Air Pollution

Air Pollution

For an expanse of blue, with air so clean

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Climate change

Mains level : The problem of air pollution, serious threat, efforts in progress and viable solutions

What’s the news?

  • According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the Earth has entered an era of global boiling, marked by scorching heatwaves, devastating floods, and erratic weather patterns.

Central idea

  • With scorching heatwaves, devastating floods, and erratic weather patterns becoming the new normal, the urgency to address the triple-planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution has never been more apparent. Amidst this global turmoil, it’s crucial to recognize that one silent but deadly adversary is among us: air pollution.

The Silent Killer: Air Pollution

  • Global health statistics are grim, with lung cancer claiming 10 million lives worldwide in 2020, a number projected to rise by another 3.2 million by 2050, according to a report by the Indian National Institute of Health.
  • South Asia, home to two billion people, is a grim example, hosting nine of the world’s ten most polluted cities, with Delhi topping the list.
  • Despite some progress in terms of Air Quality Index (AQI) improvements, Delhi remains in the grip of perilous air pollution, especially during the winter months.

The Looming Threat of Air Pollution

  • Lung cancer, cardiovascular disorders, respiratory ailments, and mental health issues continue to devastate lives.
  • Delhi’s air, laden with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, high particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and ozone, deprives over 30 million residents of their basic human right to breathe clean air.
  • Vulnerable groups like immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, children, and the elderly suffer disproportionately.
  • In 2019, a Lancet report attributed 1.67 million deaths in India to air pollution, accounting for a staggering 17.8% of total deaths in the country.

Efforts in Progress to Combat Air Pollution

  • PUSA Decomposer: The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has developed the PUSA Decomposer, which employs biotechnology to tackle agricultural pollution. This innovative solution addresses the burning of crop residues, a significant contributor to air pollution.
  • State-level Policies: Many state governments have implemented policies like GRAP 3 (Graded Rapid Action Plan) to monitor air quality in pollution hotspots. The establishment of Green War Rooms represents a proactive approach to managing and mitigating air pollution in these regions.
  • Startups and Innovation: Numerous startups, often led by young entrepreneurs, are actively engaged in finding sustainable solutions to air pollution. These initiatives include the conversion of agricultural waste into valuable products, reducing the environmental impact of farming practices.

International Initiatives and Collaborations to Combat Air Pollution

  • UNESCO Initiatives: UNESCO has undertaken various initiatives to address air pollution. One notable initiative is the implementation of an internal carbon tax on all flight tickets. This tax aims to reduce carbon emissions from air travel, a significant contributor to global air pollution.
  • World Air Quality Project: The World Air Quality Project provides real-time air quality data, allowing residents to make informed decisions about their activities and travel based on current air quality conditions. This empowers individuals to protect their health by avoiding areas with poor air quality.
  • Collaboration with UNEP: UNESCO collaborates with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on environmentally conscious practices. For example, the ‘Virtual Meetings’ project promotes digital working to reduce the need for travel and its associated carbon emissions.
  • Clean-Air-For-Schools: UNESCO’s Clean-Air-For-Schools program focuses on spreading education and awareness about clean air among students and the wider community. This initiative aims to engage future generations in the fight against air pollution.
  • Promotion of Sustainable Practices: International initiatives also promote sustainable practices in various sectors. This includes the adoption of electric vehicles, the replacement of traditional lighting systems with energy-efficient LED arrangements, and the implementation of solar-powered offices to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Protection of Historical Sites: Efforts are underway to protect historical and cultural sites from the harmful effects of air pollution. Developing strategies to curb air pollution in the vicinity of these sites is essential for their preservation.
  • Green Solutions: UNESCO encourages the development of green solutions, such as urban forests, parks, and green corridors, to mitigate air pollution in urban areas.

Viable solutions to combat air pollution

  • Urban Planning and Design: Cities worldwide are adopting innovative urban planning and design strategies to prioritize human health and environmental sustainability. Car-free zones, green spaces, and smart urban layouts can significantly reduce air pollution by promoting alternative transportation methods and reducing traffic congestion.
  • Public Transportation: Electrified public transportation systems, including electric buses and trains, offer a sustainable and low-pollution alternative to traditional fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. These initiatives reduce emissions and contribute to cleaner air in urban areas.
  • Nature-Based Solutions: Integrating nature-based solutions, such as urban forests, parks, and green corridors, into urban landscapes can help absorb pollutants and improve air quality. These green spaces also provide additional benefits for public health and well-being.
  • Biotechnology: Innovative biotechnology, like the PUSA decomposer mentioned earlier, can play a crucial role in reducing agricultural pollution, a significant contributor to poor air quality.
  • Renewable Energy: Transitioning to clean and renewable energy sources can significantly reduce the air pollution associated with fossil fuel combustion. China’s shift to clean energy and electrified mobility serves as a prime example of this transition’s positive impact.
  • Sustainable Farming Practices: Initiatives like Indonesia’s Carbon Efficient Farming Project and efforts in Thailand and Vietnam to reduce open straw burning demonstrate the importance of adopting sustainable agricultural practices to minimize air pollution.
  • International Collaboration: Global initiatives, such as those by UNESCO and the World Air Quality Project, facilitate international cooperation to combat air pollution. These efforts include measures like implementing carbon taxes on flight tickets and promoting environmentally conscious practices.
  • Youth-Led Advocacy: Young activists worldwide are actively raising awareness about air pollution and advocating for cleaner air. Their efforts, including real-time air quality data monitoring and environmental education, play a vital role in inspiring change.

Conclusion

  • The time for action is now. The problem of air pollution was created by people, and it is people who must find and implement solutions, supported by effective air quality policies and action plans. The choice is ours, and it is one that demands urgency, resolve, and a collective commitment to securing a cleaner, healthier world for all.

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Air Pollution

TEMPO: NASA device to Monitor Air Pollution from Space

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TEMPO Mission

Mains level : Air Pollution monitoring

tempo

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched carrying a new NASA device named Tropospheric Emissions Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) designed to monitor air pollutants and their emission sources across North America from space more comprehensively than ever before.

What is TEMPO?

  • TEMPO is an instrument developed by NASA, which will enable scientists to monitor air pollutants and their emission sources from space, down to the neighbourhood level.
  • This instrument will measure pollution and air quality across greater North America on an hourly basis during the daytime.

TEMPO’s special features

  • TEMPO is unique because it will be hosted on an Intelsat communications satellite in geostationary orbit, about 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above the equator.
  • This will allow the instrument to match the rotation of the Earth, meaning it will stay over the same location (North America) at all times.
  • It will be able to measure atmospheric pollution down to a spatial resolution of 4 square miles (10 square km), or neighbourhood level.

Applications of TEMPO

  • TEMPO will have multiple applications from measuring levels of various pollutants to providing air quality forecasts and helping the development of emission-control strategies.
  • The data will be used by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other agencies responsible for tackling atmospheric pollution.

Importance of the mission

  • According to the American Lung Association, more than 40% of the US population, 137 million people, live in places with unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone, and air pollution is blamed for some 60,000 premature deaths a year.
  • TEMPO will track pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, produced from the combustion of fossil fuels, formaldehyde, and ozone.

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Air Pollution

Air Pollution in Mumbai: An unusual phenomenon needs to be studied

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Air pollution

Mains level : La Nina and Climate change attributed air pollution

Mumbai

Context

  • Anthropogenic emissions are central to environmental issues, whether climate change or air quality. During the peak winter months of November to January in 2022-23, air quality in India’s financial hub, Mumbai, noticeably deteriorated, a taste of what Delhi encounters frequently.

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Mumbai’s deteriorated air quality

  • Out of the past 92 winter days, Mumbai observed 66 poor and very poor air quality days in 2022-23 as compared to just 28 in the past three years’ average. More so, it had just one day in the permissible limit (NAAQS) this year as against the average of 15 days in the recent past.
  • Good days declined, but foul days have increased by a whopping 135 per cent, leaving residents more choked and breathless than they have been in years.
  • On many days during these months, the air quality in Mumbai sank lower than in Delhi.
  • These findings are from India’s first indigenously-developed forecasting framework, SAFAR.

What caused this unusual development in Mumbai?

  • Mainly due to emissions from anthropogenic and natural sources: Air quality deteriorates mainly due to emissions from anthropogenic and natural sources, and weather manoeuvres.
  • La Nina, attributed to climate change, has played an unusual role: The reason for the sudden spike in the current pollution cycle in Mumbai is part of a larger meteorological phenomenon that needs to be studied further. Research suggests that the unprecedented triple dip in La Nina, attributed to climate change, has played an unusual role.
  • Extreme weathers due to climate change but linkage with air quality remains elusive: Scientists have discovered that climate change is leading to extreme weather, changes in the ecosystem, and human displacements, but linkages with air quality remain elusive.

Value addition

  • The weather or climate cannot generate emissions.
  • Some cities like Delhi have a disadvantage due to their geographical location, being landlocked.
  • But coastal cities like Mumbai enjoys a natural cleansing advantage.
  • Stronger surface winds favour faster dispersion and wind reversal cycles of strong sea breezes that sweep away air pollutants from the land.

How this phenomenon has played an unusual role?

  • Change in wind patterns: This phenomenon has led to the change in wind patterns affecting Mumbai, with frequent calmer wind spells, and delayed cleaner sea wind reversal around the region.
  • Reducing dispersal rate of pollutants: This, in turn, affects the natural cleansing mechanism of the city by reducing the dispersal rate of pollutants and trapping the newly generated high-flying dust emissions.
  • Import of transboundary pollution: The import of transboundary pollution from more polluted regions due to wind pattern changes is also adding to the misery. An increase in all sizes of particles (coarser and finer) has been observed.
  • Dust emission is the major reason: It is scientifically prudent to conclude that the major share in the current worsening of air quality is from dust emissions. Many redevelopment and construction projects are operational across the city. So, the increase is due to intensifying emissions at the source, which usually consist of PM 2.5 made up of transport (31 per cent), industries (20 per cent), and resuspended dust (15 per cent), besides other smaller sources.

All you need to know about  “SAFAR”

  • SAFAR stands for System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research.
  • It is an initiative of the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences 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.
  • It was started under the plan scheme Metropolitan Advisories for Cities for Sports, Tourism (Metropolitan Air Quality and Weather Services)
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • It was started on a Pilot basis in the cities of Pune, Ahmadabad, New Delhi and Mumbai.

Way ahead

  • The battle against air pollution is long and difficult, but success is achievable beyond doubt.
  • Putting green curtains around construction sites, regularly sprinkling water on truck tyres and debris before loading and unloading material, and ensuring smooth traffic flow to overcome snarls are some of the immediate remedies.
  • In the medium term, transitioning to electric vehicles, addressing solid waste management, dumping grounds, and industrial toxin management are some actions that will help us achieve better air quality.

Conclusion

  • Before we start to address the problem, we need to recognise it. Acting together and strengthening the fight against air pollution should be the order of the day. The situation is not currently urgent, but it is a clear early sign of the impact climate change can have. Hence, we must address the root cause of the problem anthropogenic emissions instead of looking for shortcuts.

Mains question

Q. Anthropogenic emissions are central to environmental issues, whether climate change or air quality. Give examples to support your arguments.

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Air Pollution

What is missing in Delhi’s breathing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Air pollution

Mains level : Impact of Air pollution and Delhi's annual air pollution problem and way ahead

Delhi

Context

  • Every year around Deepavali, and like clockwork, Delhi’s air quality makes it to the headlines. As firefighters we are doing well, but as planners doing very little. While nature will not change, emissions can be reduced. While a lot has been written and said about Delhi’s air quality, the question that still has to be answered is this: why is nothing changing after all these years?

Air pollution and its impact

  • Air pollution a health crisis in making: Increasingly polluted air is a hazard and a health crisis in the making, in fact, it is already one.
  • Air pollution related death in India: India now reports 2.5 million air pollution-related deaths annually.
  • Air pollution not confined to external hazard: Pollution not only makes our throats and eyes burn but is much more insidious.
  • Pollutants can enter bloodstreams: Some pollutants are so small that they are able to enter the bloodstream with ease, impacting almost every organ in the body and leading to the onset of health issues such as stroke, heart diseases, respiratory diseases and cancer, to name just a few serious health problems.

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Delhi

Critique: Why is nothing changing after all these years?

  • Applying same approach without through evaluation: A principal reason is that year after year, we are doing the same things to try and address the problem without actually trying to evaluate why those measures are not effective.
  • Inefficiency of Commission for Air Quality Management: The Government formed the Commission for Air Quality Management, which, unfortunately, did not offer anything new. This body essentially issued the same orders the Ministry and the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority used to, with just a slight change in the language used.
  • Same advisory every year than the preventive measures: Every year schools are closed, people are advised to to stay indoors, or carpool and work from home, bans on firecrackers are reinforced, construction stopped, trucks and cars not allowed to enter the city, and industries running on fuel shut. These measures, and several others, are akin to dressing a bullet wound with band-aid.

Analysis: Is it only stubble burning is the culprit behind Delhi’s air pollution?

