go back to ‘normal’?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Unexpected outcomes of the lockdown due to covid outbreak

Context

As India remains in lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), has informed of a massive drop in air pollution, showing varied trends across Delhi, the National Capital Region (NCR) and other cities.

Why reduction in Pollution?

  • Complete restrictions on non-essential vehicular movement and commercial activities and closure of industry and construction.
  • Without traffic, re-suspension of road dust is also under control.

How much is the reduction?

  • There has been an overall drop of 35-40 per cent in particulate matter (PM) 10 and PM2.5 levels in Delhi;
  • NOx levels have halved; industrial areas like Mundka and Narela and traffic areas of Dwarka and Pusa are substantially cleaner.
  • Air quality improvement in NCR towns, however, is comparatively less pronounced.
  • But Gurugram, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Noida have recorded ‘Good’ Air Quality Index (AQI) levels around March 26-29, 2020.
  • The weather has also favoured partially.
  • The Indo-Gangetic plain is significantly cleaner.
  • Seventeen cities have moved to the ‘Satisfactory’ AQI category and seven cities to the ‘Good’ category. Change is not that dramatic in coastal cities.
  • Chennai even experienced a slight increase in local reasons.

Ecological insights from this lockdown

This ‘aberrant’ situation that the CPCB analysis has captured, has helped to understand several critical dimensions

i. Local trends affected by local pollution:

  • The CPCB has stated that the regional influence on air quality is minimal at this moment.
  • Local trends are more affected by the local pollution situation. Though background pollution remains a complex issue, cities can assess persistent local problems better to refine action plans.

ii. Relative contribution of different sources: 

  • This time, it has also been possible to scientifically estimate the relative contribution of different sources to the overall decline in pollution concentration.
  • Based on the 2018 source apportionment study of The Energy and Resources Institute and Automotive Research Association of India, CPCB has estimated this change for Delhi.
  • Given the fact that in summers, dust and construction activities cause about 35 per cent of PM2.5 concentration, and transport and industry sectors 20 per cent each, their proportionate role is evident.
  • Industry’s contribution to the overall drop is about 10 per cent; transport’s share is about 15 per cent, and the dust contribution is about 10-15 per cent.
  • Lower refuse burning, minimum activities in airports, etc have also contributed.
  • This science can be strengthened further to inform action.

Challenges in achieving a similar outcome in future

  • Forced shutdown: This reduction has been possible because of the forced shutdown and this is not expected to last.
  • Political will: Will this translate into strong public and political support for hard and inconvenient solutions?
  • We have seen how the perception of immediate health risks has led to massive lifestyle adjustment and the virtual workplace has reduced travel. How is deep restructuring possible for effective emissions reduction and near-zero-emissions strategies without sliding back?
  • Economy vs Environment debate: This will not be easy given our unique vulnerability — livelihood distress in our informal economy, with the weakest environmental safeguards.
  • This sector will need state support for technology and clean fuel transition while delivering on welfare objectives.
  • The poor face a double burden — livelihood insecurity because of air pollution control and increased health burden due to toxic exposure. How will distributive welfare and justice be delivered?

Conclusion

  • Yet, valuable lessons from these extraordinary times are with us;
  • when the ongoing national clean air programme has entered the phase of implementation, quarterly tracking of progress in city action plans has started, committed funding for air pollution control to the urban local bodies in cities with million population by the Finance Commission has come through, air pollution and health science is getting stronger, and courts are asking for accountability and fixing responsibility.
  • India cannot continue to face extended health emergencies with even weaker lungs. The blue skies today are ephemeral and transient. But we cannot also return to what we know as normal and regular.

Air Pollution

[pib] Methanotrophs: the methane-oxidizing bacteria

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Methanotrophs

Mains level : Methane emission

 

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

What are Methanotrophs?

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

Why rice fields?

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

Must read:

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

 

Air Pollution

[pib] Biomethanation Process

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biomethanation Process

Mains level : Biomethanation as an alternative for stubble burning

 

 

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

What is Biomethanation?

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

How it works?

