Category: Pollution & Waste Management

CAG Audit report on Plastic Waste

Why in News?

  • As per the recent audit by CAG of MoEF&CC, it was found that the ministry has a mechanism to assess the generation of plastic waste, but none for its collection and safe disposal.

Key findings of the CAG report:

  • MoEF&CC has no action plan leading to ineffective implementation of Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules, 2016
  • Effective coordination between several pollution control boards (Central and State) and the ministry is lacking
  • Lack of uniform method of assessment of plastic waste generation within a state
  • The issue with the Rules: The Plastic Waste Management Rules framed by MoEF&CC lack comprehensiveness to give thrust to effective implementation and monitoring

Background:

  • In 2019, the Union government in a bid to free India of single-use plastics by 2022, had laid out a multi-ministerial plan to discourage the use of single-use plastics across the country.
  • So, the government announced the ban in August 2021, following its 2019 resolution to address plastic pollution in the country.

What are single use plastics?

  • Single-use plastics refer to disposable items like grocery bags, food packaging, bottles and straws that are used only once before they are thrown away, or sometimes recycled.

Why SUP is a cause of concern?

  • Harm environment: Single-use plastic also accounts for the majority of plastic discarded – 130 million metric tonnes globally in 2019 — all of which are burned, buried in landfills or discarded directly into the environment.
  • GHG emission: On the current trajectory of production, it has been projected that single-use plastic could account for 5-10% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

What are the items being banned?

  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have announced a ban on – earbuds; balloon sticks; candy and ice-cream sticks; cutlery items including plates, cups, glasses, forks, spoons, knives, trays; sweet boxes; invitation cards; cigarette packs; PVC banners measuring under 100 microns; and polystyrene for decoration.
  • Polythene bag: The Ministry had already banned polythene bags under 75 microns in September 2021, expanding the limit from the earlier 50 microns. From December 2022, the ban will be extended to polythene bags under 120 micron
  • Sachets: According to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, there is also a complete ban on sachets using plastic material for storing, packing or selling gutkha, tobacco and pan masala.

Why these items?

  • As per the ministry: The choice for the first set of single-use plastic items for the ban was based on “difficulty of collection, and therefore recycling”.

How will the ban be enforced?

  • Monitoring by CPCB: The ban will be monitored by the CPCB from the Centre and by the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) that will report to the Centre regularly.
  • Stop raw materials supply: Directions have been issued at national, state and local levels — for example, to all petrochemical industries — to not supply raw materials to industries engaged in the banned items.
  • Directions to industries: SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees will modify or revoke consent to operate issued under the Air/Water Act to industries engaged in single-use plastic items.
  • Fresh licensing required: Local authorities have been directed to issue fresh commercial licenses with the condition that SUP items will not be sold on their premises, and existing commercial licences will be cancelled if they are found to be selling these items.
  • Encouraging compostable plastics: CPCB has issued one-time certificates to 200 manufacturers of compostable plastic and the BIS passed standards for biodegradable plastic.
  • Penalty: Those found violating the ban can be penalised under the Environment Protection Act 1986 – which allows for imprisonment up to 5 years, or a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh, or both. Violators can also be asked to pay Environmental Damage Compensation by the SPCB.

How are other countries dealing with single-use plastic?

  • Consensus on SUP in UN: This year, 124 countries, parties to the United Nations Environment Assembly, including India, signed a resolution to draw up an agreement which will in the future make it legally binding for the signatories to address the full life of plastics from production to disposal, to end plastic pollution.
  • 68 countries have plastic bag bans with varying degrees of enforcement
  • Bangladesh: Bangladesh became the first country to ban thin plastic bags in 2002.
  • China: China issued a ban on plastic bags in 2020 with a phased implementation.
  • EU: EU bans certain single-use plastics for which alternatives are available.

Government Notified E-waste (Management) Rules 2022

Why in News?

  • The government has notified E-waste (management) rules 2022, which will come into force from 1 April next year and apply to every manufacturer, producer refurbisher, dismantler and recycler of e-waste.

Key provisions of the Rules: 

  • Restricted the use of hazardous substances (such as lead, mercury, and cadmium) in manufacturing electrical and electronic equipment that have an adverse impact on human health and the environment.
  • Increased the range of electronic goods covered e.g., laptops, mobile, cameras etc.
  • Targets fixed: Producers of electronic goods have to ensure at least 60% of their electronic waste is collected and recycled by 2023 with targets to increase them to 70% and 80% in 2024 and 2025, respectively.
  • Companies will report these on an online portal.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility Certificates (similar to carbon credit mechanism): This will allow the offsetting of e-waste responsibility to a third party.
  • ‘Environmental compensation’ to be provided by the companies that don’t meet their target.
  • Role of State Governments: They will earmark industrial space for e-waste dismantling and recycling facilities, undertaking industrial skill development and establishing measures for protecting the health and safety of workers engaged in the dismantling and recycling facilities for e-waste.
  • Role of manufacturers:
  • Make the end product recyclable
  • A component made by different manufacturers be compatible with each other
  • Role of Central Pollution Control Board: It shall conduct random sampling of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market to monitor and verify the compliance of reduction of hazardous substances provisions.

 

What is E-Waste?

  • E-Waste is short for Electronic-Waste and the term used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded electronic appliances.
  • It is categorised into 21 types under two broad categories: Information technology and communication equipment and Consumer electrical and electronics.
  • E-waste includes their components, consumables, parts and spares.
  • E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, brominated flame retardants (BFR), CFCs and HCFCs.
  • The increasing levels of e-waste, low collection rates, and non-environmentally sound disposal and treatment of this waste stream pose significant risks to the environment and to human health.
  • International E-Waste Day has been observed on 14th October since 2018.

Concerns of E-Waste:

  • Toxicity: E-waste consists of toxic elements such as Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Chromium, Polybrominated biphenyls and Polybrominated diphenyl.
  • Effects on Humans: Some of the major health effects include serious illnesses such as lung cancer, respiratory problems, bronchitis, brain damages, etc. due to inhalation of toxic fumes, exposure to heavy metals and alike.
  • Effects on Environment: E-waste is an environmental hazard causing groundwater pollution, acidification of soil and contamination of groundwater and air pollution due to the burning of plastic and other remnants.

Challenges Related to Management of E-Waste in India:

  • A key factor in used electronic devices not being given for recycling was because consumers themselves did not do so.
  • In India, about 5 lakh child laborers in the age group of 10-14 are observed to be engaged in various E-waste activities and that too without adequate protection and safeguards in various yards and recycling workshops.
  • There is absence of any public information on most State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)/PCC websites.
  • No clear guidelines are there for the unorganized sector to handle E-waste.
  • Also, no incentives are mentioned to lure people engaged to adopt a formal path for handling E-waste.
  • 80% of E-waste in developed countries meant for recycling is sent to developing countries such as India, China, Ghana and Nigeria.
  • Lack of coordination between various authorities responsible for E-waste management and disposal including the non-involvement of municipalities.
  • End of life computers often contain sensitive personal information and bank account details which, if not deleted leave opportunity for fraud.

International Conventions and government initiatives:

  • Originally the Basel Convention did not mention e-waste but later it addressed the issues of e-waste in 2006 (COP8).
  • Nairobi Declaration was adopted at COP9 of the Basel Convention. It aimed at creating innovative solutions for the environmentally sound management of electronic wastes.
  • Rotterdam Convention, 2004 seeks to promote exchange of information among Parties over a range of potentially hazardous that may be exported or imported.
  • In India prior to 2011, e-waste was covered under the Hazardous Waste Management (HWM) Rules.
  • In 2011, under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 were enacted
  • In 2016, the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 were enacted which replaced the 2011 Rules. The Rules were amended in 2018
  • CPCB has also issued guidelines Environmentally Sound Management of E-waste (on Collection, Storage, Dismantling & Segregation, Recycling, and Treatment & Disposal of E-Waste)
  • Awareness Program on Environmental Hazards of Electronic Waste initiated by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
  • Creation of Management Structure for Hazardous Substances seeks to raise awareness among people about the 2016 Rules and its implementation.
  • Swachh Digital Bharat seeks to create awareness among the public about the hazards of e-waste recycling by the unorganised sector, and to educate them about alternate methods of disposing of their e-waste. 

Stockholm Convention on POPs

Why in News?

  • European Commission has proposed to tighten limits for a range of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to tackle contamination in recycled products, health and environment.

What are POPs?

  • In 1995, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called for global action to be taken on POPs, which it defined as “chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to Human Health and the Environment”.

Uniqueness of POPs:

  • POPs are lipophilic, which means that they accumulate in the fatty tissue of living animals and human beings.
  • In fatty tissue, the concentrations can become magnified by up to 70 000 times higher than the background levels.
  • As you move up the food chain, concentrations of POPs tend to increase so that animals at the top of the food chain such as fish, predatory birds, mammals, and humans tend to have the greatest concentrations of these chemicals.

About Stockholm Convention on POPs:

  • Signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004 (Ninety days after the ratification by at least 50 signatory states).
  • Aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
  • Initially, twelve POPs have been recognized as causing adverse effects on humans and the ecosystem and these can be placed in 3 categories:
  • Pesticides: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene;
  • Industrial chemicals: hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and By-products: hexachlorobenzene; polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF), and PCBs.
  • Since then, additional substances such as carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and certain brominated flame-retardents, as well as organometallic compounds such as tributyltin (TBT) have been added to the list of Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Sources of POPs:

  • Improper use and/or disposal of agrochemicals and industrial chemicals.
  • Elevated temperatures and combustion processes.
  • Unwanted by-products of industrial processes or combustion.

Is it Legally Binding?

  • Article 16 of the Convention requires that effectiveness of the measures adopted by the Convention is evaluated in Regular Intervals.

Other Conventions dealing with POPs:

  • Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollutants (LRTAP), Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Recent Developments:

  • The Union Cabinet, in 2021, approved the Ratification of seven chemicals listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).The Cabinet has also delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to the Union Ministers of External Affairs (MEA) and Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in respect of POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations.
  • These are:
  • Chlordecone.
  • Hexabromobiphenyl.
  • Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Heptabromodiphenylether.
  • Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether.
  • Pentachlorobenzene.
  • Hexabromocyclododecane.
  • Hexachlorobutadiene.

Benefits for India:

  • The ratification process would enable India to access Global Environment Facility (GEF) Financial Resources in updating the National Implementation Plan (NIP).

MITIGATE RISKS IN WASTE DISPOSAL – SAYS NGT

Why in News?

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has recently issued a directive for states and Union Territories to take adequate steps to mitigate risks in disposal of bio-medical waste in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Earlier, the Karnataka High Court has also directed the Karnataka Government to take special measures to protect sanitation workers while they collect waste from houses where persons subjected to home quarantine reside.

Key Points:

  • The NGT raised concerns regarding unscientific disposal of bio-medical waste by un-authorised healthcare facilities. Only 1.1 lakh out of 2.7 lakh healthcare facilities are authorised under the Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 so far.
  • The NGT asked the State Pollution Control Boards and pollution control committees to make efforts to bridge this gap to mitigate the risk in terms of unscientific disposal of bio-medical waste.
  • Directions of the court:
  • Waste should be picked up from quarantine homes in a separate vehicle. Waste from households under quarantine should be put in yellow non-chlorinated plastic bags, and be treated as biomedical waste.
  • Once collected, these waste must be disposed of, as per the Biomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016.
  • Sanitation workers and vehicle drivers should be provided with the necessary safety gear, such as gloves, goggles and gowns.

About Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016:

  • Objective: The objective of the rules is to properly manage the per day bio-medical waste from healthcare facilities (HCFs) across the country.
  • Ambit: The ambit of the rules has been Expanded to include vaccination camps, blood donation camps, surgical camps or any other healthcare activity.
  • Definition of Biomedical waste: It was defined as human and animal anatomical waste, treatment apparatus like needles, syringes and other materials used in health care facilities in the process of treatment and research. This waste is generated during diagnosis, treatment or immunisation in hospitals, nursing homes, pathological laboratories, blood bank, etc.
  • Phase out: Use of chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags to be phased out within two years from March 2016.
  • Pre-treatment: Pre-treatment of the laboratory waste, microbiological waste, blood samples and blood bags through disinfection or sterilisation on-site in the manner prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
  • Training: All health care workers to be provided training and immunization regularly.
  • Bar-code: A Bar-Code System for bags or containers containing bio-medical waste for disposal will be established.
  • Categorisation: Bio-medical waste has been classified into 4 categories instead of the earlier 10 categories to improve the segregation of waste at source.
  • Stringent standards for pollutants: The rules prescribe more stringent standards for incinerators to reduce the emission of pollutants in the environment.
  • Land: The State Government provides the land for setting up common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facilities.

IMPROVED AIR QUALITY DUE TO LOCKDOWN

Why in News?

  • The nationwide lockdown, to prevent COVID-19, has led to minimal air pollution in over 90 cities including Delhi.

Key Points:

  • During the lockdown, the government has asked the people to avoid unnecessary travel which has significantly reduced the traffic movement.
  • Other factors which have contributed to the improved air quality are shutting down of industries and construction sites and rains.
  • According to the centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the measures against COVID-19 have led to a drop in:
  • 2.5:
    • It is an atmospheric Particulate Matter of diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres, which is around 3% of the diameter of a human hair.
    • It causes respiratory problems and also reduces visibility. It is an endocrine disruptor that can affect insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity thus contributing to diabetes.
  • Nitrogen Oxide (NOx):
    • NOx pollution is mainly caused due to high motor vehicle traffic and can increase the risk of respiratory conditions.
    • Generally in March, pollution is in the moderate category in the Air Quality Index while currently, it is in the satisfactory or good category.
    • Under the good category, pollution is considered to be at the lowest and the air is believed to be the healthiest to breathe.

What does CPCB Says?

  • Air quality in the National Capital Territory of Delhi is presently in the good category.
  • Kanpur, which has high pollution levels normally, is in the satisfactory category.
  • 92 other cities with CPCB monitoring centres have recorded minimal air pollution, with the air quality ranging between good and satisfactory.

About Air Quality Index:

  • The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality.
  • It focuses on health effects one might experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air.
  • AQI is calculated for Eight Major Air Pollutants:
    • Ground-level ozone
    • It is also found in the stratosphere and protects from ultraviolet (UV) rays, while in the troposphere (ground level) it acts as a pollutant.
    • It is not a primary pollutant but a secondary one.
    • Ground-level ozone is not emitted directly into the air but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight.
    • PM10
    • 5
    • Carbon monoxide
    • Sulphur dioxide
    • Nitrogen dioxide
    • Ammonia
    • Lead
  • Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the two pollutants that pose the greatest threat to human health in India.

What are the Other Observations and Suggestions Made?

  • The low AQI and the blue skies prove that air pollution was mostly anthropomorphic (man-made), which can be reduced by conscious efforts.
  • Reducing air pollution by rapidly slowing down the economy is not an ideal way so mindful use of technologies and low-emission alternatives can be opted to minimise the pollution.
  • It was also emphasised that air pollution weakens the lungs so countries like India with higher pollution and lower nutrition levels will be more affected by COVID-19 leading to higher morbidity and deaths.

SC RELAXES BS-IV DEADLINE

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has extended the March 31, 2020 deadline for the sale and registration of BS-IV emission norm-compliant vehicles due to the “extraordinary” situation arising out of the 21-day COVID-19 lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the News:

  • The Bench of Judges divided the inventory of these vehicles into two categories — vehicles that were sold before March 31 and not registered; and those that remain unsold with the dealers.
  • The court said the first category of vehicles could be registered after the lockdown was withdrawn. As for the unsold vehicles, dealers could sell 10% of the stock after the lockdown was lifted. However, dealers in Delhi-NCR have been denied the relief owing to the high levels of the pollution in the national capital.

About Bharat Stage Emission Standards:

  • The Bharat Stage (BS) is emission standard instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from motor vehicles.
  • The Environment Ministry is responsible for deciding the fuel standard in the country. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) implements these standards.
  • The BS regulations are based on the European emission standards.
  • It was noted that companies can come up with new vehicles with BS VI fuel standards even before the April 2020 deadline. But after the deadline, vehicles that do not comply with BS VI standards will not be registered.These norms are applicable to all two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers and construction equipment vehicles.
  • But due to the pandemic concern the deadline to BS-IV vehicles has been removed without a particular time period.

About BS-VI:

  • To curb growing menace of air pollution through the vehicles emission, the Government of India has decided to leapfrog from the exiting BS – IV norms to the BS- VI, thereby skipping the BS – V norms, and to implement the BS – VI norms with effect from 1st April 2020.
  • Only those vehicles will be sold and registered in India from 1st April 2020 onwards, which comply with these norms. The norms are stringent and at par with global standards.
  • The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur.
  • The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80%, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm.
  • As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70% and 25% from cars with petrol engines.

Difference between BS-IV and BS-VI:

  • The shift makes on-board diagnostics (OBD) mandatory for all automobiles. The OBD unit will be able to identify likely areas of malfunction by means of fault codes stored on a computer ensuring that sophisticated emission control device which is fitted in a BS-VI vehicle runs at optimum efficiency throughout the life of the vehicle.
  • Apart from engine calibration, there will be various after treatment additions such as selective catalytic reduction and diesel particulate filters to meet carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide and particulate matter limit of BS VI norms.
  • Migration to BS VI norms necessitates the use of oxygen sensors, a complex coding of the electronic control unit and ignition control.
  • The cost of producing BS VI grade fuels will be higher compared to BS IV fuels.
  • The two-wheelers predominantly used carbureted engines (air and fuel for internal combustion are mixed in the proper air–fuel ratio) and they have to now move to fuel injection engine systems (an injector is used to introduce the fuel for internal combustion).
  • Diesel hydro-treating units that will ensure the reduction of sulphur concentration to stipulated limits are being created or their capacity is being augmented.
  • For meeting gasoline fuel quality, desulphurization technologies along with octane boosting units are being installed.

NATIONAL CLEAN AIR PROGRAMME

Why in News?

  • Union Environment Ministry has asked for city-level plans for the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) as these problems need to be dealt with at the local level.

What is the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)?

  • Launched in January 2019, it is the first ever effort in the country to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
  • The programme will not be notified under the Environment Protection Act or any other Act to create a firm mandate with a strong legal back up for cities and regions to implement NCAP in a time bound manner for effective reduction.
  • The plan includes 102 non-attainment cities, across 23 states and Union territories, which were identified by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.

What is Non-attainment?

  • Non-attainment cities are those which have been consistently showing poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
  • These include Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Noida, Muzaffarpur, and Mumbai.

What are its Key Features?

  • Target: Achieve a national-level target of 20-30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by between 2017 and 2024.
  • Implementation: Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will execute this nation-wide programme in consonance with the section 162 (b) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.
  • As part of the programme, the Centre also plans to scale up the air quality monitoring network across India. At least 4,000 monitors are needed across the country, instead of the existing 101 real-time air quality (AQ) monitors, according to an analysis.
    • The plan proposes a three-tier system, including real-time physical data collection, data archiving, and an action trigger system in all 102 cities, besides extensive plantation plans, research on clean-technologies, landscaping of major arterial roads, and stringent industrial standards.
    • It also proposes state-level plans of e-mobility in the two-wheeler sector, rapid augmentation of charging infrastructure, stringent implementation of BS-VI norms, boosting public transportation system, and adoption of third-party audits for polluting industries.
    • Various committees proposed: The national plan has proposed setting up an apex committee under environment minister, a steering committee under-secretary (environment) and a monitoring committee under a joint secretary. There would be project monitoring committees at the state-level with scientists and trained personnel.

E-WASTE RECYCLING HAS DOUBLED, SAYS CENTRE

Why in News?

  • In a recent question raised in Rajya Sabha, the centre has said that recycling of E-Wastes has doubled in the year 2018-2019 as compared to the previous year 2017-2018.

What is E-Waste?

  • E-waste is the waste consisting of discarded electronic products (such as computers, televisions, and cell phones).
  • India generates more than two million tonnes of e-waste annually, and the bulk of it is processed in the informal sector.
  • India ranks fifth in the world in generating e-waste, according to the UN’s Global E-Waste Monitor, 2014.
  • In 2017, the Centre had brought into effect the E-waste Rules, which require companies that make or sell electronic equipment to collect a certain percentage of e-waste generated from their goods once they have reached their “end-of-life.”
  • In 2017, over 200 manufacturers of electronic goods, including some e-giants, were served notices by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for not complying with e-waste procurement norms.

About E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016:

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 in supersession of the e-waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011.
  • Making the norms stringent, the new E-waste rules included Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and other mercury containing lamps, as well as other such Equipments.
  • For the first time, the rules brought the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets. Producers have been made responsible for collection of E-waste and for its exchange.
  • Various producers can have a separate Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) and ensure collection of E-waste, as well as its disposal in an environmentally sound manner.
  • Deposit Refund Scheme has been introduced as an additional economic instrument wherein the producer charges an additional amount as a deposit at the time of sale of the electrical and electronic equipment and returns it to the consumer along with interest when the end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment is returned.
  • The role of State Governments has been also introduced to ensure safety, health and skill development of the workers involved in dismantling and recycling operations.
  • A provision of penalty for violation of rules has also been introduced.
  • Urban Local Bodies (Municipal Committee/Council/Corporation) has been assign the duty to collect and channelized the orphan products to authorized dismantler or recycler.

About E-waste (Management) Amendment Rules, 2018:

  • The e-waste collection targets under EPR have been revised and is being applied from October 1, 2017.
  • The phase-wise collection targets for e-waste in weight is 10% of the quantity of waste generation as indicated in the EPR Plan during 2017-18, with a 10% increase every year until 2023. The target from 2023 onwards, shall be 70% of the quantity of waste generation as indicated in the EPR Plan.
  • The quantity of e-waste collected by producers from the October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017 shall be accounted for in the revised EPR targets until March 2018.
  • Separate e-waste collection targets have been drafted for new producers, i.e. those producers whose number of years of sales operation is less than the average lives of their products.
  • Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) shall apply to the Central Pollution Control board (CPCB) for registration to undertake activities prescribed in the Rules.
  • Under the Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) provisions, cost for sampling and testing shall be borne by the government for conducting the RoHS test. If the product does not comply with RoHS provisions, then the cost of the test will be borne by the producers.

Who is the Monitoring Authority?

  • The CPCB and the State Pollution Control Boards are empowered to check whether recycling agencies are complying with the E-waste Rules.

What does the Recent Stats Says?

  • In FY 2017-2018, 7,08,445 tonnes of waste was generated, of which 69, 414 tonnes were recycled, compared to 1, 64,663 tonnes of recycled waste from 7,71,215 tonnes in FY 2018-2019, which implies that 10% recycling rate in 2017-18 has risen to a little over 20% in 2018-2019.

Way Forward:

  • In India, recycling of e-waste is almost entirely left to the informal sector, which does not have adequate means to handle either the increasing quantities or certain processes, leading to intolerable risk for human health and the environment.
  • A mechanism should be developed to formalise the recyclers by collaborating with the manufacturers which will be a win-win situation for all the stakeholders.
  • Initiatives should be taken to support the recyclers and dismantlers with modern technologies to handle the e-wastes in environment friendly manner.
  • Currently India has only 178 registered e-recyclers which is meagre in comparison to the massive amount of waste generated. So, the Government should come up with the schemes to promote this industry which would further boost the job generation in the present scenario of jobless growth.
  • Education and awareness campaign should be carried out for consumers to encourage them to dispose off the e-waste generated by them to the registered recycling firms.
  • The legislations and the rules must be properly enforced to bring out better outcomes.