  • Delhi’s bad air when stubble is not being burnt: Stubble burning in the neighbouring States being identified as the main culprit. However, the reality is that Delhi’s air is bad even when stubble is not being burnt.
  • Burning of biomass in and around Delhi: The burning of biomass in and around Delhi, if audited properly, would be the same as stubble burning in other States. Unfortunately, none of the bodies, be it the municipal body or the government’s Public Works Department, is willing to take responsibility for this or address and find a solution to the problem.
  • Less compliance on construction activities: Delhi chokes on its own dust and industrial activities. No clarity on how and who is ensuring compliance with the rules relating to the handling of construction and demolition waste.
  • Heavy reliance on private Vehicles which is another major source of pollution: Vehicles are another source of pollution in the city. Despite an expanding fleet of public transport, citizens who primarily use two-wheelers have not moved to using the public transport system, buses and the metro. Reasons for this may include last-mile connectivity, the problem of crowding in buses and metros, and the inability to reach and navigate narrow lanes that two-wheelers can. The state of maintenance of buses could be another reason as well.

Delhi

What needs to be done?

  • Look beyond the measures that have already been tried: We have to be creative and look beyond the measures that have already been tried and proved they are at best a short-term solution to a recurring, long-term problem.
  • Making efficient and coordinated governance mechanism: Core issue that needs to be addressed is the governance system. There needs to be a single entity that takes responsibility for air quality management. We cannot operate in silos where one system of governance is responsible for thinking, a second issues orders and a third is responsible for implementation. There need to be an efficient system that works in a coordinated way.
  • Acknowledge the reality and not just taking the actions in the time of crisis: The reality also is that Delhi is not the sole offender. There are many other cities in India where safe levels of air quality are breached regularly. We need to take more comprehensive, long-term measures throughout the year and not just in the days and weeks when it begins to make news.

Conclusion

  • This is not to say that stubble burning is not a problem. Some solutions have been tried out over the years, but with little success. Unless farmers are adequately compensated, the problem is unlikely to go away. What is required is a fundamental shift in agricultural patterns, and a strong political will to take bold decisions.

Mains question

Q. Do you agree with the statement that only stubble burning is the culprit behind Delhi’s air pollution?

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Air Pollution

Urban Pollution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pollution related facts

Mains level : Air and Water pollution, Impact on health and measures

Urban Pollution

Context

  • More than 1,10,000 infants are likely to have been killed by air pollution in India in 2019, almost immediately after being born while long-term exposure to outdoor and household air pollution was estimated to be responsible for about 1.67 million annual deaths amongst the adult population in the country.

What is pollution?

  • Pollution is the introduction of harmful materials into the environment. These harmful materials are called pollutants. Pollutants can be natural, such as volcanic ash. They can also be created by human activity, such as trash or runoff produced by factories. Pollutants damage the quality of air, water, and land.

Urban Pollution

Menace of air pollution in urban areas

  • Demands for air purifiers: Demand for air purifiers has boomed. Recently, in Delhi, pollution-related curbs were lifted and schools opened, despite air quality continuing to be in the “very poor” category.
  • Health related problems: For the majority of urban north Indians who can’t afford air purifiers, life continues amidst dust, cough and breathlessness.
  • Children are most affected: Our children in urban localities are growing up with stunted lungs, amidst poverty.
  • High percentage of respiratory problems: Eighty per cent of all families in Delhi are noted to be suffering respiratory ailments due to severe pollution.

How we can reduce the air pollution?

  • Expand green cover across urban areas to reduce dust pollution: Ahmedabad’s municipal corporation, for instance, has experimented with urban forests, with the city’s 43rd urban forest inaugurated in June 2021 over 20,000 trees have been in 7,625 sq. metres. Chandigarh has about 1,800 parks. Close to 46 per cent of the city was classified as a green area in 2019.
  • Use of Miyawaki technique: Civil society could also help in Chennai, the NGO Thuvakkam, with a volunteer force of 1,800, has been able to grow 25 Miyawaki forests, raising over 65,000 trees. Such plantations are now being replicated in other cities including Tuticorin, Vellore and Kanchipuram.
  • Push for airshed management: With a focus on understanding meteorological, seasonal and geographic patterns for air quality across a large region. In the US, the passage of the Air Quality Act (1967) saw the state of California being divided into 35 districts which had similar geographic and meteorological conditions and pollution was regulated at the state level. This approach was successful in reducing emissions by 98 per cent from 2010 to 2019.
  • Heavy penalty on polluting cars: Inspiration can also be taken from London’s air pollution revolution an Ultra-Low Emission zone has been established in Central London, with hefty daily fees on cars that emit more than 75g/km of pollution.

Urban Pollution

Water pollution in Indian cities

  • Untreated water into freshwater bodies: 72 per cent of urban sewage is untreated in India’s urban freshwater bodies. The Central Pollution Control Board reckons that more than 50 per cent of 351 river stretches (on 323 rivers) are polluted. Over 4,000 septic trucks (with each truck having 5,000 litres of human waste) dispose of their waste in the Ganga every day. In Delhi, about 941 MLPD of raw sewage finds its way to the river, killing off fish and preventing rituals on the banks.
  • Riverine Pollution: Riverine pollution causes due to raw sewage overflowing from sewage treatment plants, untreated waste from unauthorized colonies, industrial effluents, sewer water from authorized colonies and inter-state pollution.
  • Water scarcity: More than 40 per cent of Indians are expected to face water scarcity by 2050 and close to 35 million will face annual coastal flooding with sea level rise.
  • Lack of planning: Apathy prevails as of May 2021, only 16 Indian cities had disclosed their plans to tackle climate change to international institutions, with only eight having actual sustainability-related targets in their urban master plans. Only 43 per cent of all Indian cities surveyed actually sought to address climate change adaption as a topic in their master plans, while only five had a GHG emission reduction target.

Urban Pollution

Do you know this harsh reality?

  • In India, nearly 7 lakh premature deaths are attributed to water pollution
  • Globally, 1.5 million children under five years die each year as a result of water-related diseases.

How to fight water pollution?

  • Improving sewage treatment plant capacity: ensuring linkages with the drainage network. Mangalore’s City Corporation (MCC) has wastewater treatment plants with end-user linkages. The MCC offered to supply treated water to such industrial end-users in the city’s special economic zone if the latter agreed to fund about 70 per cent of the operations and maintenance cost of the pumps and the sewage treatment plant.
  • Developing a sanitation network: The problem of untreated waste and sewer water from unauthorized colonies can be solved by investing in a sewerage network. Consider the example of Alandur, a small suburb of Chennai in 2000, it had no underground sewage lines, with most houses dependent on septic tanks. In the late 1990s, the local municipality in partnership with local resident welfare associations conducted collection drives to gain deposits (ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500) for developing a sanitation network.
  • Pump house: The project was launched with a push for creating a pump house, setting up over 5,650 manholes and providing sewerage connections to 23,700 households, a sewage treatment plant with a 12 MLD capacity was also set up. Going forward, many other municipalities in Tamil Nadu have sought to adopt this model.
  • A systems-based approach should be adopted: along with a push for protecting “blue infra” areas places that act as natural sponges for absorbing surface runoff, allowing groundwater to be recharged. At the household level, we can encourage citizens to take up rainwater harvesting, urban roof terrace greening, urban roof water retention tanks and having a green corridor around residential buildings.
  • Water permeable roads: Municipalities could be encouraged to make existing roads permeable with a push for green landscaping and rain gardens. At the city level and beyond, policymakers should push for “sponge cities” and incorporate disaster planning. A mindset shift, in citizenry and policymakers, is urgently needed.

Conclusion

  • Urban planning and urban pollution are largely neglected in our governance model. Unplanned cities are facing the various problems. We must embrace the technology to fight the pollution in urban India.

Mains Question

How severe is the problem of Urban pollution? What steps can be taken to fight the urban pollution in India?

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Air Pollution

Genesis of the Delhi Air Pollution and its mitigation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Delhi Air Pollution issue

delhi

As the situation becomes an annually recurring one in New Delhi and NCR, here’s a look at how far back it goes and what policies have been adopted by the Centre and Delhi’s elected governments to curb air pollution over the years.

Do you know?

In November 2016, in an event known as the Great Smog of Delhi, the air pollution spiked far beyond acceptable levels. This tagged New Delhi to be world’s most polluted city ever.

Causes of Poor Air Quality

  • Motor vehicle emissions are one of the causes of poor air quality.
  • Badarpur Thermal Power Station, a coal-fired power plant was another major source of air pollution in Delhi.
  • The drift/mist emissions from the wet cooling towers are also a source of particulate matter as they are widely used in industry and other sectors for dissipating heat in cooling systems.
  • Although Delhi is kerosene free and 90% of the households use LPG for cooking, the remaining 10% uses wood, crop residue, cow dung, and coal for cooking. (Census-India, 2011)
  • Fires in Bhalswa landfill is a major reason for airborne particles in Delhi.
  • Burning of effigies during Vijayadashami and bursting of firecrackers burning during Diwali is often accused by the left-wing activists to cause of Delhi’s poor air quality.
  • Agricultural stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab, coupled with north-westerly winds also affects Delhi’s air quality since the 1980s when crops are being harvested.

Evolution of policies

(1) Recognition of the broader issue (1995)

  • In March 1995, the Supreme Court, while hearing a plea by environmentalist and lawyer M.C. Mehta about Delhi’s polluting industries
  • It noted that Delhi was the world’s fourth most polluted city in terms of concentration of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the ambient atmosphere as per the WHO’s 1989 report.

(2) Identifying major pollutants (1996)

  • The Court took note of two polluting factors — vehicles and industries.
  • In 1996, the court ordered the closure and relocation of over 1,300 highly-polluting industries from Delhi’s residential areas beyond the National Capital Region (NCR) in a phased manner.
  • In 1996, Mr. Mehta filed another public interest litigation (PIL) alleging that vehicular emissions were leading to air pollution and that it posed a public health hazard.

(3) Action plan by Delhi Govt. (1996)

  • The Delhi government submitted an action plan to the apex court.
  • The court recognised the need for technical assistance and advice in decision-making and implementation of its orders.

(4) Establishment of EPCA (1998)

  • The Supreme Court asked the Environment Ministry to establish an authority for Delhi, leading to the creation of the Environmental Pollution Control Authority of Delhi NCR (EPCA) in 1998.
  • The EPCA submitted its report containing a two-year action.
  • The Court subsequently ordered the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus fleet, taxis, and autos to switch to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), and the phasing out of all pre-1990 autos.
  • Coal-based power plants within Delhi were also converted to gas-based ones.

(5) National Air Quality Programme (NAMP)

  • Around the same time, the Centre decided to establish a network of monitoring stations under the National Air Quality Programme (NAMP) to measure key pollutants.
  • The NAMP monitors the four major pollutants as part of the AQI – sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, respirable particulate matter and fine particulate matter.
  • It also checks wind speed and direction along with relative humidity and temperature.

How were air quality standards revised?

  • The National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) were specified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • It identified pollutants like PM10 (particulate matter with a diameter exceeding 10 microns), sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides were measured.
  • The NAAQS were revised in 2009 to include 12 categories of pollutants including PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter under 2.5 microns
  • Particulate Matter (PM) is primarily generated by fuel combustion from different sectors, including transport, energy, households, industry and agriculture.

Arriving finally at: Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

  • According to the revised NAAQS, the acceptable annual limit for PM2.5 is 40 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) and 60 ug/m3 for PM10.
  • In the winter of 2016, Delhi witnessed one of its worst incidents of pollution-induced smog, with PM2.5 and PM10 levels reaching a whopping 999 ug/m3 in parts of Delhi on November 1.
  • Subsequently, the Supreme Court in November 2016 told Delhi and NCR authorities to form a plan to deal with the air pollution.
  • The MoEFCC in early 2017 came out with the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

 

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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?

 

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Air Pollution

State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Role of SPCB

Mains level : Issues faced by SPCB and Suggested Solutions to making it effective

pollution

Context

  • In the fight against air pollution in the Indo Gangetic Plain, there are several important protagonists, none more so than India’s frontline environmental regulators, the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), and the Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) in the Union Territories. There is no future with clean air in which the SPCB’s do not perform at the highest level possible.

know about State Pollution Control Boards (SPCB)

  • Constituted under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974: The SPCBs were initially constituted under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the SPCB mandate was expanded to include air quality management.
  • New responsibility without capacity: Subsequently, several new environmental regulations added to their roles and functions. Unfortunately, this enhanced mandate has not been matched with increased capacity and capability in the Boards. As environmental indicators such as air quality and water quality worsen in many parts of the country, the Boards are evidently failing to effectively discharge their statutory mandate.