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

Air Pollution

World Air Quality Report, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM 2.5

Mains level : World Air Quality Report, 2019

 

The 2019 World Air Quality Report was recently released

World Air Quality Report

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

Highlights of the report

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

Top polluted Indian Cities


Back2Basics

PM 2.5

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

Air Pollution

Global cost of air pollution from fossil fuels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Cost of air pollution

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

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

Loss of lives

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

Economic cost

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

Air Pollution

IMO Sulphur regulations for Shipping

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IMO, VLSFO

Mains level : SOx pollution control measures

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

What do the new IMO rules say?

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

Cleaner options

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

Issues with the rule

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

Air Pollution

Carbon Disclosure Project Report 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon Disclosure Project

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

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

Carbon Disclosure Project

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

India’s performance

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

Global scenario

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

Importance

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

Air Pollution

Smog Tower

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Smog Tower, PM 2.5

Mains level : Curbing air pollution in Delhi

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

What is a ‘Smog Tower’?

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

How it works?

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

Other examples in the world

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

Air Pollution

Torrefaction Technology

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bioendev project, Torrefaction

Mains level : Alternatives to stubble burning


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

Bioendev project

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

What is Torrefaction?

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

Air Pollution

Methane breeding value

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon Equivalents

Mains level : GHG emission control

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

Methane breeding value

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

Why is methane such a problem?

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

Back2Basics

CO2 equivalents

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

1 x – carbon dioxide (CO2)

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

298 x – nitrous oxide (N2O)

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

Air Pollution

[oped of the day] Stubble burning is not the only culprit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Delhi air pollution

Context

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

An oversimplification

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

Stubble burning

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

Proposed three ways out

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

Reduction in production of paddy

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

Falling water levels

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

Happy Seeder

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

Conclusion

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

Air Pollution

[pib] Satellites to Assess Pollution Status

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD)

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution in India

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

Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD)

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

How is AOD calculated?

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

Significance of AOD

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Changing cropping patterns to address pollution

Context

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

Stubble burning

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

These solutions are not enough

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

Roots of the problem in Punjab

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

Why paddy?

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

Way ahead

 

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

Steps to encourage the shift

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

Conclusion

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

Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Stubble resistance

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Stubble Burning - way ahead

Context

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

Supreme court

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

Questions it rises

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

Response to judgement

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

Finances

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

State actions

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

Air Pollution

Indian Air quality Interactive Repository (IndAIR)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IndAir

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution in India


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

IndAIR

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

Why need such a repository?

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

Air Pollution

[oped of the day] To mitigate air pollution, look beyond tokenism

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

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

Context

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

Odd-Even scheme

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

It’s high time

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

Understanding the problem

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

Need for a comprehensive solution

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Curbing air pollution in Delhi


Context

Health emergency in Delhi

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

And blame game thus begins

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

Public Health at stake

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

Impacting India’s image

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

Learning from US

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

Goal isn’t too unrealistic

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

Going back to Air Act of 1981

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

Need for reforms in the Act

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

Making industries comply

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

Working hand-in-hands

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

Bringing in Accountability

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

Way Forward

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

Air Pollution

Carbon emission from tropical forests

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Forgone carbon removal

Mains level : Carbon emission from tropical forests

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

About the study

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

Forgone carbon removal

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

Air Pollution

Graded Response Action Plan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GRAP

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution


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

Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

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

How it works?

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

Severe+ or Emergency

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

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

Severe

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

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

Very Poor

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

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

Moderate to poor

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

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

Has GRAP helped?

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

What measures have been taken in other states?

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

Air Pollution

[pib] Green Crackers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green crackers

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution

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

About the Crackers

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

SWAS and STAR

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

SAFAL

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

Air Pollution

Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) of Gujarat

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ETS, Carbon trading

Mains level : About the Scheme

Context

Emission trading in Gujarat

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

Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)

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

Why was Surat chosen for the scheme?

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

Trading process

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

Auctions

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

Punitive actions for non-compliance

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

Significance of ETS

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

Air Pollution

Clean Air Coalition and Clean Air Fund

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Clean Air Coalition, Clean Air Fund

Mains level : Curbing air pollution

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

Clean Air Coalition

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

Why such move?

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

Clean Air Fund

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

Air Pollution

Happy Seeder (HS) Technique

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HS technology

Mains level : Alternatives to stubble burning


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

Happy Seeder (HS)

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

Using HS

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

Why use HS?