COAL PLANTS FACE IRE OF CPCB FOR FAILING TO CURB POLLUTION

Why in News?

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pulled up 14 thermal power plants for not complying with a December 31, 2019 deadline to limit Sulphur Dioxide Emissions.

Highlights:

  • Thermal power plants are also one of the biggest contributors to the global nitrogen oxide levels.
  • Nitrogen oxides are known to present visibility and respiratory issues, and they can also combine with other atmospheric gases and moisture to form acid rain and smog.
  • To limit particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emission from thermal plants, India put in place a phased-approach that directs 440 coal-fired units to put in place measures to limit pollution by December 2022.
  • Some of them claimed to have set in place the process for acquiring flu-gas desulphurisation technology where as others said they were yet to award tenders.
  • Only one of these plants has actually implemented technology to limit emissions.
  • As per Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) estimates, these norms can help reduce PM emissions by about 35%, NOx emission by about 70%, and SO2 emissions by more than 85% by 2026-27.

Central Pollution Control Board:

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Mo.E.F.C). It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act, 1974.
  • The CPCB is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • The board conducts environmental assessments and research.
  • It is responsible for maintaining national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with zonal offices, tribal, and Local Governments.
  • It has responsibilities to conduct monitoring of water and air quality and maintains Monitoring Data.

National Green Tribunal (NGT):

  • It is a specialised statutory body set up under the National Green Tribunal Act (2010) for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
  • It draws inspiration from the India’s constitutional provision of Article 48A which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • With the establishment of the NGT, India became the third country in the world to set up a specialised environmental tribunal, only after Australia and New Zealand, and the first developing country to do so.
  • The Tribunal comprises of the Chairperson, the Judicial Members and Expert Members. They shall hold office for term of five years and are not eligible for reappointment.
  • The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with Chief Justice of India (CJI) and is usually a retired judge of the Supreme court.
  • The Principal Bench of the NGT is in New Delhi. It has regional benches in Pune (West), Bhopal (Central), Chennai (South) and Kolkata (East).

REDUCING SO2 EMISSIONS

Why in News?

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recently sent show-cause notices to 14 thermal power plants for not complying with the deadline to limit sulphur dioxide emissions.

Key Points:

  • In order to limit Particulate Matter (PM), sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emission from thermal power plants, India has put in place a Phased-approach that directs coal-fired units to put in place measures to limit pollution within December 2022.
  • But plants within 300 km radius of Delhi were to comply these measures by 31st December, 2019 because of the poor air quality in the city as well as the surrounding states. Few units have set in place the process for acquiring flue-gas desulphurisation technology.
  • Flue gas is a mixture of gases produced by the burning of fuel or other materials in power stations and industrial plants and extracted via ducts. Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) is a set of technologies used to remove sulphur dioxide (SO2) from exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants.
  • It has to be noted that the CPCB has the power to impose steep fines or shut a unit under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Significance:

  • As per Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) estimates, these norms can help reduce PM emissions by about 35%, NOx emission by about 70%, and SO2 emissions by more than 85% by 2026-27 against a business-as-usual scenario with no pollution control technologies.

About Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB):

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • The CPCB is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

BLACK CARBON IN GLACIER

Why in News?

  • Recently, scientists from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan geology have found high level of Black Carbon in glacial area of Uttarakhand.

What is Black Carbon?

  • Black carbon is a potent climate-warming component of particulate matter formed by the Incomplete Combustion of fossil fuels, wood and other fuels.
  • Complete combustion would turn all carbon in the fuel into carbon dioxide (CO2), but combustion is never complete and CO2, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and organic carbon and black carbon particles are all formed in the process.
  • It is a complex mixture of particulate matter resulting from incomplete combustion is often referred to as soot.
  • It is a short-Lived Climate Pollutant with a lifetime of only days to weeks after release in the Atmosphere.

Impacts of Black Carbon:

  • It is an important contributor to warming because it is very effective at absorbing light and heating its surroundings.
  • Per unit of mass, black carbon has a warming impact on climate that is 460-1,500 times stronger than CO2.
  • It influences cloud formation and impacts regional circulation and rainfall patterns.
  • When deposited on ice and snow, black carbon and co-emitted particles reduce surface albedo (the ability to reflect sunlight) and heat the surface.
  • The Arctic and glaciated regions such as the Himalayas are particularly vulnerable to melting as a result.
  • It has a number of health impacts including premature death in adults with heart and lung disease, strokes, heart attacks, chronic respiratory disease such as bronchitis, aggravated asthma and other Cardio-Respiratory Symptoms.
  • It is also responsible for premature deaths of children from acute lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

Control Measures for Black Carbon:

  • Replace traditional cooking and heating with clean-burning biomass stoves
  • Replace Wood Stove and Burners with Pellet Stoves and Boilers
  • Modernize Traditional Brick kilns to Vertical Shaft Brick Kilns
  • Use Diesel Particular Filters for road and Off-Road Vehicles
  • Fast transition to Euro BS VI vehicles and soot-free buses and Trucks
  • Ban open-field burning of Agricultural Waste
  • Capture and Improve Oil Flaring and Gas Production

PLASTIC WASTE MANAGEMENT

Why in News?

  • Recently, The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that e-commerce giants Amazon and Flipkart need to fulfil their extended producer responsibility.

Central Pollution Control Board:

  • It is of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • It is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR):

  • It is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility – financial and physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.
  • It provides incentives to prevent wastes at the source, promote product design for the environment and support the achievement of public recycling and materials management goals.

Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016:

  • According to the rules, the Primary responsibility for collection of used multi-layered plastic sachet or pouches or packaging is of Producers, Importers and Brand Ownerswho introduce the products in the market. They need to establish a system for collecting back the plastic waste generated due to the packaging of their products.
  • The 2016 rules were amended in 2018, laying emphasis on the phasing out of Multi-layered Plastic (MLP), which are “non-recyclable, or non-energy recoverable, or with no alternate use.”
  • It is framed in 2016 which extended the responsibility to collect waste generated from the products to their producers (i.e. persons engaged in the manufacture, or import of carrying bags, multi-layered packaging and sheets or like and the persons using these for packaging or wrapping their products) and brand owners.
  • They have to approach local bodies for the formulation of plan/system for the plastic waste management within the prescribed time frame.
  • It has been extended to villages as well. Earlier, it was limited to municipal districts.
  • It prescribes a central registration system for the registration of the producer/importer/brand owner.
  • It also provided that registration should be automated and take into account ease of doing business for producers, recyclers and manufacturers.
  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)has been mandated to formulate the guidelines for thermoset plastic (plastic difficult to recycle).
  • The national registryhas been prescribed for producers with a presence in more than two states, a state-level registration has been prescribed for smaller producers/brand owners operating within one or two states.

Way Ahead:

  • Using of plastic packing constitutes more than 40% of the total plastic waste generated in India.
  • It is important to direct the usage to Plastic Packing Materials and shift to Environment-Friendly Packing Material.
  • Biodegradable plasticis plastic made from all-natural plant materials (including corn oil, orange peels, starch, and plants etc.).
  • It can decompose naturally in the environment when microorganisms in the soil metabolize and break down the structure of Biodegradable Plastic.

ALTERNATIVES TO PLASTIC

Context:

  • The Prime Minister of India has stressed on the need to find an alternative to Plastic in order to keep the environment safe. Though there are several alternatives to plastic like glass, paper, cardboard exist, their aspects such as recycling rate, safety, affordability have to be looked into, to promote them as viable alternatives.

What are Single Use Plastics?

  • Single used plastics are those plastics which are used once and thrown away.
  • Almost half of the plastic produced in the world is designed to be used only once.
  • It has been found everywhere, right from depth of the oceans to the peaks of Himalayas.
  • They accumulate in the water bodies and choke the drains which lead to floods.

India and Single use plastics:

  • Single use plastic was banned in India last year on the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • However, its implementation is found to be complex. Because, there is no comprehensive definition for single-use plastic, crucial for any ban to be successful.
  • Governments currently use various definitions.

Plastic pollution in Oceans:

  • Merchant ships expel cargo, sewage, used medical equipment, and other types of waste that releases plastic into the ocean.
  • The largest ocean-based source of plastic pollution is discarded fishing gear – including traps and nets (Ghost nets).
  • Continental plastic litter such as food wrappers & containers, bottles and container caps, plastic bags, straws and stirrers etc. enters the ocean largely through storm-water runoff.

Difficulty in Promoting Alternatives:

  • Although compostable, biodegradable or even edible plastics made from various materials such as bagasse (the residue after extracting juice from sugarcane), corn starch, and grain flour are promoted as alternatives, these currently have limitations of scale and cost.
  • In India in the absence of robust testing and certification to verify claims made by producers, spurious biodegradable and compostable plastics are entering the marketplace.
  • Recently, the CPCB had taken action against the companies that were marketing carry bags and products marked ‘compostable’ without any certification.
  • Petroleum-based plastic is non-biodegradable and usually goes into a landfill where it is buried, or it gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean.

Solutions to the Plastic Problem:

  • Comprehensive mechanism to certify the materials marketed as alternatives, and the specific process required to biodegrade or compost them.
  • Promoting innovation in packaging, upscaling waste segregation, collection and Transmission.Recovering materials from garbage should be a high priority, considering that India is the third highest consumer of materials.
  • Reduction of single use plastic used in multilayer packaging, bread bags, food wrap, and protective packaging.
  • Municipal and pollution control authorities must also be held accountable for the lapses.

Global Best Practices:

  • Plastic bag fee is levied in cities like Chicago and Washington, such interventions could be effective in shaping behaviour change.
  • The European Union is mulling new laws to ban some single-use plastic products including straws, cutlery and plates citing plastic litter in oceans as the concern prompting the action.
  • Countries such as the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have already put in place regulations to stop the use of microbeads in personal-care products.
  • Encouraging ‘plogging’: Picking up litter while jogging was kick-started on a small scale in a small part of Stockholm about an year ago, it has spread across the globe and India can adopt this as well.

Challenges Ahead:

  • Plastic in oceans and forests are choking flora and fauna. In fact, plastic trash is expected to exceed the fish population by 2050.
  • Microplastics have ability to enter food chain with the highest concentration of the pollutants in it.
  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules Amendment, 2018, omitted explicit pricing of plastic bags that had been a feature of the 2016 Rules.
  • Waste plastic from packaging of from food, cosmetics and groceries to goods delivered by online platforms remains unaddressed.
  • The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector that uses large volumes of packaging, posing a higher order challenge.
  • Lack of adequate infrastructure for segregation and collection is the key reason for inefficient plastic waste disposal.
  • Small producers of plastics are facing the ban, while more organised entities covered by the Extended Producer Responsibility clause continue with business as usual.
  • Lack of consultation with stakeholders such as manufacturers of plastics, eateries and citizen groups: This leads to implementation issues and inconvenience to the consumers.
  • Exemptions for certain products such as milk pouches and plastic packaging for food items severely weaken the impact of the ban.
  • No investment in finding out alternative materials to plug the plastic vacuum: Until people are able to shift to a material which is as light-weight and cheap as plastic, banning plastic will remain a mere customary practice.
  • Lack of widespread awareness among citizens about the magnitude of harm caused by single-use plastic: Without citizens ‘buying in’ to a cause, bans only result in creating unregulated underground markets.
  • No strategy to offset the massive economic impact: Sweeping bans like the one in Maharashtra are likely to cause massive loss of jobs and disruption of a large part of the economy dependent on the production and use of plastic.