Analyzing the performance of SPCB’s

  • Poor performance of SPCBs: Over the years, several reports that have been published, including those by the parliamentary standing committee and government committees, have identified reasons for the poor performance of the SPCBs.
  • Experts are excluded from composition: The composition of SPCBs is a matter of serious concern as important stakeholders and those with crucial expertise are missing in most States. Boards are multimember bodies headed by a chairperson and a member secretary. Their decisions and policies guide the day-to-day functioning of the organisation.
  • Conflict of interest: Over 50% of the Board members across the 10 SPCBs and PCC studied represent potential polluters: local authorities, industries, and public sector corporations. They are subject to the SPCB’s regulatory measures, and their overwhelming presence raises fundamental questions around conflicts of interest.
  • SPCBs Does not meet the statutory requirement: At the same time, scientists, medical practitioners, and academics constitute only 7% of the Board members. What is even more worrying is that most Boards do not meet the statutory requirement of having at least two Board members who have knowledge of, and experience in, air quality management.
  • SPCB’s leadership and uncertain tenure: The chairperson and the member secretary do not enjoy a long, stable, and fulltime tenure. In many States, persons in these two posts hold an additional charge in other government departments. Data also show that several chairpersons and member secretaries have held their posts for less than a year. For example, the shortest tenure for a chairperson has been 18 days (Chhattisgarh) and 15 days for a member secretary (Haryana and Uttar Pradesh).
  • Short tenure with multiple roles: With the focus of the leadership of SPCB spread thin across multiple roles and their tenures being short, often they do not even have the time to understand their mandate fully before they are moved out. In such a scenario, long term policy planning, strategic interventions and effective execution aimed at reducing air pollution substantially are extremely difficult.
  • Problem of Understaffing: The SPCBs are critically understaffed. At least 40% of all sanctioned posts are vacant across nine SPCBs/PCCs for which there is data. Vacancy levels in technical positions are as high as 84% in Jharkhand, and over 75% in Bihar and Haryana. An inadequate staff strength forces the Boards to recast their priorities among their various functions.
  • Less regulatory scrutiny: Less staff strength also means weaker regulatory scrutiny and poor impact assessment. For example, given their workload, engineers in Bihar, Jharkhand, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have less than a day to inspect, evaluate and decide on each consent application. With Board staff running on empty, this is clearly an unsustainable situation.

pollution

What are the recommendations for effective SPCBs?

  • Addressing Leadership and human resource needs: Strengthening manpower at the SPCBs will not only require hiring new resources, but also training existing staff by leveraging institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, NEERI, and others. These in-service training programs would also serve as an incentive for staff both new and existing.
  • Better Pay structures: The Pay structure need to be revised to align with sectoral norms to ensure that SPCBs are not regularly losing trained manpower to industry and other sectors.
  • Modern infrastructure: The infrastructure of PCBs also needs to be improved along with manpower i.e., facilities such as adequate computers, improved lab facility etc. The instruments used for monitoring are not maintained properly or outdated. Sometimes labs are also not equipped enough to do the necessary analysis.
  • Expert should lead the SPCBs: It is imperative for their effective functioning that States should nominate to leadership positions, individuals of technical expertise and distinguished service such that effective decision making can be carried out.
  • Providing the fixed tenure: They should be appointed for a fixed tenure and in full-time roles, with the sword of removal or termination not hanging over their heads.
  • Reduction is composition for effective functioning: The size of the boards themselves may also be reduced to aid in effective functioning, with preference in membership given to technical experts, as is the international best practice. These moves would ensure that the Boards function effectively as independent agencies, as envisioned in their foundational legislation.

pollution

Read the basics-Air pollution

  • Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.
  • Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Outdoor and indoor air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases and are important sources of morbidity and mortality.

Conclusion

  • Given the scale and causes of air pollution in India, multidisciplinary expertise is needed to tackle it; there must also be an explicit focus on health while designing air pollution policy. The lack of expertise and skewed representation of stakeholders on the Boards can only be a hindrance to effective policy making.

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Air Pollution

What is Air Quality Index (AQI)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Air Quality Index

Mains level : Not Much

 

air

 

 

Air Quality Index (AQI)

  • AQI measures how safe the air around you is for breathing. Organizations that report AQI measure the density of various pollutants in the air (such as PM2.5, PM10, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, etc) at different monitoring stations.
  • The widely-used National Air Quality Index (NAQI) given by the Central Pollution Control Board is a 24-hour average.
  • Its unit is micrograms per cubic meter.
  • A particular amount of one pollutant may not be as harmful as the same amount of another pollutant.
  • So, each pollutant’s quantity in the air is adjusted to a common scale (say, 0 to 500) that works for all pollutants.
  • Finally, the pollutant with the worst sub-index determines the AQI for that time and location.

What are NAAQ standards?

  • The mandate provided to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act empowers it to set standards for the quality of air.
  • Hence the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards were notified in November 2009 by the CPCB.
  • Prior to this, India had set Air Quality standards in 1994, and this was later revised in 1998.
  • The 2009 standards further lowered the maximum permissible limits for pollutants and made the standards uniform across the nation.
  • Earlier, less stringent standards were prescribed for industrial zones as compared to residential areas.

Pollutants covered:

  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2),
  • Particulate Matter (size less than 10 µm) or PM 10
  • Particulate Matter (size less than 2.5 µm) or PM2.5
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Ammonia (NH3)

(Air Pollutants that most of us NEVER heard of)

  • Lead
  • Benzene (C6H6)
  • Benzo(a)Pyrene (BaP)
  • Arsenic(As)
  • Nickel (Ni)

What are Initiatives taken by India for Controlling Air Pollution?

  • System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) Portal
  • Air Quality Index: AQI has been developed for eight pollutants viz. PM2.5, PM10, Ammonia, Lead, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide.
  • Graded Response Action Plan
  • For Reducing Vehicular Pollution: BS-VI Vehicles, Push for Electric Vehicles (EVs),Odd-Even Policy as an emergency measure
  • New Commission for Air Quality Management
  • Subsidy to farmers for buying Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) Machine

 

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Air Pollution

CBG: Renewable energy revolution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CBG

Mains level : Stubble burning, air pollution and solutions, CBG

cbg

Context

  • The beginnings of a renewable energy revolution rooted in agriculture are taking shape in India with the first bio-energy plant of a private company in Sangrur district of Punjab having commenced commercial operations on October 18. It will produce Compressed Biogas (CBG) from paddy straw, thus converting agricultural waste into wealth.

Background

  • Stubble burning every year in north and northwest: It has become common practice among farmers in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh to dispose of paddy stubble and the biomass by setting it on fire to prepare fields for the next crop, which has to be sown in a window of three to four weeks. This is spread over millions of hectares.
  • Resultant smog polluting environment: The resultant clouds of smoke engulf the entire National Capital Territory of Delhi and neighbouring States for several weeks between October to December. This plays havoc with the environment and affects human and livestock health.
  • Stubble burning practice spreading rapidly across the country: Though paddy stubble burning in northwest India has received a lot of attention because of its severity of pollution, the reality is that crop residue burning is spreading even to rabi crops and the rest of the country. Unless these practices are stopped, the problem will assume catastrophic proportions.

 What is Stubble Burning?

  • Stubble (parali) burning is a method of removing paddy crop residues from the field to sow wheat from the last week of September to November.
  • It is usually required in areas that use the combined harvesting method which leaves crop residue behind.
  • This practice mostly carried out in Punjab, Haryana and UP contributes solely to the grave winter pollution in the national capital.

cbg

How stubble burning impacts environment and Human health?

  • Deteriorates air quality: The process of burning farm residue is one of the major causes of air pollution in parts of north India, deteriorating the air quality.
  • Source of various harmful gases: Stubble burning is a significant source of carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC).
  • Air Pollution: Stubble burning emits toxic pollutants in the atmosphere containing harmful gases like Carbon Monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC). These pollutants disperse in the surroundings and eventually affect air quality and people’s health by forming a thick blanket of smog. Along with vehicular emissions, it affects the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the national capital and NCR.
  • Soil degradation: Soil becomes less fertile and its nutrients are destroyed when the husk is burned on the ground. Organic content of soil is completely destroyed. Stubble burning generates heat that penetrates into the soil, causing an increase in erosion, loss of useful microbes and moisture.

cbg

Some of the measures taken by Government for the effective prevention and control of stubble burning

  • The Commission for Air Quality Management: The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) had developed a framework and action plan for the effective prevention and control of stubble burning,
  • In-situ management: The framework/action plan includes in-situ management, i.e., incorporation of paddy straw and stubble in the soil using heavily subsidized machinery (supported by crop residue management (CRM) Scheme of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare).
  • Ex-situ management: Ex-situ CRM efforts include the use of paddy straw for biomass power projects and co-firing in thermal power plants, and as feedstock for 2G ethanol plants, feed stock in CBG plants, fuel in industrial boilers, waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, and in packaging materials, etc.
  • Awareness generation programme: Additionally, measures are in place to ban stubble burning, to monitor and enforce this, and initiating awareness generation.
  • Project by NITI Aayog along with FAO: NITI Aayog approached FAO India in 2019 to explore converting paddy straw and stubble into energy and identify possible ex-situ uses of rice straw to complement the in-situ programme.
  • Rice straw for producing CBG: A techno-economic assessment of energy technologies suggested that rice straw can be cost-effective for producing CBG and pellets. Pellets can be used in thermal power plants as a substitute of coal and CBG as a transport fuel.
  • SATAT initiative: With 30% of the rice straw produced in Punjab, a 5% CBG production target set by the Government of India scheme, “Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT)” can be met. It could also increase local entrepreneurship, increase farmers’ income and reduce open burning of rice straw.
  • Encouraging private players to produce CBG more and reduce CO2 emissions: Verbio India Private Limited, a 100% subsidiary of the German Verbio AG, got approval from the Punjab government in April 2018 to set up a bio-CNG project that will utilise about 2.1 lakh tonnes of a total of 18.32 million tonnes of paddy straw annually. The plant will use one lakh tonnes of paddy straw produced from approximately 16,000 hectares of paddy fields. Paddy residue will be collected from this year to produce 33 tons of CBG and 600-650 tonnes of fermented organic manure/slurry per day this will reduce up to 1.5 lakh tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

FAO Study on developing crop residue supply chain

  • Use of Rice straw: In technical consultations with the public and private sectors, the FAO published its study on developing a crop residue supply chain in Punjab that can allow the collection, storage and final use of rice straw for other productive services, specifically for the production of renewable energy.
  • Required Investment and benefits farmers: The results suggest that to mobilise 30% of the rice straw produced in Punjab, an investment of around ₹2,201 crore ($309 million) would be needed to collect, transport and store it within a 20-day period. This would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 9.7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent and around 66,000 tonnes of PM2.5. Further, depending on market conditions, farmers can expect to earn between ₹550 and ₹1,500 per ton of rice straw sold, depending on market conditions.

cbg

Interesting to read: Compressed Bio Gas (CBG)

  • Biogas is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic decomposition from waste / bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste, etc.
  • After purification, it is compressed and called CBG, which has a pure methane content of over 95%.
  • CBG is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential.
  • With calorific value (~52,000 KJ/kg) and other properties similar to CNG, CBG can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel.
  • Given the abundance of biomass in the country, CBG has the potential to replace CNG in automotive, industrial and commercial uses in the coming years.

Conclusion

  • Encouraging private players for producing CBG appears to be a first win-win initiative in the form of environmental benefits, renewable energy, value addition to the economy, farmers’ income and sustainability. This initiative is replicable and scalable across the country and can be a game changer for the rural economy.

Mains Question

Q. What is Stubble burning? Discuss the measures taken by Government for the effective prevention and control of stubble burning and producing CBG could be a win-win situation.

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Air Pollution

GRAP Stage II kicks in as Delhi’s air quality may turn ‘very poor’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Graded Response Action Plan- GRAP

Mains level : Delhi Air Pollution issue

The Commission for Air Quality Management directed New Delhi authorities to enforce stage II of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) with immediate effect.

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 also works as an emergency measure.
  • It includes strict measures such as a ban on the entry of heavy vehicles, the odd-even road rationing restrictions, and a halt of construction work – each of which is likely to be impractical at a time when the pandemic has exacted heavy economic costs and public transport has been seen as an infection risk.

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 over 121-250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 over 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 over 61-120 µg/cu. m. or PM10 over 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

 

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Air Pollution

What are Green Crackers?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Green crackers

Mains level : Not Much

cracker

Many states have outlawed firecrackers and mandated the production, sale, and usage of only green firecrackers in light of Diwali’s impending arrival and the air pollution crisis.

What are green crackers?

  • Green Crackers are fireworks that are healthy to the environment and can lessen the air pollution that conventional firecrackers produce.
  • The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) created these.
  • These green crackers, designed by the National Environmental and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a CSIR lab, contain flower pots, pencils, fireworks, maroons, bombs, and chakkar.

How are they made?

  • Green crackers, also known as eco-friendly crackers, are made from alternative raw materials to have a smaller negative impact on the environment and to pose fewer health hazards.
  • It has been stated that green crackers are environmentally friendly because they don’t contain aluminum, barium, potassium nitrate, or carbon.

Are they totally pollution free?