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

Issues with HS

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

Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Clearing the air

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Delhi Air pollution

Context

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

Fighting pollution

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

Odd-Even scheme

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

Way ahead

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

Conclusion

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

Air Pollution

Air pollution in Delhi drops 25% in four years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM 2.5, PM 10

Mains level : Curbing air pollution in Delhi

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

Delhi air pollution

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

What data show?

PM2.5

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

PM10

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

Seasonal variation, weather

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

What has worked in Delhi

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

Air Pollution

Pollution Under Control (PUC) Test

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PUC Test

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution


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

What is a PUC certificate?

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

How is a pollution control check carried out?

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

Why PUC?

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

Air Pollution

Global Liveability Ranking 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the index

Mains level : Factors affecting liveability in India

 


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

About the ranking

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

Global scenario

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

Why decline in liveabilty in India?

Abuses against journalists

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

Rise in Crime rates

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

Climatic changes

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

Constrained liveability conditions

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

Air Pollution

India biggest emitter of sulphur dioxide: report using NASA data

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sulphur Pollution

Mains level : Curbing air pollution


India largest emitter of sulfur

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

Why India?

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

NASA data

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

India is the loser

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

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

CONTEXT

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

Water

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

Air pollution

Statistics

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

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

Air Pollution

Gujarat launches India’s first Emission Trading Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Emission trading

Mains level : Curbing air pollution

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

Gujarat Emission Trading Scheme (ETS)

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

Using Cap and Trade system

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

How actual trading happens?

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

Benefits of ETS

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

Existing regulations

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

Air Pollution

Committee constituted to oversee clean air programme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Clean Air Plan (NCAP)

Mains level : Combating urban air pollution

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

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

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

Committee to implement NCAP

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

Why such move?

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

Air Pollution

Explained: The problem with diesel

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BS norms

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

Context

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

Bone of content- BS VI Norms

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

Bharat Stage Norms

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

Implementation history

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

What changes do the recent BS norms entail?

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

Minutes of BS VI

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

Why the transition is problematic?

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

Various complications

I. Early adaptation of components

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

II. Fuel price gaps

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

Air Pollution

Indoor emissions affect air-quality standards

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Role of indoor pollution in PM2.5

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

Household emission in India

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

Using Satellite data

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

Need for a multipronged approach

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

Air Pollution

State of Global Air Report, 2019

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : State of Global Air Report 2019

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

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

State of Global Air Report, 2019

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

India’s performance

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

Air Pollution

Parking management plan for Delhi

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

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


News

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

Management of parking in Delhi

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

MCLPs remain un-utilized

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

Key recommendations listed in EPCA report:

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Air Pollution


News

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

About IEA

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

The Global Energy & CO2 Status Report

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

Defying NDCs

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

Soaring demands for fossil fuels

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

Air Pollution

Enforcing a ban will not end the menace of stubble burning, say, researchers

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Winter air pollution caused by stubble burning


News

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

Ground zero reality

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

Ban not a solution

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

Govt. measures so far

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

What do researchers say?

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

Way Forward

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:GEO

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


News

CONTEXT

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

Relationship between economic growth and environment degradation

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

Suggestions for India

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

Managing air and water pollution

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

Responsibility for pollution

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

Way Forward

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

Air Pollution

[pib] India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

Note4studnets

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ICAP and its provisions

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


News

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

India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

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

Why focus on cooling?

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

Benefits of the Plan

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

Air Pollution

Nitrogen Pollution

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: N2 Pollution

Mains level: India’s vulnerability to Nitrogen Pollution


News

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

Frontiers Report 2019

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

Nitrogen: A limited necessity

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

Nitrogen: The “new carbon” for India

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

Overuse of Fertilizers

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

India is curious about it

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

Way Forward

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

Air Pollution

Most polluted cities of the world are in India

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Air Quality Report 2018

Mains level: Ever increasing air pollution in India


News

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

World Air Quality Report 2018

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

Highlights of the Report

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

Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] The thing about air

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: air quality standards,Lancet Report, NCAP

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


NEWS

CONTEXT

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

Impact of air pollution on public health

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

Policy and civil society responses to air pollution

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

Energy costing Measures to tackle Air Pollution

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

Problems with air purifiers

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

Way Forward

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

Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Clean power

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Name of air pollutants notified

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


NEWS

CONTEXT

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

Notification Regarding Pollution Control

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

Cost of Non-Compliance

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

Planning Financing Pollution Control Measures

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

Way Forward

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

 

Air Pollution

Emission levels rising faster in Indian cities than in China

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Problem of Vehicular Pollution in India


News

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

Vehicular emissions

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

Why blame New Delhi?