Way Forward:

  • Promote alternatives like cotton, khadi bags and bio-degradable plastics.
  • Provide economic incentives to encourage the uptake of eco-friendly and fit-for-purpose alternatives that do not Cause More Harm.
  • Reduce or abolish taxes on the import of materials used to make alternatives.
  • Provide incentives to industry by introducing tax rebates or other conditions to support its transition.
  • Use revenues collected from taxes or levies on single-use plastics to maximize the public good.
  • Boost local recycling: Create jobs in the plastic recycling sector.
  • Individuals and organizations should be encouraged to remove plastic waste from their surroundings and municipal bodies must arrange facilities to collect these articles. Start-up industries shall make use of the opportunity to innovate in the field of waste management, which is the need of the hour.

Zero-Waste Alliance

Why in News?

  • Kerala’s capital city Thiruvananthapuram was recognised and awarded at the International Zero Waste Conference held in Malaysia in October this year.
  • Apart from Thiruvananthapuram Chennai is the other Indian city which is considered a Zero Waste city and is part of the International Zero Waste group.

Zero Waste Strategy:

  • Zero waste is the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of products, packaging and materials without burning, and with no discharges to land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health.
  • This definition was adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance in 2002.
  • It means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.

Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA):

  • It is a group of environmental professionals dedicated to working towards a world without waste through public education and practical application of Zero Waste principles.
  • By disseminating knowledge and providing support to its members ZWIA is promoting the implementation of Zero Waste Principles in Various Aspects.

TMC’s Waste Management:

  • The TMC’s waste management plan was not the first of its far-sighted measures to manage waste. It brought in the green protocol for the first time in India to tackle plastic pollution.
  • The protocol was first practiced at an international workshop on zero waste in Kovalam in 2000.
  • Many institutions have adopted this initiative, including the state legislative assembly complex in the city.
  • Thiruvananthapuram, with a population of approximately 0.9 million, is spread over an area of 214.86 square kilometres and is divided into 100 wards.
  • The TMC introduced segregated collection of waste to ensure maximum efficiency.
  • It Formalised and Institutionalised Source-Level composting and decentralised resource recovery as part of city waste management.
  • The entire process of waste management is based on the principle of proximity which ensures the least amount of displacement of waste.
  • TMC also organizes periodical collection drives for specific types of non-recyclable discards. The materials will be sent to the authorized recyclers.
  • Bulk generators or commercial establishments, meanwhile, are required to take responsibility for their own waste. They include hotels, restaurants, commercial establishments, community halls, and institutions.

MODI CHAIRS FIRST MEETING OF GANGA COUNCIL

Why in News?

  • Our honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi chaired the first meeting of the National Ganga Council in Kanpur Recently.

The First Meeting Discussed About:

  • The first meeting of the Council was aimed at reinforcing the importance of a ‘Ganga-centric’ approach in all departments of the concerned states as well as relevant Central Ministries.
  • PM also talked about transition from “Namami Ganga” to “ArthGanga”

What is ArthGange:

  • ‘Arth Ganga’ is about sustainable development model with key focus on economic activities related to Ganga.
  • As part of this process, farmers should be encouraged to engage in sustainable agriculture practices, including zero budget farming, planting of fruit trees and building plant nurseries on the banks of Ganga.
  • Such practices, along with creation of infrastructure for water sports and development of camp sites, cycling and walking tracks etc , would help to tap the ‘hybrid’ tourism potential of the river basin area- for purposes of religious as well as adventure tourism.
  • The income generated from encouraging eco-tourism and Ganga wildlife conservation and cruise tourism etc. would help to generate sustainable income streams for cleaning of Ganga.

About National Ganga Council:

  • National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga is an authority created under the River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Authorities Order, 2016, dissolving the National Ganga River Basin Authority.
  • In this backdrop, National Ganga Council has been established as an authority and National Mission for Clean Ganga has been also converted into an authority.
  • The National Ganga Council will be overall responsible for the superintendence, direction, development and control of River Ganga and the entire River Basin (including financial and administrative matters) for the protection, prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in River Ganga.
  • Chairman: It is headed by Prime Minister.

Other Government Interventions regarding Cleaning Ganga River:

1. National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG):

  • NMCG was registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
  • It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority(NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA),1986.
  • NGRBA has since been dissolved, consequent to constitution of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council)
  • The Act envisages five tier structure at national, state and district level to take measures for prevention, control and abatement of environmental pollution in river Ganga and to ensure continuous adequate flow of water so as to rejuvenate the river Ganga.
  • Five Tier Structure:
  • National Ganga Council under chairmanship of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India.
  • Empowered Task Force (ETF) on river Ganga under chairmanship of Hon’ble Union Minister of Jal Shakti (Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation).
  • National Mission for Clean Ganga(NMCG).
  • State Ganga Committees and
  • District Ganga Committees in every specified district abutting river Ganga and its tributaries in the states.

2. Namami Gange:

  • Namami Gange Programme – is an umbrella programme which integrates previous and currently ongoing initiatives by enhancing efficiency, extracting synergies and supplementing them with more comprehensive & better coordinated interventions. Government of India is supplementing the efforts of the state governments in addressing the pollution of river Ganga by providing financial assistance to the states.
  • Need: Each day, more than 500 million litres of wastewater from industrial sources are dumped directly into Ganga. In many places, this wastewater entering the rivers is completely raw, completely untreated.
  • Some of the notable achievements of the scheme were as:
    • Zero waste creation by paper mills
    • Reduction in pollution from tanneries
    • Central Government has made commitment of Rs. 20,000 crores for the period 2015-20 to the five states through which Ganga passes, to ensure adequate as well as uninterrupted water flows in the river.
    • 7700 crores have already been spent so far, prominently for construction of new sewage treatment plants.

3. Clean Ganga Fund:

  • The Government has set up the Clean Ganga Fund (CGF) to facilitate contributions from individuals, NRIs, corporate entitiesfor funding Ganga rejuvenation projects.
  • For Example PM has personally donated Rs. 16.53 crores to CGF, from the amount realized from auction of the gifts he received since 2014 and the prize money of the Seoul Peace prize.

HEAVY METALS CONTAMINATING INDIA’S RIVERS

Why in News?

  • Recent samples taken from two-thirds of the water quality stations spanning India’s major rivers showed contamination by one or more heavy metals, exceeding safe limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
  • The findings are part of a report, which is the third edition of an exercise conducted by the Central Water Commission (CWC) from May 2014 to April 2018.

About Central Water Commission (CWC):

  • Central Water Commission is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources.
  • It is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India.
  • CWC is headed by a Chairman, with the status of Ex-Officio Secretary to the Government of India.
  • The Commission is entrusted with the general responsibilities of initiating, coordinating and furthering in consultation of the State Governments concerned, schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country, for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development.
  • It also undertakes the investigations, construction and execution of any such schemes as required. The work of the Commission is divided among 3 wings namely, Designs and Research (D&R) Wing, River Management (RM) Wing and Water Planning and Projects (WP&P) Wing. Each wing is placed under the charge of a full-time Member with the status of Ex-Officio Additional Secretary to the Government of India and comprising of number of Organizations responsible for the disposal of tasks and duties falling within their assigned scope of functions.

Stats of the Report:

  • Samples from only one-third of water quality stations were safe. The rest, or 287 (65%) of the 442 sampled, were polluted by heavy metals. Samples from 101 stations had contamination by two metals; six stations saw contamination by three metals.
  • Iron emerged as the most common contaminant with 156 of the sampled sites registering levels of the metal above safe limits.
  • None of the sites registered arsenic levels above the safe limit.
  • Not all the rivers are equally sampled. Several rivers have only been sampled at a single site whereas others such as the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Godavari are sampled at multiple sites.
  • Marked variation was found in contamination levels depending on the season.
  • For instance, iron contamination was persistent through most of the Ganga during monsoon but dipped significantly during the non-monsoon periods.
  • Samples were collected in three different seasons: pre-monsoon (June 2012), monsoon (September 2011, October 2012 and August 2013) and post-monsoon (February 2012 and March 2013).

Metals Found in Rivers:

  • The major contaminants found in the samples were lead, nickel, chromium, cadmium and copper.
  • The study spanned 67 rivers in 20 river basins. Lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium and copper contamination were more common in non-monsoon periods while iron, lead, chromium and copper exceeded ‘tolerance limits’ in monsoon periods most of the time.
  • “Arsenic and zinc are the two toxic metals whose concentration was always obtained within the limits throughout the study period,” the report noted.
  • Arsenic contamination is a major environmental issue that affects groundwater. However, the CWC exercise was restricted to surface water.

Causes for Contamination:

  • The main sources of heavy metal pollution are mining, milling, plating and surface finishing industries that discharge a variety of toxic metals into the environment.
  • “Over the last few decades, the concentration of these heavy metals in river water and sediments has increased rapidly.
  • The reasons for contamination is also due to population growth and rise in agricultural and industrial activities.

Health Hazards due to Contamination:

  • The presence of metals in drinking water is to some extent unavoidable and certain metals, in trace amounts, required for good health.
  • However when present above safe limits, they are associated with a range of disorders.
  • Long-term exposure to the above-mentioned heavy metals may result in slowly progressing physical, muscular, and neurological degenerative processes that mimic Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy And Multiple Sclerosis.

IUCN STUDY ON DE-OXYGENATION OF THE OCEANS

Why in News?

  • The world’s oceans have less oxygen today than they did up to, say, 1950 or 1960, according to a new study.

Highlights:

  • The report is the work of 67 scientists from 17 countries around the world.
  • The IUCN, the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it, released the study at the United Nations Climate Change Conference currently underway in Madrid.
  • According to the findings of the study, the levels of oxygen in oceans fell by around 2 per cent from 1960 to 2010.
  • The deoxygenation of the oceans occurred due to climate change and other human activities (such as the nutrient runoff from farm fertilizers into waterways), the report said.

Threats posed by Deoxygenation:

  • In many parts of the world, including along the western coast of the United States, fish have been dying en masse — a clear illustration of the ways in which deoxygenation is choking the oceans.
  • Also, the loss of oxygen in the oceans can affect the planetary cycling of elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous which are essential for life on Earth..
  • As oceans lose oxygen, they become more acidic, a phenomenon that has resulted in some places in shellfish having their shells degraded or dissolved — the so called “osteoporosis of the sea”.
  • Apart from their declining oxygen content, oceans have, since the middle of the 20th century, absorbed 93 per cent of the heat associated with human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, leading to mass bleaching of coral reefs.
  • Also, since warmer water occupies more space than cooler water, NASA estimates that this is the reason for roughly a third of the rise in sea levels.

TYRE PYROLYSIS

Why in News?

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pulled up 270 tyre pyrolysis units in 19 States for employing technology that is polluting and harmful to the health of the workers employed.

About Tyre Pyrolysis:

  • Tyre pyrolysis refers to a technique of breaking down used tyres in the absence of oxygen. Shredded tyres, at temperatures between 250º C and 500º C, produce liquid oil and gases.
  • While this is considered a safer technique than burning tyres, pyrolysis leaves fine carbon matter, pyro-gas and oil as residue and the inadequate management of these by-products Poses Health Risks.

Initiatives by the Government:

  • The CPCB has said that states should be closing down all pyrolysis units that are not compliant and that the import of hazardous substances — these include used tyres — ought to be strictly regulated.
  • More than 40% of tyre pyrolysis units were not complying with rules, the NGT observed in April 2019, after it sought a report from the CPCB.
  • The CPCB reported that there were 637 units in 19 States of which 251 units were compliant, 270 non-compliant and 116 were closed.
  • The National Green Tribunal in 2014 prohibited used tyres from being burnt in the open or being used as fuel in brick kilns, because of the toxic emissions.
  • Subsequently, the board issued a set of guidelines, in which pyrolysis was recommended as an Acceptable Mode.