  • Green crackers are 30% less polluting than regular ones.
  • Green crackers have less or no barium, and that the chemical barium nitrate is what causes the smoke and emissions.
  • In addition to lowering air pollution, green crackers are said to have a lower sound level than the ordinary crackers—between 110 and 125 decibels as opposed to roughly 160 decibels for conventional crackers.
  • Despite all of their benefits, these environmentally friendly firecrackers are more expensive than standard ones.

Types of green crackers

(1) SWAS – Safe Water Releaser

  • They will discharge water vapour into the atmosphere, which will dampen the discharged dust.
  • It won’t contain sulphur or potassium nitrate.
  • There will be a release of a diluent for gaseous emissions.
  • There will be a 30% reduction in the amount of particle dust emitted.

(2) STAR – Safe Thermite Cracker

  • Does not contain sulphur and potassium nitrate
  • Discharge of less particulate matter
  • Lowered noise level

(3) SAFAL – Safe Minimal Aluminum

  • Does not contain sulphur and potassium nitrate
  • Discharge of less particulate matter
  • Lowered noise level as compared to traditional ones

Judicial observation over fire-crackers

  • It is made clear that there is no total ban on the use of firecrackers.
  • Only those firecrackers are banned (joined, chemical) which are found to be injurious to health and affect the health of the citizens particularly the senior citizens and the children.

What are the traders’ concerns?

  • Traders have expressed concerns about the crackers’ shelf life due to the new green cracker composition.
  • Manufacturers also need to overcome the rigorous certification process run by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO).

 

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Air Pollution

Centre to set up Paddy Straw Pellet Units to arrest Stubble Burning

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GHGs relased by Stubble Burning

Mains level : Delhi Air Pollution issue

stubble

To prevent stubble burning, the Union Environment Ministry announced a ₹50 crore scheme on to incentivise industrialists and entrepreneurs to set up paddy straw pelletization and torrefaction plants.

What is Stubble Burning?

  • Stubble (parali) burning is a method of removing paddy crop residues from the field to sow wheat from the last week of September to November.
  • It is usually required in areas that use the combined harvesting method which leaves crop residue behind.
  • This practice mostly carried out in Punjab, Haryana and UP contributes solely to the grave winter pollution in the national capital.

Emissions from stubble burning

  • The process of burning farm residue is one of the major causes of air pollution in parts of north India, deteriorating the air quality.
  • Stubble burning is a significant source of carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC).

Despite emissions, why do farmers burn stubble?

  • Crop residue burning is practised by the farmers to prepare the land for the next cultivation.
  • The major reason behind the stubble burning is the short time available between rice harvesting and sowing of wheat as delay in sowing wheat affects the wheat crop.
  • Between the harvesting of the paddy crop and the sowing of the next crop, there is only a two to three weeks’ time window is left.
  • Even though farmers are aware that the burning of straw is harmful to health, they do not have alternatives for utilizing them effectively.
  • The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.
  • Therefore, stubble burning is considered one of the cheapest methods to clean the field after the harvesting season.

Impact of stubble burning

  • Air Pollution: Stubble burning emits toxic pollutants in the atmosphere containing harmful gases like Carbon Monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC). These pollutants disperse in the surroundings and eventually affect air quality and people’s health by forming a thick blanket of smog. Along with vehicular emissions, it affects the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the national capital and NCR.
  • Soil degradation: Soil becomes less fertile and its nutrients are destroyed when the husk is burned on the ground. Organic content of soil is completely destroyed. Stubble burning generates heat that penetrates into the soil, causing an increase in erosion, loss of useful microbes and moisture.

Alternative solutions

  • Power generation: The available paddy straw can be effectively used for power generation, which will go a long way towards overcoming the problem of disposal of crop residues and power deficit in the region.
  • In-situ decomposition: Suitable machinery for collection, chopping and in situ incorporation of straw is required. We can use Pusa Biodecomposer, Biomethanation etc.
  • Organic manuring: Convert the removed residues into enriched organic manure through composting.

Conclusion

  • Unless financial assistance is to be provided by the Centre for boosting farm mechanization, it is difficult to completely stop stubble burning.
  • States need to make alternative arrangements for the consumption of paddy straw into the soil as per the directions of the NGT.

 

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Air Pollution

Stubble burning in Punjab at 3-year low

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GHGs relased by Stubble Burning

Mains level : Stubble Burning

stubble

Though early days, the number of crop fires reported out of Punjab are at a three-year low, suggest data from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) that tracks such fires via satellite.

What is Stubble Burning?

  • Stubble (parali) burning is a method of removing paddy crop residues from the field to sow wheat from the last week of September to November.
  • It is usually required in areas that use the combined harvesting method which leaves crop residue behind.
  • This practice mostly carried out in Punjab, Haryana and UP contributes solely to the grave winter pollution in the national capital.

Emissions from stubble burning

  • The process of burning farm residue is one of the major causes of air pollution in parts of north India, deteriorating the air quality.
  • Stubble burning is a significant source of carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons (HC).

Despite emissions, why do farmers burn stubble?

  • Crop residue burning is practised by the farmers to prepare the land for the next cultivation.
  • The major reason behind the stubble burning is the short time available between rice harvesting and sowing of wheat as delay in sowing wheat affects the wheat crop.
  • Between the harvesting of the paddy crop and the sowing of the next crop, there is only a two to three weeks’ time window is left.
  • Even though farmers are aware that the burning of straw is harmful to health, they do not have alternatives for utilizing them effectively.
  • The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.
  • Therefore, stubble burning is considered one of the cheapest methods to clean the field after the harvesting season.

Impact of stubble burning

  • Air Pollution: Stubble burning emits toxic pollutants in the atmosphere containing harmful gases like Carbon Monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC). These pollutants disperse in the surroundings and eventually affect air quality and people’s health by forming a thick blanket of smog. Along with vehicular emissions, it affects the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the national capital and NCR.
  • Soil degradation: Soil becomes less fertile and its nutrients are destroyed when the husk is burned on the ground. Organic content of soil is completely destroyed. Stubble burning generates heat that penetrates into the soil, causing an increase in erosion, loss of useful microbes and moisture.

Alternative solutions

  • Power generation: The available paddy straw can be effectively used for power generation, which will go a long way towards overcoming the problem of disposal of crop residues and power deficit in the region.
  • In-situ decomposition: Suitable machinery for collection, chopping and in situ incorporation of straw is required. We can use Pusa Biodecomposer, Biomethanation etc.
  • Organic manuring: Convert the removed residues into enriched organic manure through composting.

Conclusion

  • Unless financial assistance is to be provided by the Centre for boosting farm mechanization, it is difficult to completely stop stubble burning.
  • States need to make alternative arrangements for the consumption of paddy straw into the soil as per the directions of the NGT.

 

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Air Pollution

PUC Certificate must to buy fuel in New Delhi

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PUC Certification

Mains level : Delhi Air Pollution issue

Motorists will not be able to buy fuel in Delhi without a valid Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate from October 25.

What is 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 authorized by the state government.
  • These issue certificates if a vehicle is found complying with the prescribed emission norms.
  • Since the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into force, PUC certificate has been made mandatory.
  • 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.

Compliance rules

  • According to Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, every motor vehicle is required to carry a valid PUC Certificate after the expiry of period of one year from the date of its first registration.
  • This includes those conforming to BS-I/ BS-II/ BS-III/BS-IV /BS-VI as well as vehicles plying on CNG/LPG.
  • However, the validity of four-wheeled BS-IV compliant vehicles is one year and for other vehicles it is three months.

How is a pollution control check carried out?

  • The computerized model for pollution check was developed by the Society of Indian Automobile manufacturers.
  • A gas analyzer is connected to a computer, to which a camera and a printer are attached.
  • The gas analyzer 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 obtain PUC Certificate?

  • Emissions from automobiles are major contributors to air pollution all over the world.
  • The smoke emitted from vehicles contains the following pollutants:
  1. Hydrocarbons (HC)
  2. Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  3. Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx)
  4. Particulate Matter (PM)
  5. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  6. Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  7. Nitrous Oxide (N2O)

 

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Air Pollution

What is Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Graded Response Action Plan- GRAP

Mains level : Delhi Air Pollution issue

The Delhi CM has announced a 15-point Winter Action Plan to be implemented along with the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).

Graded Response Action Plan- GRAP

  • GRAP is a set of measures to be taken to reduce Air Pollution depending on the current level of pollution.
  • It was notified by the Union Environment Ministry in 2017 to fight air pollution, based on the SC directions.
  • 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.

 

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Air Pollution

Recovery of Ozone Layer achieves significant milestone

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ozone, Ozone Hole

Mains level : Ozone recovery

The concentration of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere has reduced to reach a significant milestone this year.

What is Ozone and Ozone Layer?

  • An ozone molecule consists of three oxygen atoms instead of the usual two (the oxygen we breathe, O2, makes up 21% of the atmosphere).
  • It only exists in the atmosphere in trace quantities (less than 0.001%), but its effects are very important.
  • Ozone molecules are created by the interaction of ultra-violet (UV) radiation from the Sun with O2 molecules.
  • Because UV radiation is more intense at higher altitudes where the air is thinner, it is in the stratosphere where most of the ozone is produced, giving rise to what is called the ‘ozone layer’.
  • The ozone layer, containing over 90% of all atmospheric ozone, extends between about 10 and 40km altitude, peaking at about 25km in Stratosphere.

Why need Ozone Layer?

  • The ozone layer is very important for life on Earth because it has the property of absorbing the most damaging form of UV radiation, UV-B radiation which has a wavelength of between 280 and 315 nanometres.
  • As UV radiation is absorbed by ozone in the stratosphere, it heats up the surrounding air to produce the stratospheric temperature inversion.

What is Ozone Hole?

  • Each year for the past few decades during the Southern Hemisphere spring, chemical reactions involving chlorine and bromine cause ozone in the southern polar region to be destroyed rapidly and severely.
  • The Dobson Unit (DU) is the unit of measure for total ozone.
  • The chemicals involved ozone depletion are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs for short), halons, and carbon tetrachloride.
  • They are used for a wide range of applications, including refrigeration, air conditioning, foam packaging, and making aerosol spray cans.
  • The ozone-depleted region is known as the “ozone hole”.

Tropical Ozone Hole

  • According to the study, the ozone hole is located at altitudes of 10-25 km over the tropics.
  • This hole is about seven times larger than Antarctica, the study suggested.
  • It also appears across all seasons, unlike that of Antarctica, which is visible only in the spring.
  • The hole has become significant since the 1980s. But it was not discovered until this study.

What caused an ozone hole in the tropics?

  • Studies suggested another mechanism of ozone depletion: Cosmic rays.
  • Chlorofluorocarbon’s (CFC) role in depleting the ozone layer is well-documented.
  • The tropical stratosphere recorded a low temperature of 190-200 Kelvin (K).
  • This can explain why the tropical ozone hole is constantly formed over the seasons.

Significance of the finding

  • The tropical ozone hole, which makes up 50 percent of Earth’s surface, could cause a global concern due to the risks associated with it.
  • It is likely to cause skin cancer, cataracts and other negative effects on the health and ecosystems in tropical regions.

Try this PYQ

Q.Consider the following statements:

Chlorofluorocarbons, known as ozone-depleting substances are used:

  1. In the production of plastic foams
  2. In the production of tubeless tyres
  3. In cleaning certain electronic components
  4. As pressurizing agents in aerosol cans

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1, 2 and 3 only

(b) 4 only

(c) 1, 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

 

Post your answers here
4
Please leave a feedback on thisx

 

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Air Pollution

Inter-State collaboration to deal with air pollution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Zonal Councils

Mains level : Paper 3- Inter-State collaboration for dealing with pollution crisis

Context

With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) governing both Delhi and Punjab, collaboration for clean air should be the mantra for both State governments.

Impact of air pollution on Delhi and Punjab

  • Punjab is home to nine of the 132 most polluted cities in the country identified by the Central Pollution Control Board.
  • In 2019, Delhi and Punjab together faced economic losses estimated to be approximately ₹18,000 crore due to worsening air pollution.
  • Therefore, by collaborating for clean air, both States can ensure improvements in citizen well-being and labour productivity.

 How can the two States collaborate?

1] Arrive at a common understanding of sources

  • Those in charge of the two States must talk.
  • Setting aside their disagreements on the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi’s air pollution, the States should arrive at a common understanding of sources polluting the region.

2] Create platforms for knowledge exchange

  • Cross-learning on possible solutions: A common knowledge centre should be set up to facilitate cross-learning on possible solutions to developmental challenges in both States.
  • Such a centre would especially benefit Punjab given the host of measures that the Delhi government has already taken to improve air quality in Delhi.
  • Information on air quality levels and source assessment studies are critical in developing long-term strategies for pollution mitigation.

3] Collaborate to execute proven solutions

  • Co-design solutions: The two States could co-design solutions that would improve air quality.
  • Institutionalise a task force: They could jointly institutionalise a task force comprising experts from State-run institutions to pilot these solutions and assess their impact.
  • This would ensure wider acceptance of the proposed solution, which has not been the case in the past.
  • For instance, the PUSA bio-decomposer (developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute), has received mixed reviews from farmers.
  • The decomposer only makes sense for early maturing varieties of paddy, as even with the decomposer, stubble would take between 25 to 30 days to decompose.
  • Therefore, it is of little use in high burn districts such as Sangrur, Punjab, where late-maturing paddy varieties are dominant.