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

Indian emission exceeds China

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

Fuel Price hike has no impact

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

Air Pollution

Airpocalypse III Report

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Airpocalypse III Report

Mains level: Potential threats of Nitrogen Pollution from various sources


News

Greenpeace faults Centre’s scheme

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

Highlights of Airpocalypse III

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

Action plan under NCAP

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

Fault-line in NCAP

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

Air Pollution

Nitrogen Pollution

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SANH

Mains level: Potential threats of Nitrogen Pollution from various sources


News

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

Nitrogen Pollution

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

Nitrogen emission in India

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

About South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH)

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

Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] An inside problem

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

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

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


Context

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

Issue

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

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

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

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

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

Way Forward

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Controlling vehicular pollution


News

Govt to support research on methanol blending

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

Why such move?

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

Fuel replacement plan and its benefits

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

Air Pollution

National Clean Air Programme: Good idea but weak mandate

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: NCAP

Mains Level: NCAP and its mandate and effectiveness


News

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

National Clean Air Programme

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

Prospects of the NCAP

Need stronger mandate

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

Advisory in Terms

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

Need litmus test for effectiveness

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

Joining all dots

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

Need fiscal strategy

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

Need for Polluter Pay

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

Health  is on-board with NCAP

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

Way Forward

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

Air Pollution

India fourth largest contributor to carbon emission

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Carbon Project

Mains level: Trends in global carbon emission


News

Coal use hampers

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

China and US rocks global emission

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

About Global Carbon Project

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

Air Pollution

Ozone layer is recovering, says UN

Note4studnets

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Montreal Protocol, Kigali Agreement

Mains level: Success of international collaboration against Ozone Depletion


News

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

Success of Montreal Protocol

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

Complete healing

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

Cautions

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

Back2Basics

Montreal Protocol

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

Kigali Amendment

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WHO air quality standards, UNEP

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


Context

Winter pollution turning lethal

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

No prompt actions taken

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

What needs to be done?

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

Way forward

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The op-ed crucially highlights the often ignored impacts of deteriorating air quality on rural areas.


News

Context

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

Popular perception is Wrong

  1. India’s air pollution issue often comes off as a peculiarly urban problem.
  2. The WHO’s Air Pollution and Child Health: Prescribing Clean Air report released earlier this week contradicts the fact.
  3. The report notes that the main sources of air pollution may vary from urban to rural areas, but no area is safer from the peril of toxic air.
  4. This is much or more a rural issue as far the 1.1 million air pollution-related deaths in 2015, 75% were in rural India.

Entire north is under severe threat

  1. Every winter, the Indo-Gangetic plains, housing nearly a third of India’s population, are blanketed with a thick layer of ambient pollution.
  2. Stubble burning, brick kilns, coal-fired factories and wood-fires for heat all contribute.
  3. The problem is that of the 600-plus air quality monitoring stations the CPCB set up across the country, there are none in rural areas.

More Children are at Risk

  1. The report found India had almost 61,000 deaths of children under 5years due to ambient and household pollution.
  2. India’s 98% children are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution.
  3. This exposes them to a number of long-term physical and mental developmental problems.
  4. This exposure is also connected with the country’s shifting epidemiological profile where non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular conditions and cancer are increasing.

Situation is worsen by Indoor Pollution

  1. In 2003, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issued guidelines for ambient air quality monitoring.
  2. They differentiated between the types of pollution affecting urban and rural areas.
  3. When it comes to the latter, the guidelines focus entirely on indoor air pollution.
  4. The use of biomass fuels for indoor cooking, heating and light is a significant problem, true enough; the recent focus on this is appreciable.

Draft policy to mitigate

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

Policies hasn’t delivered yet

  1. The government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, aimed at shifting poor households from biomass to clean LPG had the right idea.
  2. But it hasn’t quite worked out that way in practice.
  3. LPG costs are a major deterrent to adoption and that even in households where LPG is used, fuel stacking—using biomass fuels alongside LPG is common.