Important Facts:

  • India is also a recipient of used tyres from Australia and the U.K., which are sent for recycling and disposal.
  • As of 2016-17, official estimates indicate 127.34 million tyres were produced in India, which was seen to be a 12% increase from the previous year.
  • A 37% increase in the tyre production has been observed in the two-wheeler segment, a 23% increase in the tractor segment and 16% in the passenger car/jeep segment.
  • India discards about 100 million tyres every day and only a fraction of it is recycled.
  • India is also responsible for 6% of the global tyre waste, according to a 2017 report by environmentalist group Chintan.

PRODUCTION OF CNG FROM STUBBLE

Why in News?

  • As part of the SATAT scheme, several PSUs Including Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited had launched an Expression of Interest (EOI) for procurement of CBG from the entrepreneurs at an assured price.

Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT):

  • Launched 2018, SATAT is aimed at promoting Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) as an alternative, green transport fuel for efficient management of biomass and organic waste.
  • Similar to LNG, the CBG produced under SDATAT can be sold to automobiles as clean fuel, and to domestic, industrial and commercial consumers which are using LPG and other fuels.

Bio-Gas:

  • Bio-Gas 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 pure methane content of over 95%.
  • Compressed Bio-Gas 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, Compressed Bio-Gas can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel.

Benefits of CBG on a commercial scale:

  • Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution
  • Additional revenue source for farmers
  • Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment
  • Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals
  • Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil
  • Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations

GOBAR-DHAN-Scheme:

  • The Government of India had launched the GOBAR-DHAN (Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources) scheme in 2018 to convert cattle dung and solid waste in farms to CBG and compost.
  • It is funded under Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) component of Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G) to benefit households in identified villages. The scheme proposes to cover 700 projects across India in 2018-19.

Way Forward:

  • Compressed Bio-Gas networks can be integrated with city gas distribution (CGD) networks to boost supplies to domestic and retail users in existing and upcoming markets. Besides retailing from OMC (oil marketing company) fuel stations, Compressed Bio-Gas can at a later date be injected into CGD pipelines too for efficient distribution and optimised access of a cleaner and more affordable fuel.

NSO DEBUNKS SWACHH BHARAT ODF CLAIMS

Why in News?

  • The latest National Statistical Office (NSO) survey on sanitation debunked the claims of an open defecation-free or ODF India made by the Centre’s flagship Swachh Bharat scheme.

Swachh Bharat Report:

  • The Swacch Bharat Mission declared India open defecation free on October 2, 2019.
  • Large States which had been declared ODF – that is, 100% access to toilets and 100% usage – even before the NSO survey began included Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
  • Others which were declared ODF during the survey period included Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • In the first week of October 2018, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Grameen) said 25 States and Union Territories had been declared ODF, while toilet access across the country touched 95%.

NSO Claims:

  • According to the NSO, almost 42% of rural households in Jharkhand had no access to a toilet at that time.
  • In Tamil Nadu, the gap was 37%, followed by 34% in Rajasthan.
  • In Gujarat, which was one of the earliest States declared ODF, back in October 2017, almost a quarter of all rural households had no toilet access.
  • The other major States listed also had significant gaps: Karnataka (30%), MP (29%), Andhra Pradesh (22%) and Maharashtra (22%).
  • NSO also said 28.7% of rural households had no toilet access at the time.
  • With regard to this data “There may be respondent bias in the reporting of access to latrine as question on benefits received by the households from government schemes was asked prior to the question on access of households to latrine.”
  • The 71% access to toilets was still a significant improvement over the situation during the last survey period in 2012, when only 40% of rural households had access to toilets.

NO RELIEF TO RO COMPANIES FROM SUPREME COURT

Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court has refused to stay the May 2019 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that banned the use of reverse osmosis (RO) systems where drinking water supply had total dissolved solids (TDS) less than 500 mg per litre.

About:

  • In May, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked MoEFCC to frame rules for the use of RO filters and also banned the use of RO purifiers in locations where TDS was low.
  • According to NGT, RO purifiers lead to the wastage of almost 70-80 percent water during the purification process.
  • It had asked the RO manufacturers to ensure that they are able to recover about 75 percent of the water.
  • Following this, the Water Quality India Association moved the SC to seek a stay on the RO ban. However, the apex court refused to give a stay.

What is Osmosis and Reverse Osmosis?

  • A process by which molecules of a solvent tend to pass through a semi permeable membrane from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one is known as Osmosis.
  • A process by which a solvent passes through a porous membrane in the direction opposite to that for natural osmosis when subjected to a hydrostatic pressure greater than the osmotic pressure is known as Reverse Osmosis.

Challenges in RO System:

  • Deposition of brine (highly concentrated salt water) along the shores.
  • Hyper salinity along the shore affects plankton, which is the main food for several of these fish species. The high pressure motors needed to draw in the seawater end up sucking in small fish and life forms, thereby crushing and killing them — again a loss of marine resource.
  • Construction of the RO plants required troves of groundwater. Freshwater that was sucked out and is replaced by salt water, rendering it unfit for the residents around the desalination plants.
  • On an average, it costs about ₹900 crore to build a 100 MLD-plant and, as the Chennai experience has shown, about five years for a plant to be set up.
  • To remove the salt required, there has to be a source of electricity, either a power plant or a diesel or battery source. Estimates have put this at about 4 units of electricity per 1,000 litres of water. It is estimated that it cost ₹3 to produce 100 litres of potable water.
  • There are concerns that desalinated the RO water may be short of vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium and carbonates.
  • Most RO plants put the water through a ‘post-treatment’ process whereby salts are added to make TDS around 300 mg/l.

How Challenges can be Addressed?

  • There are few other alternative techniques to purify this water.
  • Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion: It will draw power from the vapour generated as a part of the desalination process.
  • This vapour will run a turbine and thereby will be independent of an external power source.
  • While great in theory, there is no guarantee it will work commercially.
  • For one, this ocean-based plant requires a pipe that needs to travel 50 kilometres underground in the sea before it reaches the mainland.
  • Low-temperature thermal desalination (LTTD) technique works on the principle that water in the ocean 1,000 or 2,000 feet below is about 4º C to 8º C colder than surface water.
  • So, salty surface water is collected in a tank and subject to high pressure (via an external power source).
  • This pressured water vapourises and this is trapped in tubes or a chamber.
  • Cold water plumbed from the ocean depths is passed over these tubes and the vapour condenses into fresh water and the resulting salt diverted away.

ROLLING OUT TO BS-VI NORMS

Why in News?

  • India Ratings & Research report has said rolling out BS-VI norms to Commercial vehicles (CV) Would Create Short Term Trouble.

About Bharat Stage Emission Standards:

  • The Bharat Stage (BS) is emission standard instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from motor vehicles.
  • The Environment Ministry is responsible for deciding the fuel standard in the country. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) implements these standards.
  • The BS regulations are based on the European emission standards.
  • Companies can come up with new vehicles with BS VI fuel standards even before the April 2020 deadline. But after the deadline, vehicles that do not comply with BS VI standards will not be registered.
  • These norms are applicable to all two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers and construction equipment vehicles.

About BS-VI:

  • To curb growing menace of air pollution through the vehicles emission, the Government of India has decided to leapfrog from the exiting BS – IV norms to the BS- VI, thereby skipping the BS – V norms, and to implement the BS – VI norms with effect from 1st April 2020.
  • Only those vehicles will be sold and registered in India from 1st April 2020 onwards, which comply with these norms. The norms are stringent and at par with global standards.
  • The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur.
  • The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80%, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm.
  • As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70% and 25% from cars with petrol engines.

Difference between BS-IV and BS-VI:

  • The shift makes on-board diagnostics (OBD) mandatory for all automobiles. The OBD unit will be able to identify likely areas of malfunction by means of fault codes stored on a computer ensuring that sophisticated emission control device which is fitted in a BS-VI vehicle runs at optimum efficiency throughout the life of the vehicle.
  • Apart from engine calibration, there will be various after treatment additions such as selective catalytic reduction and diesel particulate filters to meet carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide and particulate matter limit of BS VI norms.
  • Migration to BS VI norms necessitates the use of oxygen sensors, a complex coding of the electronic control unit and ignition control.
  • The cost of producing BS VI grade fuels will be higher compared to BS IV fuels.
  • The two-wheelers predominantly used carbureted engines (air and fuel for internal combustion are mixed in the proper air–fuel ratio) and they have to now move to fuel injection engine systems (an injector is used to introduce the fuel for internal combustion).
  • Diesel hydro-treating units that will ensure the reduction of sulphur concentration to stipulated limits are being created or their capacity is being augmented.
  • For meeting gasoline fuel quality, desulphurization technologies along with octane boosting units are being installed.

 

DRINKING WATER: QUALITY & CHALLENGES

Why in News?

  • A study by the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry has found samples of tap water collected from Mumbai, compliant with the Indian standards for drinking water. However, other metro cities of Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai failed in almost 10 out of 11 quality parameters tested by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

Findings of the Study:

  • Mumbai tops the ranking, while Delhi is at the bottom.
  • Samples drawn from 17 other state capitals were not as per the prescribed specifications for drinking water.
  • In the next phase, samples from the capital cities of north-eastern states and from 100 smart cities will be tested and their results are expected by January 15, 2020.

India’s Drinking Water Crisis

  • “Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium”
  • With a diverse population that is three times the size of the United States but one-third the physical size, India has the second largest population in the world. Although India has made improvements over the past decades to both the availability and quality of municipal
  • drinking water systems, its large population has stressed that the quality part is still below the standards.
  • The rapid growth of population in India’s urban areas, is making the problem of availability worse. And also, India’s water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization and contamination due to industrial and human wastes.
  • A NITI-Aayog report released last year predicts Day Zero for 21 Indian cities by next year.
  • The available data points that, India is still water surplus and receives enough annual rainfall to meet the need of over one billion plus people. According to the Central Water Commission, India needs a maximum of 3,000 billion cubic metres of water a year while it receives 4,000 billion cubic metres of rain.

Why a Water-Surplus Country is facing water Crisis Today?

  • Over-exploitation of groundwater
  • Wastage of water
  • Unequal distribution and availability
  • Loss of wetlands and water bodies
  • Fewer upgradation of laws

The Case of Israel

  • Israel, a country that is located in desert and has learnt to deal with water crisis situation.
  • Israel treats almost 100 per cent of its used water and recycles 94 per cent of it back to households. More than half of irrigation in Israel is done using reused water

Over-exploitation of Groundwater

  • India is the biggest user of groundwater.
  • Groundwater meets more than half of total requirement of clean water in the country.
  • In 2015, the standing committee on water resources found that groundwater forms the largest share of India’s agriculture and drinking water supply.
  • Overall, 50 per cent of urban water requirement and 85 per cent of rural domestic water need are fulfilled by groundwater.
  • The report prepared under the ministry of water resources cited rising population, rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and inadequate rainfall as reasons for sharp decline in groundwater volume in the country.

Wastage of Water

  • The problem in India is that it captures only eight per cent of its annual rainfall – among the lowest in the world.
  • The traditional modes of water capturing in ponds have been lost to the demands of rising population and liberal implementation of town planning rules.
  • India has been also poor in treatment and re-use of household wastewater. About 80 per cent of the water reaching households in India are drained out as waste flow through sewage to pollute other water bodies including rivers and land.

Unequal Distribution and Availability:

  • According to the Composite Water Management Index of the NITI Aayog, 75 per cent of households do not have drinking water on premise and about 84 per cent rural households do not have piped water access.
  • Water is not properly distributed where it is supplied through pipes.
  • Mega cities like Delhi and Mumbai get more that than the standard municipal water norm of 150 litres per capita per day (LPCD) while others get 40-50 LPCD.
  • The World Health Organisation prescribes 25 litres of water for one person a day to meet all basic hygiene and food needs.
  • Extra available water, according to the WHO estimates, is used for non-potable purposes like household cleaning.
  • It will have another challenge, however, to plug leakage of piped water in urban areas. It is estimated that around 40 per cent of piped water in India is lost to leakage.