4] Create a market for diversified crop products

  • Moving away from paddy-wheat cycle: Shifting away from the ‘paddy-wheat cycle’ through crop diversification is a sure shot solution to stubble burning.
  • But, the lack of an assured market for agricultural products, other than wheat and paddy, has acted as a deterrent.
  • For years now, the Delhi government has toyed with the idea of introducing ‘Aam Aadmi kitchens’ in Delhi.
  • These community kitchens could potentially incorporate crops other than wheat and paddy in meals offered.

5] Extending inter-State cooperation to other States in Indo-Gangetic plains

  • Both State governments should assert the need for extending inter-State cooperation to other States in the Indo-Gangetic plains in different inter-State forums.
  • One such forum is the Northern Zonal Council which has representation from Chandigarh, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • Both Delhi and Punjab must use this platform to highlight the need for coordination with neighbouring States to alleviate the pollution crisis.

Conclusion

With a collaborative plan of action, we can be optimistic about cleaner air in the years to come.

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Air Pollution

13% reduction in air pollution deaths due to UJJAWALA Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM UJJWALA Scheme

Mains level : Outcomes of the Scheme

Greater penetration and usage of LPG as a cooking fuel is estimated to have prevented at least 1.5 lakh pollution-related premature deaths in the year 2019 alone, according to the first independent impact assessment of the government’s flagship Ujjwala program.

About the PM Ujjwala Yojana

  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) was launched in 2016, with the aim to provide Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections to five crore women members of below poverty line (BPL) households in the first phase.
  • he scheme was expanded in April 2018 to include women beneficiaries from seven more categories (SC/ST, PMAY, AAY, Most backward classes, tea garden, forest dwellers, Islands).
  • In the second phase the target was expanded to eight crore LPG connections.

Why was this scheme launched?

  • Indoor air pollution is also responsible for a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses in young children.
  • Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country.
  • This measure has empowered women and protected their health. It reduced drudgery and the time spent on cooking.
  • It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.

Ujjwala 2.0

  • Under Ujjwala 2.0 migrant workers would no longer have to struggle to get address proof documents to get the gas connections.
  • Now migrant workers would only be required to submit a self-declaration of their residential address to get the gas connection.
  • Along with a deposit-free LPG connection, Ujjwala 2.0 will provide the first refill and a hotplate free of cost to the beneficiaries.

Significance of Ujjwala 2.0

  • LPG infrastructure has expanded manifold in the country due to the Ujjwala scheme.
  • In the last six years, more than 11,000 new LPG distribution centres have opened across the country.
  • The LPG coverage in India is now very close to becoming 100 per cent.

 

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Air Pollution

What is Pollution-Under-Control (PUC) Certificate?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PUC Certificate

Mains level : Not Much

Delhi govt will soon make PUC certificate mandatory for fuel at filling stations.

What is 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 authorized by the state government.
  • These issue certificates if a vehicle is found complying with the prescribed emission norms.
  • Since the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into force, PUC certificate has been made mandatory.
  • 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 computerized model for pollution check was developed by the Society of Indian Automobile manufacturers.
  • A gas analyzer is connected to a computer, to which a camera and a printer are attached.
  • The gas analyzer 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.

Fines for non-compliance

  • 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.
  • 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.

 

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Air Pollution

What are Smog Towers?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Smog Tower

Mains level : Effectiveness of smog towers

Some researchers in New Delhi have observed paradoxical phenomena near the smog towers. The air closest to the tower should be cleanest, but the device recorded the opposite in several instances.

What are Smog Towers?

  • Smog towers are structures designed to work as large-scale air purifiers. They are fitted with multiple layers of air filters and fans at the base to suck the air.
  • After the polluted air enters the smog tower, it is purified by multiple layers before being re-circulated into the atmosphere.

Structure of the Delhi smog tower

  • The structure is 24 m high, about as much as an 8-storey building — an 18-metre concrete tower, topped by a 6-metre-high canopy. At its base are 40 fans, 10 on each side.
  • Each fan can discharge 25 cubic metres per second of air, adding up to 1,000 cubic metres per second for the tower as a whole. Inside the tower in two layers are 5,000 filters.
  • The filters and fans have been imported from the United States.

How does it work?

  • The tower uses a ‘downdraft air cleaning system’ developed by the University of Minnesota.
  • Polluted air is sucked in at a height of 24 m, and filtered air is released at the bottom of the tower, at a height of about 10 m from the ground.
  • When the fans at the bottom of the tower operate, the negative pressure created sucks in air from the top.
  • The ‘macro’ layer in the filter traps particles of 10 microns and larger, while the ‘micro’ layer filters smaller particles of around 0.3 microns.
  • The downdraft method is different from the system used in China, where a tower uses an ‘updraft’ system — air is sucked in from near the ground, and is propelled upwards by heating and convection.
  • Filtered air is released at the top of the tower.

Likely impact

  • Computational fluid dynamics modelling suggests the tower could have an impact on the air quality up to 1 km from the tower.
  • The actual impact will also determine how the tower functions under different weather conditions, and how levels of PM2.5 vary with the flow of air.

Issues with smog towers

  • Many experts say that the smog towers are not a viable method to clean city’s air.
  • The government had talked about 80% pollution reduction at inlet and outlet of the tower but never mentioned about the effect of distance from the tower.
  • Instead of spending ₹40 crore on two towers, the government could have spent the funds on several other options such as replacing the small and polluting industrial boilers or chimneys etc.

 

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Air Pollution

National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various air pollutants

Mains level : NAAQ standards

Delhi and most of the other non-attainment cities under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) have shown only a marginal improvement, said a new analysis released.

About NCAP

  • The NCAP was implemented across India in 2019 to reduce particulate matter levels in 132 cities by 20-30% in 2024.
  • Cities are declared non-attainment if they consistently fail to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) over a five-year period.

What are NAAQ standards?

  • The mandate provided to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act empowers it to set standards for the quality of air.
  • Hence the current National Ambient Air Quality Standards were notified in November 2009 by the CPCB.
  • Prior to this, India had set Air Quality standards in 1994, and this was later revised in 1998.
  • The 2009 standards further lowered the maximum permissible limits for pollutants and made the standards uniform across the nation.
  • Earlier, less stringent standards were prescribed for industrial zones as compared to residential areas.

Pollutants covered:

  • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2),
  • Particulate Matter (size less than 10 µm) or PM 10
  • Particulate Matter (size less than 2.5 µm) or PM2.5
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Ammonia (NH3)

(Air Pollutants that most of us NEVER heard of:)

  • Lead
  • Benzene (C6H6)
  • Benzo(a)Pyrene (BaP)
  • Arsenic(As)
  • Nickel (Ni)

Source: Arthpaedia

 

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Air Pollution

[pib] Global Methane Initiative (GMI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Methane Initiative, GMI

Mains level : GHGs emission

India has co-chaired along with Canada the Global Methane Initiative leadership meet held virtually.

About Methane

  • Methane is a greenhouse gas, which is also a component of natural gas.
  • There are various sources of methane including human and natural sources.
  • The anthropogenic sources are responsible for 60 per cent of global methane emissions.
  • It includes landfills, oil and natural gas systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, wastewater treatment, and certain industrial processes.
  • The oil and gas sectors are among the largest contributors to human sources of methane.
  • These emissions come primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, decomposition in landfills and the agriculture sector.

Global Methane Initiative (GMI)

  • GMI is a voluntary Government and an informal international partnership having members from 45 countries including the United States and Canada.
  • The forum has been created to achieve global reduction in anthropogenic methane emission through partnership among developed and developing countries having economies in transition.
  • The forum was created in 2004 and India is one of the members since its inception and has taken up Vice-Chairmanship for the first time in the Steering Leadership along with USA.
  • National governments are encouraged to join GMI as Partner Countries, while other non-State organizations may join GMI’s extensive Project Network.

Focus areas

The initiative currently focuses on five sectors, which are known sources of anthropogenic methane emissions:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Coal mining
  3. Municipal solid waste
  4. Municipal wastewater
  5. Oil and gas systems

Why focus on Methane?

  • The emission of methane is a big concern as it is a greenhouse gas having 25-28 times harmful effect than carbon dioxide
  • According to the UN, 25 % of the warming that the world is experiencing today is because of methane.
  • Methane is the second-most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, after carbon dioxide.
  • According to IPCC, methane accounts for about half of the 1.0 degrees Celsius net rise in global average temperature since the pre-industrial era.

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.

 

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Air Pollution

To check stubble burning, monitor policy implementation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Impact of stubble burning

Mains level : Paper 3- Measures to stop stubble burning

Context

Every October and November, parts of north India are engulfed by a dense fog. Farmers resort to the practice due to the limited time they have between the harvesting of kharif paddy and sowing of the rabi wheat.

Government initiatives to stop the stubble burning

  • Policy measures: In 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare developed a National Policy for the Management of Crop Residue.
  • Ban by NGT: In 2015, the National Green Tribunal banned stubble burning in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab.
  • Weak enforcement: The enforcement of the ban has, however, been weak, largely due to inadequate political will.
  • Legal measures: Stubble burning was considered an offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code and in the Air and Pollution Control Act, 1981.
  • However, it has now been decriminalised as per a recent government announcement.
  • The Central Scheme on Promotion of Agricultural Mechanisation for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue was introduced in 2018-19.
  • Over 1.5 lakh crop residue management machineries have been supplied to farmers and custom hiring centres between 2018-19 to 2020-21.

How successful were the measures?

  • As a result of these efforts, the number of crop residue burning events declined from 2016 to 2019.
  • This year satellite data did show an almost 50 per cent decline in the number of stubble burning events in Punjab, Haryana and UP in October.
  • However, after including burning events till November 21, the decline reduced to about 8 per cent.
  • Experts suggest that the respite in October was temporary as the initial decline can be attributed to the delayed withdrawal of monsoon.
  • It is thus evident that despite various government initiatives, substantial stubble burning continues in several states.

Suggestions

  • Subsidise operational cost for crop residue management: To ease farmers’ financial burden, the government could consider subsidising operational costs along with providing farmers capital subsidy on crop residue management equipment.
  • Ex-situ management of crop residue: Ex-situ management of crop residue can also be explored under the schemes covering products such as bales and pellets for biomass power generation and supplementary feedstock in coal-fired power plants.
  • Awareness generation: Awareness generation and trust building exercises should be undertaken with the support of local civil society organisations.
  • Adopt targeted and cluster-based approach: Stubble burning is fairly concentrated in regions within states.
  • A targeted and cluster-based approach can be undertaken by identifying districts with a higher number of stubble burning incidents.
  • Central and state government interventions can then be concentrated in these districts.
  • Monitoring system at local level: To make these interventions effective, there is a requirement for formulating a robust monitoring system at the local level to track the progress of different activities.

Consider the question “Stubble burning by farmers of the adjacent states contributes significantly to the air pollution in Delhi. In this context, examine the initiatives taken by the government to deal with the problem and suggest the way forward.”

Conclusion

Dealing with the practice of stubble burning requires efforts on multiple levels. A combination of these measures can complement the existing initiatives to encourage farmers to adopt zero stubble burning practices.

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Air Pollution

Centre and states must work together to tackle the pollution in the NCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Tackling air pollution through solar farming

Context

Supreme Court (SC) judges have pulled up the Delhi and central governments for not doing enough to correct the dire air quality situation. They also remarked on what message we are sending to the world.

The pollution problem raises doubt about the quality of urbanisation in India

  •  If one looks at the capitals of G20 countries, Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) during November 1-15, is by far the worst at 312, as per World Air Quality Index Project.
  •  India’s distinction goes beyond Delhi.
  • As per the World Air Quality Report of 2020, prepared by IQAir (a Swiss organisation), of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, 22 are in India.
  • The problem is much deeper, raising doubts about the quality of our urbanisation.

Contributing sources and their share

  • Contributing sources: As per the report of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change following sources contribute in the given proportion:
  • Energy generation (largely coal-based thermal power) is the biggest culprit with a share of 44 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions,
  • Energy generation is followed by manufacturing and construction-18 per cent.
  • Agriculture-14 per cent.
  • Transport-13 per cent industrial processes and product use- 8 per cent and waste burning- 3 per cent.

Suggestions to tackle Delhi’s pollution

  • As per the System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the reasons for poor AQI differ day to day.
  • On a particular day, say November 7, stubble burning contributed 48 per cent of Delhi’s air pollution, which fell to just 2 per cent on November 18.
  • Reduce rice cultivation: The Centre needs to sit down with neighbouring states and come up with a plan to reduce the rice area in this belt, which is already depleting the water table, creating methane and nitrous oxide, to incentivise farmers to switch to other crops through better returns than in rice cultivation.
  • Adopt EVs: To tackle vehicular pollution, we need a massive drive towards electric vehicles (EVs), and later towards green hydrogen when it becomes competitive with fossil fuels.
  • Charging stations: Scaling up EVs quickly demands creating charging stations on a war footing.
  • Develop carbon sink: Delhi also needs a good carbon sink.
  • Rejuvenating the Ridge area with dense forests and developing thick forests on both sides of the Yamuna may help.