Way Forward

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

Air Pollution

Children under 15 at serious risk from polluted air: WHO

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of WHO Report

Mains level: Impact of Air Pollution on Child Health


News

WHO report on Air Pollution and Child Health

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

What makes children more Vulnerable?

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

Air Pollution

[pib] CSIR develops Green Crackers and E-crackers

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Tackling air pollution with greener alternatives


News

Less Polluting Crackers

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

I. SWAS (Safe Water Releaser)

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

II. SAFAL (Safe Minimal Aluminium)

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

III. STAR (Safe Thermite Cracker)

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

E-Crackers

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

Working of E-Ladi

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

Other developments

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

Air Pollution

SC moves to make festivals less noisy

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  New regulations regarding selective ban on Fire Crackers

Mains level: Particulars of the Judgmen


News

Context

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

Highlights of the Judgment

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

A Perfect balance

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

Prescribed Time Limit

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

Regulating the Sale

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

Ban on certain Chemicals

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

Green Crackers at the Manufacturers rescue

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

Way Forward: Endeavoring Article 21 to effect

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

Air Pollution

[pib] “Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali” campaign

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Green Good Deed Campaign, Harit Diwali Campaign

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


News

Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali

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

A pan-India Campaign this year

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

Air Pollution

Emergency Action Plan for Delhi to kick in

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various measures at different AQIs

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


News

Context

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

Measure to counter Deteriorating Air Quality

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

GRAP measures based on air quality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back2Basics

Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

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

Air Pollution

[pib] Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi launched

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Air Quality Early Warning System

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


News

Context

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

Air Quality Early Warning System

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

Improved Accuracy Model

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

Some Mitigation Measures

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

Other Initiatives:

Mega Emission Inventory

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: EPCA

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


News

Reconstitution of EPCA

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

Why reconstitution?

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

Back2Basics

Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA)

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The problem of smog in Delhi and how to deal with it


Context

Stubble burning in North India

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

Reasons for air pollution in Delhi

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

Government plan to reduce pollution

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

Concerns of farmers

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

Way Forward

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

Air Pollution

[pib] WAYU- Air Pollution Mitigation Device

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WAYU

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


News

Context

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

WAYU (Wind Augmentation Purifying Unit)

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

 Working of the Device

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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.


News

Context

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

Mobilize Your City (MYC) 

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

 Components of the Programme

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

Air Pollution

Commute-related pollution: Kolkata shines among megacities

Note4students

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


News

Report on Urban pollution and energy consumption from Commuting

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

A National crisis

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

Highlights of the Ranking

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

Resounding message

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

Air Pollution

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

Image Source

Note4students

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


News

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.

Back2Basics

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

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

Air Pollution

Toxic air is causing malnutrition in trees

Note4students

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.


News

Trend in Europe is alarming

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

Impact of the malnutrition

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

Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] A drive to clean air

Note4students

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


Context

WHO air pollution report

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

Controlling vehicular emissions and domestic activity

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

Three key policy recommendations

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

Non-monetary incentives must go along with subsidies

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

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

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

Way forward

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4Students

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?


News

14 of the 15 highly polluted cities are in India

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

Why more pollution over Gangetic Plains?

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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.


News

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

Back2basics

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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.


News

Context

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

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

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

More about the EKC

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

The EKC for India

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

Why is pollution increasing in developing countries?

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

What are the major issues?

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

What should be done?

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

Air Pollution

New system to measure air quality

Note4students

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

Back2Basics

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

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

Air Pollution

[pib] National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

Mains level: Initiatives to combat air pollution


News:

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

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

Focuses on:

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

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

Key components of NCAP include –

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

Air Pollution

Stubble burning doubles Delhi pollution: Harvard study

Note4stuents

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.