Loss of Wetlands and Water Bodies

  • Many cities and villages in the country had lost their wetlands, water bodies and even rivers to encroachment to meet the needs of rising population.
  • Chennai that is facing acute water shortage, had nearly two dozen water bodies and wetlands but most of them are out of use today. A recent assessment found that only nine of them could be reclaimed as water bodies.
  • A survey by the Wildlife Institute of India reveals that the country has lost 70-80 per cent of fresh water marshes and lakes in the Gangetic flood plains, the biggest river plain the in the country. The percentage of districts with overexploited state of groundwater level increased from 3 in 1995 to 15 in 2011, worsening the water security of the country.

Fewer Upgradation of Laws

  • The Easement Act of 1882 that gives every landowner the right to collect and dispose groundwater and surface water within his/her own limits is still in operation.
  • This law makes regulation of water usage by a person on his/her land, leading to commercial exploitation of water sources.
  • Further, water falls under state list of the Schedule VII Constitution meaning only the state governments can frame a regulatory law.
  • In 2011, the central government published a Model Bill for ground water management for the states.
  • But not all the states have passed a matching legislation which endorses the doctrine that resources meant for public use cannot be converted into private ownership.

Chlorination

  • Water chlorination is the process of adding chlorine or chlorine compounds such as sodium hypochlorite to water. This method is used to kill certain bacteria and other microbes in tap water as chlorine is highly toxic.

The Benefits:

  • Proven reduction of most bacteria and viruses in water
  • Ease-of-use and acceptability
  • Proven reduction of disease incidence – Diarrhoea and Cholera
  • Scalability and low cost

The Drawbacks:

  • Relatively low protection against protozoans
  • Does not solve the problem of turbidity (dissolved contaminants)
  • Taste and odour may change
  • Potential long-term effects of chlorination by-products
    • Therefore, the method of chlorination cannot be used as an one-stop solution to treating the piped municipal water supply.

ARSENIC IN GROUND WATER IN INDIA

  • Arsenic is a naturally occurring trace element found in rocks, soils and the water in contact with them.
  • Arsenic has been recognized as a toxic element and is considered a human health hazard.
  • Arsenic contamination in ground water has been found in the states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal.
  • The occurrence of Arsenic in the states of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh is in alluvial formations but in the state of Chhattisgarh, it is in the volcanic rocks exclusively confined to an ancient rift zone.
  • The permissible limit of Arsenic in ground water according to BIS is 0.01 mg/ L.

  • Jal Shakti ministry mandated to deal with water issues including drinking water availability with a holistic and integrated approach. It has already set an ambitious task to provide piped water connections to every household in India by 2024.
  • As Sustainable Development Goals -provides, Goal 6 for clean water and sanitation for ensuring their availability and sustainable management, a country like India will be highly productive if all its population have access to clean drinking water, and improved sanitation, and adopts a scientific approach to solve its problems.

‘FOREIGN’ PLASTIC INVADES GREAT NICOBAR ISLAND

Why in News?

  • The pristine beaches of the Great Nicobar Island, India’s southernmost territory, are under threat from plastic. A survey of five beaches in the islands recorded the presence of plastic bottles.

About the Pollution:

  • Majority of the plastic found in the region, which were analysed are found to be of ‘non-Indian origin.
  • Major portion of the litter (40.5%) was of Malaysian origin. It was followed by Indonesia (23.9%) and Thailand (16.3%). The litter of Indian origin only amounted to 2.2%.

Reason behind Pollution:

1.Proximity to Island: The overwhelming contribution in plastic from Indonesia and Thailand was likely due to its proximity to the island. The plastic is likely to have made its way to the island because of water currents via the Malacca Strait, which is a major shipping route.

2.Improper handling of the solid waste: The huge quantities of marine debris observed on this island might be due to improper handling of the solid waste from fishing/mariculture activity and ship traffic.

3.Unregulated Tourism: The litter of Indian origin on beaches and mangroves of the Andaman Islands is continuously increasing. This is might be due to the unregulated tourism in these islands.

About Andaman and Nicobar Islands:

  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N islands), popularly known as ‘Bay Islands’, are situated in the Bay of Bengal, midway between peninsular India and Myanmar, spreading like a broken necklace in the North-south direction.
  • The maximum altitude of these islands is 730 m at Saddle Peak in North Andaman, formed mainly of limestone, sandstone, and clay.
  • Two islands of volcanic origin are found, namely the Narcondam and the Barren islands. The former is now apparently extinct while the latter is still active.
  • From the strategic perspective, these islands form a part of Malacca strait, which is a major a choke point and so a region of strategic importance.
  • The Andaman and Nicobars are separated by the Ten Degree Channel which is 150 Kms. wide.

Demography of the Region:

  • The population of the islands is about 4 lakh, which includes six particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs).
  • The indigenous people of Andamans are the Great Andamanese, the Jarawa; the Onge; and the Sentinelese (the most isolated of all the groups).
  • The indigenous peoples of the Nicobars (unrelated to the Andamanese) are the Nicobarese; and the Shompen.

Flora and Fauna of the Island:

  • The islands, comprising only 0.25% of India’s geographical area, are home to more than 10% of the country’s fauna species.
  • Endemic species: The Narcondam hornbill, its habitat restricted to a lone island; the Nicobar megapode, a bird that builds nests on the ground; the Nicobar tree shrew, a small mole-like mammal; the Long-tailed Nicobar macaque, and the Andaman day gecko, are among the 1,067 endemic faunal species found only on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and nowhere else.
  • According to the 2011 census, has a population of about 8,069.
  • The island is home to one of the most primitive tribes of India — the Shompen’s.
  • The island includes the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve (GNBR) comprising of the Galathea National Park and the Campbell Bay National Park. The island harbours a wide spectrum of ecosystems from tropical wet evergreen forests, mountain ranges and coastal plains. The island is also home to giant robber crabs, crab eating macaques, the rare megapode as well as leatherback turtles.

Biggest Threat:

  • Plastic pollution has emerged as one of the severest threats to ocean ecosystems and its concentration has reached 5,80,000 pieces per square kilometre. Plastic represents 83% of the marine litter found. The remaining 17% is mainly textiles, paper, metal and wood.

GRADED RESPONSE ACTION PLAN

Why in News?

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

Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP):

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

How it Works?

  • As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
  • When the air quality shifts from poor to very poor, the measures listed under both sections have to be followed since the plan is incremental in nature.
  • If air quality reaches the severe+ stage, GRAP talks about shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.
  • Severe+ or Emergency
    • (PM 2.5 over 300 µg/cubic metre or PM10 over 500 µg/cu. m. for 48+ hours)
    • Stop entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities)
    • Stop construction work
    • Introduce odd/even scheme for private vehicles and minimise exemptions
    • Task Force to decide any additional steps including shutting of schools
  • Severe
    • (PM 2.5 over 250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 over 430 µg/cu. m.)
    • Close brick kilns, hot mix plants, stone crushers
    • Maximise power generation from natural gas to reduce generation from coal
    • Encourage public transport, with differential rates
    • More frequent mechanized cleaning of road and sprinkling of water
  • Very Poor
    • (PM2.5 121-250 µg/cu. m. or PM10 351-430 µg/cu. m.)
    • Stop use of diesel generator sets
    • Enhance parking fee by 3-4 times
    • Increase bus and Metro services
    • Apartment owners to discourage burning fires in winter by providing electric heaters during winter
    • Advisories to people with respiratory and cardiac conditions to restrict outdoor movement
  • Moderate to poor
    • (PM2.5 61-120 µg/cu. m. or PM10 101-350 µg/cu. m.)
    • Heavy fines for garbage burning
    • Close/enforce pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries
    • Mechanised sweeping on roads with heavy traffic and water sprinkling
    • Strictly enforce ban on firecrackers
  • Measures taken:
    • One criticism of the EPCA as well as GRAP has been the focus on Delhi.
    • While other states have managed to delay several measures, citing lack of resources, Delhi has always been the first one to have stringent measures enforced.
    • In a recent meeting that discussed the ban on diesel generator sets, the point about Delhi doing all the heavy lifting was also raised.

GANGA AAMANTRAN ABHIYAN

Why in News?

  • Jal Shakti Ministry has launched Ganga Aamantran Abhiyan, a unique open-water rafting and kayaking expedition on the Ganga River to create awareness on Ganga rejuvenation and water conservation.

About Ganga Aamantran Abhiyan:

  • The ‘Ganga Aamantran Abhiyan’ is a pioneering and historic exploratory open-water rafting and kayaking expedition on the Ganga River to be held between 10th October 2019 to 11 November 2019.
  • The expedition will commence on 10th October 2019, at Devprayag, where Bhagirathi and Alaknanda merge and the Ganga begins.
  • The expedition will continue for 33 days, through Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal and culminate on 11th November 2019 at Bakkhali Beach, Frazerganj covering a total distance of almost 2,500 kms.
  • This is the first ever effort by National Mission for Clean Ganga to raft across the entire stretch of the river and also the longest ever social campaign undertaken through an adventure sporting activity to spread the message of River Rejuvenation and Water Conservation on a massive scale. The expedition will draw attention to the ecological challenges being faced by Ganga.
  • The expedition will encompass the five Ganga basin states including Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal with stops at Rishikesh, Haridwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Sonepur and Kolkata.
  • A nine-member team of swimmer and rafters from the three Services of the Indian Armed Forces will be led by acclaimed international open-water swimmer Wg Cdr Paramvir Singh.
  • This nine-member team would be joined by 3 members from NDRF, 2 members each from WII and CSIR-IITR.
  • The team, during the expedition will take up public awareness campaign on the locations at which they will stop.
  • They will organise mass cleaning drives, interact with students of the village/city and will further the message of river conservation.
  • Apart from the awareness campaign, the team from CSIR–Indian Institute of Toxicology Research will collect water samples from across diverse ranges of the river for the purpose of water testing, while members of the Wildlife Institute of India will undertake flora and fauna census for the year 2019.
  • The expedition is led by Wing Commander Paramvir Singh from Indian Air Force, who is the only person to have swum the entire length of Ganga from Devprayag to Gangasagar in 2015. A distinguished adventure sports enthusiast, he holds 13 World, 3 Asian and 7 National Records.
  • The expedition would be carrying out various awareness exercises along the expedition such as:
    • Bal Ganga Mela, painting and slogan competition on the theme of water conservation and Ganga rejuvenation.
    • Interaction with colleges & universities by NMCG officials.
    • Educating students/youth on water footprint, wetlands and biodiversity conservation.
    • Test the water campaign by IITR, water testing kits.
    • Celebrating festivals during the expedition.
    • Exclusive tie-up with Rotary International for public outreach within community and schools.
    • Public outreach by WII, IITR, GIZ, Ganga Praharis, IAF, Army, Ganga Vichar Manch during the expedition.
  • The expedition will be supported by all the stakeholders of Namami Gange including the MPs of the constituency along Ganga, members of Ganga Praharis, Ganga Vichar Manch among others.
  • The expedition is aimed to reach millions of people on Ganga Basin and would be the largest social outreach through an adventure sporting event ever.

GREEN CRACKERS

Why in News?

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

Background:

  • The Supreme Court in October 2018 banned the sale, use and manufacture of crackers that weren’t ‘green’ to reduce the pollution levels as firecrackers played a major role in exacerbating it
  • This meant that these crackers couldn’t be loud beyond a certain limit, had to be approved by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and had to be free of mercury, arsenic and barium.The court also restricted the time that crackers could be burst on Deepavali and police officials were tasked with enforcement.
  • However, compliant crackers weren’t available in the market.
  • Hence this led to development of green Crackers which could reduce the impact of pollution.