Enhancing farmers income through solar farming

  •  The Prime Minister has done a commendable job in Glasgow to commit that 50 per cent of India’s energy will be from renewable sources by 2030.
  • To replace coal in energy generation, solar and wind is the way to go at the all-India level.
  • The current model in solar energy is heavily tilted towards companies.
  • They are setting up large solar farms on degraded or less fertile lands.
  • We can supplement that model by developing solar farms on farmers’ fields.
  • This would require solar panels to be fixed at a 10 feet height with due spacing to let enough sunlight come to the plants for photosynthesis.
  • These “solar trees” can then become the “third crop” for the farmers, earning them regular income throughout the year, provided the law allows them to sell this power to the national grid.
  • The Delhi government’s pilot in Ujwa KVK land on these lines showed that farmers can earn up to Rs 1 lakh per acre per year from this “solar farming”.
  • This is on top of the two crops they can keep growing under those solar trees.
  • This will double farmers’ income within a year.

Conclusion

As deteriorating air quality grips the whole country, we need to work on multiple levels with coordination to tackle the problem.

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Air Pollution

Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PAT Scheme

Mains level : Schemes for emission control

A recent report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has attributed the inefficiency of the PAT scheme to non-transparency, loose targets and overlooked deadlines.

PAT Scheme

  • Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme is a flagship program of Bureau of Energy Efficiency under the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE).
  • NMEEE is one of the eight national missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) launched by the Government of India in the year 2008

Working of the scheme

  • PAT is a market-based compliance mechanism to accelerate improvements in energy efficiency in energy-intensive industries.
  • The energy savings achieved by notified industries is converted into tradable instruments called Energy Saving Certificates (ESCerts).
  • The ESCerts after issuance by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency are traded at Power Exchanges.

What is PAT cycle?

  • The government shortlists industries and restricts the amount of energy they can consume and defines a time limit of three years by when this restriction should be met as part of PAT.
  • These three years of time are called one PAT cycle.
  • The industries are chosen after in-depth, sector-wise analysis by the government.
  • Industries that participate in this scheme are called designated consumers (DC).
  • Those that overachieve their targets are issued energy savings certificates (ESCerts) that can be traded with industries that have not achieved their targets.
  • Non-achievers have to buy the ESCerts after the three years for compliance.

Various PAT cycles

  • PAT covered about 13 energy-intensive sectors
  • Sectors included are thermal power plants (TPP), cement, aluminium, iron and steel, pulp and paper, fertilizer, chlor-alkali, petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, distribution companies, railways, textile and commercial buildings (hotels and airports)
  • Announcements for six cycles since 2012 have been made so far

 

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Air Pollution

Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

Mains level : Air quality issue in New Delhi

 

States in the National Capital Region were directed to be ready to implement actions under the ‘emergency’ category of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to control air pollution, said an official order.

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.

 

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Air Pollution

Mass Emission Standards for E12 AND E15 fuels

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has notified mass emission standards for E 12 (12% Ethanol with Gasoline) and E15 (15% Ethanol 12 with gasoline) fuels.

What is the news?

  • The ministry has notified test standards for vehicles compliant with ethanol-blended fuel variants E12 and E15.
  • The ministry made it mandatory for all automobile manufacturers to put “clearly visible stickers” on every vehicle informing about its compatibility to the level of ethanol blend (E12, E15, E20).
  • Currently, India is using E10 fuel (petrol blended with 10% ethanol).

Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in January, 2003 for supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol.
  • The programme sought to promote the use of alternative and environment-friendly fuels and to reduce import dependency for energy requirements.
  • OMCs are advised to continue according priority of ethanol from 1) sugarcane juice/sugar/sugar syrup, 2) B-heavy molasses 3) C-heavy molasses and 4) damaged food grains/other sources.
  • At present, this programme has been extended to whole of India except UTs of Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands with effect from 01st April, 2019 wherein OMCs sell petrol blended with ethanol up to 10%.

Why ethanol blending?

  • Agricultural waste management: Ethanol blending will solve the problem of agricultural waste as well as sugar rates due to excess production, therefore providing security to sugarcane farmers.
  • Reducing emission: It can help accomplish dual goal of strengthening energy security with low carbon emission.
  • Enhanced participation: It will enable local enterprises and farmers to participate in the energy economy.
  • Reducing import bill: It is another significant benefit. India imports 85% of crude oil.
  • Fuel efficiency: Ethanol blending increases octane number thereby increasing fuel quality in terms of anti-knocking tendency (engine sound)

Also read:

[RSTV ARCHIVE] Ethanol Blending: Significance & Road Ahead

 

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Air Pollution

Probe shows use of toxic material in firecrackers: Supreme Court

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Air pollutants in crackers, Green Crackers

Mains level : Air pollution due to firecrackers

The Supreme Court has said a preliminary enquiry by the CBI into the firecracker industry, including in Tamil Nadu, revealed rampant violation of its ban on use of toxic ingredients like Barium and its salts.

Air Pollution created by firecrackers

  • Firing crackers increase the concentration of dust and pollutants in the air.
  • After firing, the fine dust particles get settled on the surrounding surfaces which are packed with chemicals like copper, zinc, sodium, lead, magnesium, cadmium and pollutants like oxides of sulphur and nitrogen.
  • These invisible yet harmful particles affect the environment and in turn, put our health at stake.

Harmful elements used

  • Copper: Irritates the respiratory tract.
  • Cadmium: Leads to anemia by reducing the capacity of blood to carry oxygen.
  • Zinc: Can cause metal fume fever and induces vomiting.
  • Lead: Harms the nervous system.
  • Magnesium: Metal fume fever is caused by Magnesium fumes.
  • Sodium: It is a highly reactive element and caused burns when it is combined with moisture.

Why is the issue in news now?

Ans. Barium content

  • A chemical analysis of the samples of finished and semi-finished firecrackers and raw materials taken from the manufacturers showed Barium content.
  • The court stated that loose quantities of Barium were purchased from the market.
  • Also, firecracker covers did not show the manufacture or expiry dates.

Issues with Barium

  • Barium nitrate, which emits green flames when a cracker is lit, is a metal oxide that increases both air and noise pollution.
  • There is is no clarity on whether barium nitrate can actually be used or not.

Alternatives: Green 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 are sold with a unique logo on the box, and will also have a QR code with production and emission details.

 

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Air Pollution

WHO tightens Global Air Quality norms

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) 2021

Mains level : Air pollution

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its first-ever update since 2005 has tightened global air pollution standards.

Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) 2021

  • WHO announces limits for six pollutant categories —particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and 10, ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon monoxide (CO).

Air quality standards in India

  • India aligns with the WHO guidelines only in the case of ozone and carbon monoxide, as these have not changed. But both NO2 and SO2 guidelines are tighter than the current Indian standard.
  • The move doesn’t immediately impact India as the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) don’t meet the WHO’s existing standards.
  • The government has a dedicated National Clean Air Programme that aims for a 20% to 30% reduction in particulate matter concentrations by 2024 in 122 cities, keeping 2017 as the base year.

Significance of WHO’s AQG

Ans. It sets the stage for eventual shifts in policy

  • WHO move sets the stage for eventual shifts in policy in the government towards evolving newer stricter standards.
  • This will soon become part of policy discussions — much like climate targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions keep getting stricter over time.
  • Once cities and States are set targets for meeting pollution emission standards, it could lead to overall changes in national standards.

Challenges for India

  • The current challenge in India is to meet its national ambient air quality standards in all the regions.
  • The hard lockdown phases during the pandemic have demonstrated the dramatic reduction that is possible when local pollution and regional influences can be minimised.
  • This has shown that if local action is strengthened and scaled up at speed across the region, significant reduction to meet a much tighter target is possible.
  • The influence of geo-climatic attributes is quite pronounced in all regions of India, which further aggravates the local build-up of pollution.
  • This is further worsened due to the rapid proliferation of pollution sources and weak air quality management systems.
  • India may require a more nuanced regional approach to maximise benefits and sustain air quality gains.

Conclusion

  • Air pollution is a threat to health in all countries, but it hits people in low- and middle-income countries the hardest.
  • WHO’s new Air Quality Guidelines are an evidence-based and practical tool for improving the quality of the air on which all life depends.

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Air Pollution

[pib] Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA) Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Transport Initiative for Asia

Mains level : Not Much

NITI Aayog and World Resources Institute (WRI), India, jointly launched the ‘Forum for Decarbonizing Transport’ in India as part of the NDC-Transport Initiative for Asia (NDC-TIA).

Transport Initiative for Asia

  • The NDC Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA 2020-2023) is a joint programme that will engage China, India, and Vietnam in promoting a comprehensive approach to decarbonizing transport in their respective countries.
  • The project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).
  • NITI Aayog is the implementing partner for the India component of the project.
  • The project aims at bringing down the peak level of GHG emissions (transport sector) in Asia (in line with a well below 2-degree pathway), resulting in problems like congestion and air pollution.

Why need such initiative?

  • India has a massive and diverse transport sector, which is also the third most CO2 emitting sector.
  • Data suggests that within the transport sector, road transport contributes to more than 90% of the total CO2 emissions.
  • The NDC-TIA India component focuses on developing a coherent strategy of effective policies and the formation of a multi-stakeholder platform for decarbonizing transport in the country.

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Air Pollution

Delhi’s new Smog Tower

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Smog Tower

Mains level : Air quality issue in New Delhi

Ahead of its infamous smog season, Delhi has got a ‘smog tower’, a technological aid to help combat air pollution.

What are Smog Towers?

  • Smog towers are structures designed to work as large-scale air purifiers. They are fitted with multiple layers of air filters and fans at the base to suck the air.
  • After the polluted air enters the smog tower, it is purified by the multiple layers before being re-circulated into the atmosphere.

Structure of the Delhi smog tower

  • The structure is 24 m high, about as much as an 8-storey building — an 18-metre concrete tower, topped by a 6-metre-high canopy. At its base are 40 fans, 10 on each side.
  • Each fan can discharge 25 cubic metres per second of air, adding up to 1,000 cubic metres per second for the tower as a whole. Inside the tower in two layers are 5,000 filters.
  • The filters and fans have been imported from the United States.

How does it work?

  • The tower uses a ‘downdraft air cleaning system’ developed by the University of Minnesota.
  • Polluted air is sucked in at a height of 24 m, and filtered air is released at the bottom of the tower, at a height of about 10 m from the ground.
  • When the fans at the bottom of the tower operate, the negative pressure created sucks in air from the top.
  • The ‘macro’ layer in the filter traps particles of 10 microns and larger, while the ‘micro’ layer filters smaller particles of around 0.3 microns.
  • The downdraft method is different from the system used in China, where a tower uses an ‘updraft’ system — air is sucked in from near the ground, and is propelled upwards by heating and convection.
  • Filtered air is released at the top of the tower.

Likely impact

  • Computational fluid dynamics modelling suggests the tower could have an impact on the air quality up to 1 km from the tower.
  • The actual impact will also determine how the tower functions under different weather conditions, and how levels of PM2.5 vary with the flow of air.

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Air Pollution

Air Quality Commission Bill, 2021

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AQC and its jurisdiction

Mains level : Air pollution

The Lok Sabha has passed the Bill to formalize the Commission for Air Quality Management For National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas.

Highlights of the AQC Bill

  • The AQC would be a ‘permanent’ body to address pollution in the National Capital Region Delhi and address sources of pollution in Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The all-powerful body assumed several powers to coordinate action among States, levy fines — ranging up to ₹1 crore or five years of prison — to address air pollution.

Key features

  • Over-riding powers: While the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and its state branches have the powers to implement provisions of the Environment Protection Act for air, water and land pollution.
  • In case of dispute or a clash of jurisdictions, the AQC’s writ would prevail specific to matters concerning air pollution.
  • Chair: The body has a full-time chairperson and a range of members consisting of both representatives from several Ministries as well as independent experts and will have the final say on evolving policy and issuing directions.
  • Curb on stubble burning: the Commission may impose and collect environment compensation causing pollution by stubble burning.
  • No penalties to farmers: The Centre, facing flak earlier this year from farmers protesting the farm laws, had committed to removing a clause in the Air Commission Bill that would penalize farmers for burning stubble, an important contributor to noxious air quality.

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Air Pollution

[pib] Centre launches Secured Logistics Document Exchange (SLDE) and GHG Calculator

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SLDE, GHG Calculator

Mains level : NA

With an aim to further improve ease of doing business, Centre today launched the “Secured Logistics Document Exchange” along with a Calculator for Green House Gas Emissions.