News

Research by the Harvard University and NASA

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

Source of this agricultural fires

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

Pollution level in Delhi

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

Back2Basics

BS emission norms

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

Air Pollution

Government issues dust deadline: March 31 or face suspension

Note4students

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

Back2Basics

National Ambient Air Quality standards

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CPCB, OBD scanners

Mains level: Rising problem of air pollution


Tackle air pollution

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

Issue of ban on import of pet coke

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

Making use of OBD scanners compulsory

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

Air Pollution

Dust mitigation plan must for firms

Note4students

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

Guidelines

  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

Back2Basics

National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

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

Air Pollution

Domestic biomass burning deadliest source of air pollution: Study

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Burden of Disease report, PM 2.5

Mains level: Rising air pollution and ways to tackle it


Deadliest air pollution source in India

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

Global Burden of Diseases (GBD MAPS) report

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

Role of biomass burning

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

Air Pollution

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

Image Source

Note4studnets

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.


News

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

Back2basics

Surface ozone

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

Air Pollution

‘Green’ crackers on the anvil

Image source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Environment-friendly crackers, CSIR, perchlorate

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


Environment-friendly crackers

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

How will this be done?

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

Harmful effect of crackers

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

Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Hope for good air

Image Source

Note4students

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).


News

Various actions taken by India on Pollution front

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

Particulars of the action plans(mentioned above)

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

What went wrong?

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

Some issues with the diktats issued by the NGT

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

The way forward

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4Students

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


News

  • 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

Aim

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

Reasons for residues being  burnt in field

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

Effects oh health and environment

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

Air Pollution

Centre formulates plan to tackle air pollution across the country

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Clean Air Programme

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


Long-term time-bound national level strategy

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

About the plan

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

Air Pollution

Pollution from traffic affects foetal growth: study

Note4student

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


News

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

Back2basics

Issue of Low weight among children

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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

Context
  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.
Report
  1. The Centre and state governments must provide machines to every panchayat for common use.
  2. The most “promising technologies” in this are:
a.Turbo Happy Seeder (THS), which allows for seeding without till and
b.the Super Straw Management System (S-SMS) (developed by Punjab Agricultural University), which allows for straw to be spread on the field.
  1. If even three sets of these machines are given free to each panchayat, it would only require some Rs 2,000 crores to be spent in Punjab and Haryana.
  2. The payment for this programme should come from a pollution charge on petrol and diesel fuel sold in Delhi.
  3. The objective of the charge should also be to reduce the differential between the price of petrol and diesel
  4. If a cess of Rs 1 is imposed on petrol; Rs 5 is imposed on diesel per litre then the city alone will contribute Rs 900 crore in one year.

Air Pollution

India loses billions to air pollution: UN

Note4Students

                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.


News

Context

 

  • 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.

Back2basics

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.

UNEP

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

 

 

Air Pollution

New ‘gas standards’ in the works to fight pollution

 Note4students

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


News

Government looking to prepare a unified testing methodology

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

What will be the standards?

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

Present status

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

Way forward

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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)


News

Is Pollution problem confined to Delhi only?

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

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

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

The first step of recognizing the issue

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

CPCB data on pollution

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

Medical warning by experts

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

Limit upto which judiciary can act

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

Is it possible to control pollution?

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

Comprehensive action plan for Delhi
What should be done?

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

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

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

How to control Road Dust?

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

How to control Vehicle emission?

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

Discouraging car ownership will help

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

Coal power plants near Delhi

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

Burning of waste

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

The way forward

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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


Context

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

Changes seen in last few decades

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

What is not changed?

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

 Suspended particulate matter (SPM) in Delhi’s air

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

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

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

What should be done to stop stubble burning?

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

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

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

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

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

The way forward

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

Air Pollution

SC for nationwide ban on furnace oil, pet coke

Note4students

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.


News

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

Background

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

Other important observation by the SC bench

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

Air Pollution

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

Image source

Note4Students

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


News

Context

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

Back2basics

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

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

Air Pollution

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

Image source

Note4Students

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


News

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

Back2basics

BS-VI Norms

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

Air Pollution

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

Note4students

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


News

Outcomes of a recent study

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

Other particulars of the study

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

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

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

Air Pollution

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

Image Source

Note4students

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.


News

Context

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

What is the issue?

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

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

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

Ronald Coase way of  dealing with the effects of stubble burning

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

How can it be implemented in India?

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

More practical solution

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

What can we learn from the US?

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

Air Pollution

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

Image source

Note4Students

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


News

Context

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

Financial Package

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

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

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

Subsequent Communications regarding the issue

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

Other measures

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

Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Crisis is in the air

Image source

Note4students

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


Context

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