Green Crackers:

  • It has been developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
  • Components in firecrackers are replaced with others that are “less dangerous” and “less harmful” to the atmosphere
  • The commonly used pollution-causing chemicals – aluminium, barium, potassium nitrate and carbon – have either been removed or sharply reduced in the green crackers
  • They include environment-friendly fireworks such as sound emitting crackers, flowerpots, pencils, chakkar and sparklers.

Significance:

  • It would reduce particulate matter pollution by 30%.
  • On explosion, they reduce the dust and smoke typically associated with crackers by 30% and also decrease sulphur oxide and nitrous oxide emissions by 20%.
  • These crackers cost the same as the older [banned ones] and are significantly greener
  • A green logo as well as a Quick Response (QR) coding system has been developed for differentiation of green crackers from conventional crackers.
  • QR codes is a novel feature incorporated on the fire crackers to avoid manufacture and sale of counterfeit products.
  • This will also help the consumers to track the cracker using smart phones and other devices.
  • This will also protect the livelihoods of millions of people engaged in manufacture and sale of fireworks across the country.
  • Cracker manufactures say they aren’t sure if they will be able to supply and manufacture in sufficient quantities in 2019.
  • It is too short a time before Deepavali (on the 27th and 28th) to manufacture and release them in the market.

CONVERTING USED COOKING OIL TO BIODIESEL

Why in News?

  • The Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas flagged off publicity vans in Delhi, to generate awareness about the initiative of converting used cooking oil to biodiesel.

Highlights:

  • Wide publicity is being given to the RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil) initiative by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to make India more environmentally sustainable by the conversion of used cooking oil, which otherwise would be disposed of in drains, cause spillages/ environmental damage and pose health hazards.
  • More such initiatives are being planned in other cities of the country.
  • The publicity involves wide social media campaigns to spread awareness and educate people about the ill effects of used cooking oil and ways to dispose it off for converting it to biodiesel.
  • Oil Marketing Companies, under the aegis of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, have floated Expression of Interest (EOI) across 100 cities of India for the supply of Bio-diesel produced from Used Cooking Oil (UCO).
  • The EOI was floated on 10th August 2019 on the occasion of World Bio-fuel Day.
  • Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO), launched by FSSAI, provides an ecosystem that will enable the collection and conversion of UCO to biodiesel.
  • Consumers can give their used cooking oil to authorised aggregators of used cooking oil who will in turn give it to the biodiesel manufactures for production of biodiesel which will be used for blending with diesel. The details of the RUCO oil aggregators are available at FSSAI’s official website.

Ill-effects of Consuming Used Cooking Oil:

  • During frying, several properties of cooking oil are altered. Total Polar Compounds (TPC) are formed on repeated frying.The toxicity of these compounds is associated with several diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver diseases, etc.
  • Additionally, the disposal of UCO in drains causes ecological damage and is an environment concern.In order to safeguard consumer health, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has fixed a limit for Total Polar Compounds at 25 percent beyond which the vegetable oil shall not be used for cooking.

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):

  • It is an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, GOI.
  • It is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.
  • It is headquartered in New Delhi with regional offices and laboratories across the country.
  • It was established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

RS 50,000 FINE FOR IDOL IMMERSION IN RIVER GANGA: CENTRE

Context:

  • The Central government has issued a 15-point directive, including cordoning off ghats and imposing a fine of Rs 50,000, to prevent the immersion of idols in the Ganga or its tributaries during festivals, including Dussehra, Diwali, Chhath and Saraswati Puja.

Details of the directive:

  • The directive has been issued by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) to chief secretaries in 11 Ganga basin states.
  • The 11 Ganga basin states include: Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Rajasthan
  • The directive was issued under Section 5 of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • River Bank and Ghats should be Rs 50,000 fine for idol immersion in Ganga, tributaries: Centre to states cordoned off and barricaded to prevent any stray immersion of idols in the river or its banks.
  • Adequate arrangements should be made for designated idol-immersion sites within the municipal area or bank of river Ganga and its tributaries by constructing temporary confined ponds with removable synthetic liners at the bottom.

About National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG):

  • National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act 1860.
  • It acted as implementation arm of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) which was constituted under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act (EPA),1986.
  • NGRBA has since been dissolved with effect, consequent to constitution of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga (referred as National Ganga Council).
  • Now, NMCG acts as the implementation wing of the National Ganga Council.
  • It has a two-tier management structure that comprises of Governing Council and Executive Committee.
  • Both of them are headed by Director General (DG), NMCG.

WASTE MANAGEMENT ON SIACHEN GLACIER

Why in News?

  • The Indian Army has removed 130 tonnes of garbage from the Siachen Glacier and is cutting potential trash in rations.

Challenges:

  • On average, 236 tonnes of waste is generated every year on Siachen glacier.
  • The biggest challenge is the high altitude as most posts are located between 18,000 and 21,000 feet.Bana post is the highest on the glacier close to 22,000 feet.At 18,000-19,000 feet, Indian and Pakistani posts face each other.Beyond 20,000 feet, it is only India.
  • Nothing degrades at sub-zero temperatures, so everything had to be brought down.

Waste Management on Siachen:

  • The army is looking to cut waste in the rations and utilities delivered on the glacier and make Siachen garbage-free in 12-15 years.
  • Earlier, waste disposal work was fragmented and intermittent.
  • Based on a 2018 concept note on waste management on the glacier, the Army has made bringing down waste a part of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for troops.
  • The capacity of each person to carry is 10-15 kg due to the extreme weather.
  • Since then, nearly 130 tonnes of waste has been brought down from the Siachen Glacier and disposed of.
  • The three types of wastes are disposed of differently:
    • Biodegradable waste is rolled using baling machines.
    • Non-biodegradable, non-metallic waste: three incinerators have been set up. The waste is burnt in the incinerators but they do not produce Carbon Monoxide. The ash is used as manure.
    • Metallic waste: there are three extrication centres. Industrial crushers will be procured to crush it and send it down.
  • The Army has collaborated with the civil administration there and barrels have been painted and set up in villages around to segregate waste.

Siachen Glacier:

  • Siachen is a 76.4 kilometre-long glacier in the Karakoram range.
  • It covers around 10,000 square kilometres of uninhabited terrain.
  • It sits extending across two disputed boundaries – with Pakistan and China.
  • For the last 33 years, Indian troops have been deployed on the world’s highest and coldest battlefield. They safeguard the nation’s frontiers in temperatures of -40 to -50 degrees Celsius.
  • The Siachen Glacier presents a unique set of environmental challenges for the human body, which has to make great adjustments to function at such extreme altitudes.
  • Low oxygen levels, an increase in blood pressure due to reduced barometric pressure at high altitude, extreme cold, high levels of ultraviolet radiation and low humidity are just some of the adversities that Indian Army endures.

EMISSIONS TRADING SCHEME (ETS)

Why in News?

  •     Gujarat became the world’s first market for particulate matter emissions in the world, after 155 industrial units of Surat came together for “live trading” under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Emission Trading Scheme:

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

Why was Surat chosen for the scheme?

  •  In the last five years, the quality of air in Surat has deteriorated. In 2013, when the project was conceptualised, the PM10 level at Air India Building in Surat was 86 micrograms per cubic metre.
  • Surat was chosen because its industrial associations agreed to run the pilot scheme. Also, industries in Surat had already installed Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems, which makes it possible to estimate the mass of particulate matter being released.

Global Scenario:

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

CLEAN AIR COALITION:

Why in News?

  • WHO is launching a “Clean Air Coalition” led by the Governments of Spain andPeru, while a group of philanthropic organizations and foundations were poisedto launch a new “Clean Air Fund”.

Background:

  • Some 29 countries and over 50 subnational entities have pledged to join the coalition committed to achieving healthy air quality by 2030, as part of their Climate Summit pledges.
  • The Clean Air Coalition is also being supported by the UN Secretary General’s Office and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition of UN Environment.

What is Clean Air Fund?

  • Fund brings together a group of like-minded philanthropic foundations” which have recognized that tackling air pollution will have “huge benefits for health as well as for climate.New Clean Air Fund aims to support projects that “democratizes” air quality data, making knowledge about air quality more widely accessible to large numbers of people in cities, through projects such as the Breathe London project.
  • Breathe London has created a network of mobile sensors that allow children to decide how best to walk to school and parents to identify pollution hot spots.
  • The new Clean Air Fund will also support “ambitious local government action.

Outcome:

  • Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) agreed to accelerate efforts to significantly reduce short-lived climate pollutants by the end of the next decade in order to put the world on a “pathway that rapidly reduces warming inthe near term and maximizes development, health, environmental, and food security benefits”.

Short Lived Climate Pollutants:

  • Short-lived climate pollutants like methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – also known as super pollutants – are many times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the planet but because they are short-lived in the atmosphere, preventing emissions can rapidly reduce the rate of warming.
  • Many are also dangerous air pollutants and reductions will benefit human health and ecosystems.
  • Increasing action on short-lived climate pollutants can avoid an estimated 2.4 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution annually by 2030, prevent as much as 52 million tonnes of crop losses per year, and slow the
  • increase in global warming by as much as 0.6°C by 2050.
  • It can also prevent the climate tipping points that can exacerbate long-term climate impacts and make adapting to climate change harder, especially for the poor and most vulnerable.

Goal:

  • The Coalition’s goal is to reduce short-lived climate pollutants beyond the recommendations made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its special report Global Warming of 1.5˚C.

About the UN Environment Programme:

  • UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

About Climate and Clean Air Coalition:

  • The Climate and Clean Air Coalition is a voluntary partnership of governments,intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civilsociety organizations committed to improving air quality and protecting theclimate through actions to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.
  • Their global network currently includes over 120 state and non-state partners,and hundreds of local actors carrying out activities across economic sectors.

NATIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR RECYCLING OF PLASTIC WASTE

Context:

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for a three-year delay in drawing up a national framework for recycling of plastic waste by brand owners and plastic producers.

Issue:

  • India has a law that requires all companies to recover the plastic they use to package their products.
  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules in March 2016 which mandated extended producer responsibility (EPR) for all plastic producers, importers and brand owners (PIBOs).
  • PIBOs did not take concrete steps in 2016-17 to meet their targets under EPR.
  • But with the advent of producer responsibility organisations (PROs) in 2018, they have outsourced their EPR targets, which can lead to a new set of problems.

Background:

  • The observation comes at a time when the government has launched a campaign against single-use plastic. In December 2018, CPCB constituted a nine-member core group to frame the national framework for implementation of EPR and define the responsibilities of PIBOs, PROs and the government.

Related Issues:

Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR):

  • EPR is a practice and policy approach in which producers are made responsible for collecting and processing their manufactured products upon end of their lifetime. Responsibility may be fiscal, physical or a combination of both.
  • companies have to specify collection targets as well as a time line for this process within a year of the rules coming into effect.
  • The Rules also mandate the responsibilities of local bodies, gram panchayats, waste generators and retailers to manage such waste.

Issue with Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR):

  • As per CSE’s publication on Model Framework for Segregation, major changes required in the plastic waste rules are concerning EPR.
  • EPR targets have to be accounted for at the national level, irrespective of which state the products are sold or consumed in. The amendment does not address these issues.
  • no example of deposit refund scheme system has been implemented in any state.
  • The producers have been reluctant in taking the onus of the waste despite various interventions across the country by government and civic societies.

Stats about Plastic Waste:

  • Plastic Infrastructure Report, 2017, India consumes close to 12.8 million tonnes of plastic per annum, of which, close to 5 million tonnes is rendered as waste every year.
  • 70% of the plastic waste industry is informal in nature and no action plan for formalising the industry has been pushed in the last two years.

Issues with policies on Plastic:

  • Good and Service Tax (GST), plastic waste was put under a 5 per cent bracket, hurting the informal sector, which already lacks a concrete action plan.
  • The status of plastic waste management in the country is grim even after the rules gave emphasis on banning plastics below 50 microns, phasing out use of multi-layered packaging and introducing extended producer responsibility (EPR) for producers, importers and brand owners to ensure environmentally sound management of plastic products until the end of their lives.