Secured Logistics Document Exchange (SLDE)

  • The SLDE platform is a solution to replace the present manual process of generation, exchange and compliance of logistics documents with a digitized, secure and seamless document exchange system.
  • It is set to improve logistics efficiency, reduce logistics cost, and promote multi-modality and sustainability in a big way.
  • This will enable generation, storage and interchange of logistics-related documents digitally using Aadhaar and blockchain-based security protocols for data security and authentication.
  • It will also provide a complete audit trail of document transfer, faster execution of transaction, lower cost of shipping and overall carbon footprint, easy verification of authenticity of documents, lowered risk of fraud, etc.
  • The proof of concept of the platform has been developed and executed with banks (ICICI, Axis Bank, State Bank of India and HDFC Bank) and stakeholders including freight forwarders, exporters, importers and vessel operators.

Green House Gas (GHG) Emission Calculator

  • The GHG Calculator is an efficient, user-friendly tool and provides for calculating and comparing GHG emissions across different modes.
  • It allows for a commodity-wise comparison of GHG emissions and total cost of transportation, including their environmental cost, between movement by road and rail.
  • The tool is intended to facilitate appropriate modal choice for all concerned.

Back2Basics: Green House Gases (GHGs)

  • A greenhouse gas (GHG) is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range, causing the greenhouse effect.
  • The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor (H 2O), carbon dioxide (CO 2), methane (CH 4), nitrous oxide (N 2O), and ozone (O3).
  • Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature of Earth’s surface would be about −18 °C (0 °F), rather than the present average of 15 °C (59 °F).
  • The atmospheres of Venus, Mars, and Titan also contain greenhouse gases.

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Air Pollution

[pib] Aerosol Nucleation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aerosol Nucleation

Mains level : Air pollution

Scientists tracing the concentration, size and evolution of aerosol particles smaller than 3 nanometers at an urban location in India have found the frequent formation of sub-3nm aerosol particles in the atmosphere.

What is Aerosol Nucleation?

  • The formation of small molecular clusters of sub-3nm size is technically called aerosol nucleation, and subsequent growth of these newly formed clusters to the large sizes is called atmospheric new particle formation (NPF).
  • NPF occurs everywhere in the terrestrial troposphere, and therefore it is a large source of aerosol numbers to the atmosphere.
  • Though extensively studied globally using field observations, laboratory experiments and modelling approach, it is largely unexplored in India.

What has the new research found?

  • The research showed that a pool of sub-3nm particles is often present in the atmosphere, but how fast these clusters grow depends on various factors.
  • The scientists observed that only half of these events showed newly formed molecular clusters growing past 10 nm size.
  • Thus particle size distributions display a conventional banana-shaped aerosol growth, which is indicative of regional NPF event.

Role of Sulphur

  • The team found a strong positive correlation between sub-3nm particle concentrations and sulphuric acid concentrations, confirming the potential role of sulfuric acid in the formation of sub-3nm particles.
  • While NPF often starts with sulphuric acid in the atmosphere, sulphuric acid alone fails to explain observed particle formation and growth rates in the atmosphere.
  • Other vapours such as ammonia, amines and organics play a crucial role in the growth of newly formed particles.
  • This has critical importance as a major fraction of these newly formed particles can reach to sizes of cloud condensation nuclei where they have climatic impacts.

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Air Pollution

International Nitrogen Initiative (INI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nitrogen pollution

Mains level : NA

The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the main focus of the eighth triennial conference of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) being held virtually this week.

International Nitrogen Initiative

  • INI is an international program, set up in 2003 under the sponsorship of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and from the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP).
  • The key aims of the INI are to:
  1. optimize nitrogen’s beneficial role in sustainable food production, and
  2. minimize nitrogen’s negative effects on human health and the environment resulting from food and energy production.

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.Which of the following adds/add nitrogen to the soil?

  1. Excretion of Urea by animals
  2. Burning of coal by man
  3. Death of vegetation

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2, and 3

Why nitrogen?

  • Reactive nitrogen compounds like NOx, ammonia and the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide impact air, water and soil quality, health, biodiversity and climate change, among others.
  • These compounds are lost from fertilizers, manures, and sewage as well as from fuel burning in transport and industry.
  • Assessing and managing them sustainably will be crucial to achieving the 17 UN SDGs targeted for 2030.

Also read:

[Burning Issue] Nitrogen Pollution in India


Back2Basics: Nitrogen Pollution

  • While nitrogen is the dominant gas in the atmosphere, it is inert and doesn’t react.
  • However, when it is released as part of compounds from agriculture, sewage and biological waste, nitrogen is considered reactive.
  • It may be polluting and even exert a potent greenhouse gas effect.
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O) is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide but isn’t as prevalent in the atmosphere.
  • 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.
  • Nitrogen pollution is caused, for example, by emissions from chemical fertilizers, livestock manure and burning fossil fuels.
  • 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.
  • Nitrate from chemical fertilizers, manure, and industry pollute the rivers and seas, posing a health risk for humans, fish, coral, and plant life.

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Air Pollution

[pib] Recycling Carbon Technology

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Components of CCUS

Mains level : Carbon sequestration

A Bangalore-based startup has received the National Award 2021 for developing efficient catalysts and methodologies for the conversion of CO2 to methanol and other chemicals.

Carbon Recycling

  • It has led to the improvisation of process engineering to enhance the production of chemicals and fuels from anthropogenic CO2.
  • It has integrated multiple components involved in the CCUS (Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration) to develop a complete solution for the environmental issues due to global warming.
  • The current capacity of CO2 conversion is 300 kg per day, which can be scaled up to several 100 tons on an industrial scale.

What is CCUS?

  • Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) encompass methods and technologies to remove CO2 from the flue gas and from the atmosphere.
  • CCUS involves multiple aspects that need to be in sync for the successful removal or capture of CO2 from the flue gas or the atmosphere, followed by utilization and storage.
  • Carbon capture involves the development of sorbents that can effectively bind to the CO2 present in flue gas or the atmosphere, which is expensive.
  • In addition, there has been a considerable debate about the fate of captured and compressed CO2.

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Air Pollution

Delhi’s air quality deteriorates, again

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AQI

Mains level : Paper 3- Air pollution in Delhi

Air quality to oscillate between poor to very poor

  • Delhi’s air quality deteriorated from ‘moderate’ to ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ on April 29.
  • It will be oscillating between ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ for the next three days, according to the SAFAR-System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research.
  • Delhi’s air typically worsens in October-November and improves by March-April.

What is the cause

  • Current weather conditions are not unfavourable, unlike in winter.
  • Hence, apart from local emissions, the deterioration in air quality is being attributed to an increase in fire counts, mostly due to burning of wheat crop stubble in northern India.
  • Deteriorating air quality is worrying amid an increasing number of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and deaths.

Quality classification

  • An AQI between 0-50 is considered ‘good.
  • An AQI between 51-100 is considered satisfactory.
  • An AQI between 101-200 is considered moderate.
  • An AQI between 201-300 is considered poor.
  • An AQI between 301-400 is considered very poor.
  • An AQI between 401-500 is considered severe.
  • Above 500 is the ‘severe-plus’ or ‘emergency’ category.

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Air Pollution

Limited sops make scrappage policy for vehicles unattractive

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- What makes vehicle policy unattractive

Why the Vehicle Scrappage Policy is unattractive

  • The policy proposes to de-register vehicles that fail fitness tests or are unable to renew registrations after 15-20 years of use.
  • Limited incentives and poor cost economics for trucks in the Vehicle Scrappage Policy, coupled with lack of addressable volumes for other segments is unlikely to drive freight transporters to replace their old vehicles with new ones, said a Crisil report.
  • Though the scrappage volume of buses, PVs and two-wheelers is expected to be limited as well, the policy’s impact on new commercial vehicle (CV) sales could be sizeable, based on addressable volume, ratings agency Crisil Research said in its report.
  • The potential benefit from scrapping a 15-year-old, entry-level small car will be ₹70,000, whereas its resale value is around ₹95,000. That makes scrapping unattractive, Crisil said in the report.

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Air Pollution

World Air Quality Report, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : World Air Quality Report

Mains level : Air pollution in Delhi

Delhi remained the most polluted capital city in the world but India, on the whole, had improved its average annual PM 2.5 (particulate matter) levels higher in 2020 than in 2019, according to a report from World Air Quality Report Air.

Try this question from CS Mains 2015:

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

World Air Quality Report

  • It is released by a Swiss air quality technology company IQAir.
  • IQAir is an air quality technology company that since 1963 seeks to empower individuals, organizations and communities to breathe cleaner air through information, collaboration and technology solutions.
  • The 2020 Report is based on PM2.5 data from 106 countries that have been measured by ground-based monitoring stations.

Highlights of the report

  • Of the 14 most polluted cities, 13 were in India.
  • When ranked by cities, Hotan in China was the most polluted, with an average concentration of 110.2 µg/m³, followed by Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh at 106.
  • Delhi’s concentration level, based primarily on data from the Central Pollution Control Board, was 84.1 µg/m³ in 2020, a 15% improvement from the 98.6 µg/m³ recorded in 2019 — a consequence of the lockdown.
  • Bangladesh and Pakistan were the countries in 2020 with worse average PM 2.5 levels than India, says the report.
  • China ranked 11th in the latest report, a deterioration from the 14th in the previous edition of the report. In the 2020 report, 106 countries were evaluated.

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Air Pollution

Curbing Benzene Emission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Benzene pollution

Mains level : Not Much

A joint committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to study air pollution in Kerala has pointed out that petrol refuelling stations were a major source of benzene emissions and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Why such a move?

  • Benzene is a major constituent of evaporative emission due to its high volatility.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following:

  1. Carbon monoxide
  2. Methane
  3. Ozone
  4. Sulphur dioxide

Which of the above are released into atmosphere due to the burning of crop/biomass residue?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2, 3 and 4 only

(c) 1 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

What is Benzene?

  • Benzene is a chemical that is a colourless or light yellow liquid at room temperature. It has a sweet odour and is highly flammable.
  • It evaporates into the air very quickly. Its vapour is heavier than air and may sink into low-lying areas.
  • It dissolves only slightly in water and will float on top of the water.

Its formation and uses

Benzene is formed from both natural processes and human activities.

  • Natural sources of benzene include volcanoes and forest fires. Benzene is also a natural part of crude oil, gasoline, and cigarette smoke.
  • Some industries use benzene to make other chemicals that are used to make plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibres.
  • It is also used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides.

Benzene emission

  • The major sources of benzene exposure are tobacco smoke, automobile service stations, exhaust from motor vehicles, and industrial emissions.
  • Benzene is present in both exhaust and evaporative emissions. Motor vehicles account for approximately 85% of the total benzene emissions.
  • However, ingestion and dermal absorption of benzene can also occur through contact with contaminated water.

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Air Pollution

54,000 lives lost in Delhi due to air pollution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Willingness to pay mechanism

Mains level : Air pollution in Delhi

Air pollution claimed approximately 54,000 lives in Delhi in 2020, according to a Greenpeace Southeast Asia analysis of the cost to the economy due to air pollution.

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?

Deaths due to Air Pollution

  • Globally, approximately 1,60,000 deaths have been attributed to PM 2.5 air pollution in the five most populous cities — Delhi, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo.
  • Six Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Lucknow — feature in the global analysis.
  • An estimated 25,000 avoidable deaths in Mumbai in 2020 have been attributed to air pollution.
  • Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad estimated an approximate 12,000, 11,000, and 11,000 avoidable deaths respectively due to polluted air.

The ‘Cost Estimator’

  • The ‘Cost Estimator’, an online tool that estimates the real-time health impact and economic cost from fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) air pollution in major world cities.
  • It was deployed in collaboration between Greenpeace Southeast Asia, IQAir and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
  • Using real-time ground-level PM 2.5 measurements collated in IQAir’s database, the algorithm applies scientific risk models in combination with population and public health data.

Computing the “Lost Years”

  • To show the impact of air pollution-related deaths on the economy, the approach used by Greenpeace is called ‘willingness-to-pay.
  • It refers to a lost life year or a year lived with a disability is converted to money by the amount that people are willing to pay in order to avoid this negative outcome.
  • The cost estimator also sustained the estimated air pollution-related economic losses of ₹1,23,65,15,40,000.

Greenpeace recommends-

  • Despite a temporary reprieve in air quality owing to the lockdown, the latest figures from the report underscore the need to act immediately.
  • The need of the hour is to rapidly scale up renewable energy, bring an end to fossil fuel emissions and boost sustainable and accessible transport systems.

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Air Pollution

[pib] Scheme for Management of Crop Residues

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Air pollution

Mains level : Alternatives solutions for stubble burning

The Scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi’ has been extended for the year 2021-22.

We can cite the example of this scheme for crop residue management as an effective solution against stubble burning.

Management of Crop Residues

  • In pursuance this, a central sector scheme (100% funded by centre) was launched in 2018 Budget to support the efforts of the governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the NCT of Delhi to address air pollution.
  • It aimed to subsidize the machinery required for in-situ management of crop residue.

Various objectives of the scheme:

  • Protecting the environment from air pollution and preventing loss of nutrients and soil micro-organisms caused by burning of crop residue;
  • Promoting in-situ management of crop residue by retention and incorporation into the soil through the use of appropriate mechanization inputs and
  • Creating awareness among stakeholders for effective utilization and management of crop residue

Outcomes of the scheme

  • The residue burning events in 2020 in Punjab, Haryana and UP together have reduced by -30% as compared to 2016.
  • In Punjab the reduction is -22.7%, Haryana – 63.8% and UP – 52.01%.

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Air Pollution

What is Nitrogen-Use Efficiency (NUE)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NUE, Nitrogen's GHG potential

Mains level : Nitrogen pollution

A group of Indian scientists have found a way to improve crops by reducing wastage of nitrogen fertilizers applied to them.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which of the following adds/add nitrogen to the soil?

  1. Excretion of Urea by animals
  2. Burning of coal by man
  3. Death of vegetation

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2, and 3

Nitrogen-Use Efficiency

  • NUE is calculated as a ratio between nitrogen used and harvest: A higher number denotes low wastage.
  • With the efficiency on the decline, farmers use more fertiliser in the hope of raising yield. This in turn worsens NUE.
  • Crops generally use up 30 per cent of nitrogen fertilizer applied; the rest seeps into the environment, harming health and adding to climate change.
  • Researchers were able to identify phenotypes or visibly identifiable features that determine the efficiency with which cultivated rice varieties (cultivars) use nitrogen.
  • This efficiency is known as nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE).
  • Cereals consume over 69 per cent of nitrogen fertilizers in India; rice tops the list with 37 per cent, followed by wheat (24 per cent).

Nitrogen Pollution: the reason behind

  • Agriculture leads to 70 per cent of nitrous oxide emissions in India.
  • Of this, 77 per cent is contributed by fertilizers, mostly urea, according to the Indian Nitrogen Assessment published in 2017.
  • This greenhouse gas (GHG) is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
  • It has replaced methane as the second-largest component of GHG emissions from Indian agriculture in the past 15 years.

Must read:

[Burning Issue] Nitrogen Pollution in India

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Air Pollution

Air pollution in India

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

https://www.civilsdaily.com/news/greenhouse-gas-emissions-from-indian-paddy-fields-very-high-ny-based-study/

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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On the morning of 29 November, Beijing woke up to air pollution levels not seen in over a year. The city’s government immediately issued an alert and ordered factories to stop or reduce production.


 

The same morning, Delhi woke up to pollution levels much higher than Beijing’s.

And it hosted the Delhi half marathon.

In the name of health awareness, the runners breathed air laced with pollutants exponentially beyond safe levels. And they inhaled 10-20 times as much air as a sedentary person does.

In sharp contrast, the embassies of Norway and the United States have taken urgent steps to safeguard their personnel. While Norwegian officials are set to get “hardship pay” for working in New Delhi, the US embassy’s school has cancelled outdoor activities for its students.

The stark difference in attitudes, perhaps, is because most Delhiites know little about how exactly the city’s air is killing them. Slowly. Daily.

The government has largely failed to make people aware of how the pollution affects them, what the main pollutants are, what precautions they should take, the types of masks they should wear, and suchlike.

It only dumps air pollution data on a rather glib website, on a page full of numbers and technical terms befitting a chemistry textbook.

There is no air warning system in Delhi that could alert citizens, shut down schools and prohibit outdoor activity when pollution reaches hazardous levels.

Most of all, though, the residents should know what exactly makes Delhi’s air so toxic. Even if you know what it is – the toxin is called PM 2.5 – there is no easy way to know how harmful it is.

So, here’s a primer.

Why are we talking about PM2.5?

Delhi’s air is not polluted as much with poisonous gases as it’s with really tiny particles known as PM2.5. And its levels are consistently 16-20 times higher than the prescribed standard. At the time of the half marathon, it was 48 times the limit.

Greenpeace recently found that even inside Delhi’s classrooms, PM2.5 levels were 11 times the limit.

What is PM2.5?

PM stands for particulate matter, while the number refers to the size of the particles. So, PM2.5 is like extremely fine dust whose particles are just 2.5 microns wide — that’s thirty times smaller than the width of a human hair.
The tiny size makes it harder to prevent PM2.5 from getting into the body, making it deadlier.

What exactly is PM2.5 made up of?

There is no easy answer to this since the toxin is identified more by its size than what it contains. It could be a variety of solid or liquid chemicals.

According to the United States’ Environment Protection Agency, a PM2.5 particle, depending on where it’s emitted from, could contain compounds of any of these four materials:

Carbon – from cars, trucks, waste burning
Nitrate – from cars, trucks, thermal power generation
Sulphate – from thermal power generation
Crustal – suspended soil and metals
While individual particles obviously can’t be seen without special equipment, large amounts are visible as haze or smog.

Why is PM2.5 bad?

  1. Being tiny, these particles easily reach the lungs. From there, they can travel through the bloodstream and reach the heart.
  2. Long exposure to PM2.5 can worsen asthma and heart conditions. They also cause runny nose, sneezing and coughing.
  3. 5 coming from diesel vehicles contains carbon and is a carcinogenic.
  4. It can also cause other heart and lung diseases, or make them worse.
  5. It slow down development of lungs in children and can leave them with reduced lung function for the rest of their lives, according to the WHO.
  6. Illnesses caused by PM2.5 kill at least 3.1 million people a year across the world.
  7. The WHO estimates that exposure to PM2.5 reduces a person’s life expectancy by an average of 8.6 months.

How much of PM2.5 is safe?

The WHO says there is no safe level, PM2.5 is harmful in any amount. Still, there are standards on how much PM2.5 is too much.
As per the WHO’s own standards, the average PM2.5 levels should not exceed 10 mg per cubic metre in one year.
In one day, it should be under 25. Indian safety limits, however, are more relaxed – at 60.
WHO says PM2.5 level mustn’t exceed 25 mg/cubic metre. Yet, India has relaxed the limit to 60

What’s the best protection from PM2.5?

  1. Protecting yourself from PM2.5 doesn’t require gas masks, but cotton masks that can block very fine particles.
  2. It is recommended to use an N-95 mask, the same one used to protect against the H1N1 virus.
  3. Unfortunately, planting more trees does nothing to solve the problem.
  4. Since PM2.5 are particles and not gases, they can’t be processed by the leaves.
  5. In fact, a high tree density can make the exposure worse because the extra moisture in the air would trap the particles instead of letting them fly away with the wind.
  6. The only way to cut down PM2.5 levels is to stop it at the source – cars, factories, waste burning, thermal power plants. Until then, strap on the N-95s.

Only way to reduce PM2.5 is to stop it at source – cars, factories, waste burning, thermal plants


 

Source - CatchNews | Pic - Vox-cdn

Everything that you want to know on Delhi’s Odd-Even Policy

Delhi Government releases blueprint for Odd-Even formula December 25, 2015. In an attempt to curb alarming levels of pollution in the Indian capital, Delhi, authorities have announced that private cars with even and odd number plates will be allowed only on alternate days. Let’s see it in brief!


 

How will odd-even policy work out?

  • The Odd-Even formula plan seeks to curb the number of vehicles plying in the national capital by limiting 4-wheelers on alternate days.
  • Under it cars with licence plates ending in an odd number will ply on odd dates and those ending with an even number can run on even dates.
  • This will be on a trial basis from 1 to 15 January, 2015.
  • During this implementation, public transport including buses and the Metro will be run at high frequency.
  • The government plans to run 6,000 more buses to accommodate those who can’t drive their cars.

Then, Who is exempted?

  • The list of 20-plus exemptions from the restrictions include emergency vehicles, fire engines, ambulances, hospitals, hearses, prisons, VIPs, enforcement vehicles and defence ministry vehicles.
  • Among VIPs, leaders of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Chief Ministers of states, Judges of the Supreme Court and high court and Lokayukta are exempt. <CM of Delhi is not exempted>
  • CNG and electric vehicles are also exempt.
  • Two-wheelers and vehicles driven by or occupied by handicapped persons and female drivers are also exempt.

So, Will it really help clean the Delhi air?

  • The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has welcomed the “emergency action to reduce vehicle numbers on the road” but questioned the absurdity of exempting 2-wheelers, which account for more than 30% of air pollutants generated by the transport sector in Delhi, and women drivers.
  • According to the scientists of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), 80 per cent of PM 2.5 air pollution is caused by vehicular traffic and reduction in its levels, even in outer areas of Delhi shows that reduction of four wheeled vehicles on roads.
  • The latest set of ambient air data collected at 18 locations across Delhi through mobile dust samplers shows a consistent trend of declining levels of PM 2.5 air pollution levels.
  • If we take 250-300 as an average, then there is a drop of 100 points in PM 2.5 levels. This means there is a drop in pollution by about 25 percent. [ Isn’t it great! ]

 

But, Where did the odd-even idea come from?

Car rationing has been tried in many countries around the world.

  • Rationalisation of the movement of private vehicles has been adopted in many countries, starting with Sweden (Stockholm) and extending to other European countries.
  • China (Beijing), Mexico and Colombia (Bogota) have also implemented such measures.

Let’s glance over some international experiments?

Beijing

  • The city initiated the alternate day car driving restrictions just ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games and saw pollution levels drop by almost 20%.
  • Currently, Beijing imposes this rule periodically, on days with high air pollution.
  • The city has also restricted its car sales since 2011 to 20,000 car plates every month.
  • However, they have made tremendous efforts to increase public transport such as bus connectivity and metro services. [ Lesson for Delhi ]

Paris, France

  • The city has been imposing the odd-even number plate rule during periods of high air pollution. On such days, public transport is free.
  • The rule was last implemented in March 2015 when a smog alert was issued.

Mexico

  • The “Hoy No Circula” was introduced in Mexico around 1989 to combat air pollution.
  • It called for citywide bans, one day per week, based on last digit of the number plates.
  • For example, plates ending in 5 and 6 were not allowed to drive on Mondays while 7 and 8 were not allowed to drive on Tuesdays and so on.
  • This measure was highly successful in bringing carbon monoxide (CO) levels down by almost 11%.
  • However, in the long run, people eventually started buying more cars, rendering the ban inefficient. Therefore, it actually ended in a rise in CO levels in the long run by almost 13%.

Oh! Are these measures short-term?

  • Yes, these examples show that the system has better potential as a short-term measure.
  • It show that temporary restrictions on vehicles may not reduce air pollution in the long term.
  • Drivers inevitably buy more cheap and inefficient cars with different number plates to get around the rules.
  • Hence, such an initiative must be complemented by other measures to ensure that we have a stable system in the long run.

So, Are there any long-term measures available?

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has suggested some long-term measures –

  • There is a need to impose restrictions on diesel vehicles to promote electric and alternative fuel vehicles.
  • The electric vehicles should be exempted from any such alternate number plate restriction.
  • The number plate measure needs to be combined with high parking charges and intensified public transport strategy. <This should be the strategy for the entire period of poor air quality as well as a long-term measure>

International Example

  • Paris has set an example by deciding to phase out diesel cars completely by 2020.
  • London is also planning to ban diesel cars despite having a fuel quality as high as Euro 6.
  • China has already banned diesel cars on roads.India, on the other hand, is still juggling between BS-III and BS-IV norms<With accepted ground reality, we can not directly implement BS-V/BS-VI in one go>

What Delhi can do more?

Immediately link and scale up metro, bus, autos, taxis-walk and cycle –

  • This is needed immediately to connect doorsteps of people with their destinations for effortless movement without the car.
  • Connect each and every neighbourhood with efficient and reliable public transport service.

Provide safe and barrier free walking and cycling infrastructure –

  • Redesign roads and road network to give safe and priority infrastructure to walkers, cyclists and public transport users.

Adopt parking policy and taxation measures to restrain car usage –

  • Currently, parking charges in Delhi are one of the lowest in the world.
  • Limit legal parking areas across the city and demarcate them on the ground. Impose high penalty for illegal parking on public space.
  • Impose higher taxes on cars for their congestion and pollution impacts. Use the revenue to build public transport.<Congestion tax can be a good case in this regard>

How will it affect automobile industry sector?

  • Delhi’s odd-even decision will upset powerful automobile lobbies.
  • The stakes for the car industry are too high in the capital, which is India’s biggest car market.
  • The city has the largest population of registered motorised vehicles in the country, about 89 lakh as on March 31, 2015.
  • Of them, 26 lakh are cars, 28 lakh motorcycles and 27 lakh scooters.
  • In comparison, the number of commercial vehicles like taxis, buses and three-wheelers is about 3.5 lakh.
  • The national capital region (NCR) accounts for 12% of car sales in India and is the biggest car market in the country.
  • The temporary ban, according to reported estimates, will prevent 12,000 new diesel cars from coming on the Delhi roads.

So, the Odd-Even vehicle formula restriction is a good initiative, it is only a start. To control congestion, reduce pollution and improve liveability, there must be a comprehensive strategy in Delhi.

At national level, how odd-even policy will affect Make in India programme? Critically analyse.


 

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