Concept of Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs):

  • A PRO is a third-party organisation that facilitates the responsibility of producers to take back waste from open market, recycle or process, and file compliance.
  • With a PRO, producers do not physically take back the product, but instead support the process financially.

Problems with PROs:

  • PRO would experience great challenges on the ground due to low level of source segregation
  • Success would lie in creating a strong monitoring and reporting structure for both PROs and recyclers.

Conclusion:

  • An ideal EPR framework should integrate all.
  • PIBOs should work with urban local bodies to manage waste after segregating it into biodegradable, non-biodegradable and domestic hazardous categories.
  • They can also contribute to development of infrastructure for EPR implementation, if necessary.

Prelims:

National Green Tribunal:

  • The National Green Tribunal is Statutory body, established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
  • For effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
  • The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB):

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
  • It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act, 1974.
  • CPCB is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

HOW ARE VEHICLES TESTED FOR POLLUTION?

Why in News?

  • After the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 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.
  • Since September 1, when the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 came into force, long queues of vehicles are commonly being seen at pollution control centres in Delhi. After undergoing a Pollution Under Control (PUC) test, a vehicle is certified for a certain period of time.
  • According to the data available 217.7 tonnes of carbon monoxide is emitted every day by vehicles in Delhi. Vehicular pollution estimates include 84.1 tonnes of nitrogen oxides and 66.7 tonnes of hydrocarbons per day.

About PUC Certificate:

  • The PUC certificate is a document that any person driving a motor vehicle can be asked to produce by a police officer in uniform authorised by the state government.
  • 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.
  • Authorised pollution checking centres issue certificates if a vehicle is found complying with the prescribed emission norms.

How is a Pollution Control Check Carried Out?

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

AIR POLLUTION IN INDIAN HOMES KEY HEART RISK FACTOR: THE LANCET REPORT

Context:

  • The report is one of two from a study by the Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiologic (PURE), both published online in The Lancet on Tuesday and presented at the European Society of Cardiology 2019.
  • One report looks at common diseases, hospitalisation and death; the other at CVD risk factors in middle-aged adults in 21 countries.

Highlights:

  • Household air pollution has emerged as one of the key causes of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), and 12% of all CVDs in low-income countries are attributable to it, a new report has said.
  • Hypertension is the largest risk factor for CVD in low-income countries (which include India), followed by high non-HDL cholesterol and household air pollution.
  • Study has highlighted for the first time that household air pollution is also a leading risk factor for heart disease and deaths in India.
    • The major focus has been ambient air pollution that is pollution rising from motor vehicles and industries.
    • It is now time to wake up and realise that the pollution we generate in our house is also responsible for significant adverse effects

What is Cardiovascular Disease:

  • Cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels.
  • It’s usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries (atherosclerosis) and an increased risk of blood clots.

Indian Context:

  • Household air pollution is a greater risk factor for CVD in India than diabetes, tobacco use, low physical activity and poor diet.
  • An earlier report from a PURE study (Lancet Respiratory Medicine 2014) showed that Indians had the lowest lung function among the 21 countries studied.At least 65% of homes in India use biomass fuel for cooking and heating.
  • In urban areas, the use of mosquito coils, dhoop sticks and agarbattis contribute to high household air pollution.

Concern:

  • Household air pollution is becoming an important cause of overall and cardiovascular mortality in low-income countries.This is actually a window of opportunity because if the household air pollution can be controlled, we can see significant decrease in mortality including due to cardiovascular disease in India.

CVD and Cancer:

  • The other report, which followed 1,62,534 middle-aged adults in the 21 countries, found that CVD remains the leading cause of mortality among middle aged adults globally, but this is no longer the case in high-income countries, where cancer is now responsible for twice as many deaths as CVD.
  • It was estimated that 55 million deaths occurred in the world in 2017, of which approximately 17.7 million were due to CVD.
  • Explanation
    • That in high-income countries, people have started living longer, so deaths due to CVD have reduced, and more are now dying due to cancers.

Way Forward:

  • Most cardiovascular disease cases and deaths can be attributed to a small number of common, modifiable risk factors.While some factors have extensive global effects (eg, hypertension and education), others (eg, household air pollution and poor diet) vary by a country’s economic level.
  • Health policies should focus on risk factors that have the greatest effects on averting cardiovascular disease and death globally, with additional emphasis on risk factors of greatest importance in specific groups of countries.

Control Measure of Indoor Pollution:

Public Awareness:

  • One of the most important steps in prevention of indoor air pollution is education, viz., spreading awareness among people about the issue and the serious threat it poses to their health and wellbeing.

Change in Pattern of Fuel Use:

  • Fuel use depends on ones’ habit, its availability, and most importantly, its affordability.
  • At present, majority of low income families rely solely on direct combustion of biomass fuels for their cooking needs as this is the cheapest and easiest option available to them;
  • however, this could be rectified by promoting the use of cleaner energy sources such as gobar gas which utilizes cow dung to produce gas for cooking.

Modification of Design of Cooking Stove:

  • The stoves should be modified from traditional smoky and leaky cooking stoves to the ones which are fuel efficient, smokeless and have an exit (e.g., chimney) for indoor pollutants.
  • A good example is the one designed by the National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative, of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy under a Special Project on Cookstove during 2009-2010, with the primary aim of enhancing the availability of clean and efficient energy for the energy deficient and poorer sections of the country.

Improvement in Ventilation:

  • During construction of a house, importance should be given to adequate ventilation; for poorly ventilated houses, measures such as a window above the cooking stove and cross ventilation though doors should be instituted.

Intersectoral Coordination and Global Initiative:

  • Indoor air pollution can only be controlled with coordinated and committed efforts between different sectors concerned with health, energy, environment, housing, and rural development.

Government Initiatives:

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

    • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is a scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas for providing LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL) households.
    • Under the scheme, five crore LPG connections are to be provided to BPL households.
    • Need
      • In India, the poor have limited access to cooking gas (LPG).
      • The spread of LPG cylinders has been predominantly in the urban and semi-urban areas with the coverage mostly in middle class and affluent households.
      • But there are serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels.
      • According to WHO estimates, about 5 lakh deaths in India alone due to unclean cooking fuels.
      • Most of these premature deaths were due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
      • Indoor air pollution is also responsible for a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses in young children.
      • According to experts, having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour.

WAR ON PLASTICS

  • Context: The PM invoked Gandhi in his appeals, and it has been speculated that a specific ban may be announced on October 2, the Mahatma’s 150th birthday.

Single-Use Plastic:

  • As the name suggests, single-use plastics (SUPs) are those that are discarded after one-time use. Besides the ubiquitous plastic bags, SUPs include water and flavoured/aerated drinks bottles, takeaway food containers, disposable cutlery, straws, and stirrers, processed food packets and wrappers, cotton bud sticks, etc. of these, foamed products such as cutlery, plates, and cups are considered the most lethal to the environment.

Impact on Environment:

  • If not recycled, plastic can take a thousand years to decompose, according to UN Environment, the United Nations Environment Programme. At landfills, it disintegrates into small fragments and leaches carcinogenic metals into groundwater. Plastic is highly inflammable — a reason why landfills are frequently ablaze, releasing toxic gases into the environment. It floats on the sea surface and ends up clogging airways of marine animals.

Plastic Waste Management:

  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 notified by the Centre called for a ban on “non-recyclable and multi-layered” packaging by March 2018, and a ban on carry bags of thickness less than 50 microns (which is about the thickness of a strand of human hair). The Rules were amended in 2018, with changes that activists say favoured the plastic industry and allowed manufacturers an escape route. The 2016 Rules did not mention SUPs.
  • On World Environment Day in 2018, India pledged to phase out SUPs by 2022. The PM has called for “a new revolution against plastic”, and some government-controlled bodies such as Air India and the Indian Railways have announced they would stop SUPs.

Size of The Problem:

  • There is no comprehensive data on the volume of the total plastic waste in the country. A 2015 study by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) surveyed 60 cities and extrapolated the data to estimate that the country generated around 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste daily in 2011-12, equivalent to the weight of 4,700 elephants.
  • About 70% of the plastic waste was collected; 60% was recycled. It is likely that the actual daily generation of plastic waste is much more. According to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, all states and UTs are required to send annual data to the CPCB; however, many states and UTs have failed to comply.

Recycling of Waste:

  • About 94% of plastics are recyclable. India recycles about 60%; the rest goes to landfills, the sea, and waste-to-energy plants.
  • Most experts view recycling as an interim measure until plastic is completely banned.
  • According to deputy programme manager (plastics) at the Centre for Science and Environment, plastics have an end life too and that plastics can’t be treated more than four-five times.
  • The CPCB warns that recycled products are at times more harmful to the environment, as they contain additives and colours.

Models Before India:

  • At least 60 countries around the world have fully or partially restricted the use of non-biodegradable polymers. Consumption has reduced in at least 30% of the countries, while 20% have failed to achieve the goals, says a 2018 report by UN Environment.
  • In 2002, Ireland imposed a 0.15-euro levy, Plas Tax, on plastic bags. A dramatic change in behaviour was seen within a few weeks.
  • In 2008, Rwanda imposed a blanket ban on the sale, use, and production of plastic bags. A wave of illegal imports from neighbouring countries followed, and Rwanda was forced to increase penalties. After initial hiccups, residents switched to green alternatives.
  • A 2011 study by the Delhi School of Economics suggested that levying a fee on consumers would yield better results than a ban, due to “little enforcement capacity”. People may be forced to carry biodegradable bags to grocery stores, vegetable markets and shopping malls if the alternative were to hurt their pockets.
  • For multi-layered packaging, experts have suggested effective buyback schemes and recycling units. The Prime Minister has mentioned the use of plastics in road construction and extraction of fuel. However, these initiatives would require capital investments and commitment.

CSIR TO CERTIFY AIR QUALITY MONITORING INSTRUMENTS

Context:

  • The Union Environment Ministry has tasked the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)­National Physical Laboratory (NPL) with certifying air quality monitoring instruments.

Why This Move?

  • This is in anticipation of a rising demand by States — against the backdrop of the National Clean Air Campaign — for low cost air quality monitoring instruments that can monitor levels of nitrous oxides, ozone and particulate matter.
  • The Centre in January launched a programme to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.
  • An edifice of this initiative is to have a vast monitoring network of sensors that can capture the rapid fluctuations of pollutants, necessary to ascertain how these gases and particles affected health.
  • Currently, the machines employed by State and Central Pollution Control Boards (SPCB and CPCB) are imported and can cost up to ₹1 crore to install and about ₹50 lakh to maintain over five years.
  • Several new sensors, which are far cheaper, are likely in the future, and it would be useful to have a creditable agency that can rate the quality of these devices.
  • Still several monitoring units were poorly calibrated, that is, over time, they were susceptible to erroneous readings.

Why Air Quality Monitoring Is Essential?

  • The starting point of air quality monitoring is to first study if an area has an air pollution problem.
  • Monitoring helps in assessing the level of pollution in relation to the ambient air quality standards.
  • Standards are a regulatory measure to set the target for pollution reduction and achieve clean air. Robust monitoring helps to guard against extreme events by alerting people and initiate action.
  • We regulate a total of 12 pollutants, including SO2, NO2, PM10, PM2.5 (particulate matter of up to 10 micron and up to 2.5-micron size), ozone, lead, arsenic, nickel, CO, NH3, benzene, and BaP (particulate phase).
  • Across cities, only SO2, NO2 and RSPM / PM10 are monitored regularly. Other pollutants, such as PM2.5, O3, CO, BTX, heavy metals are monitored in select cities as capacity is still being built.
  • India has set a target for states to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in urban areas by 2017.

How Accurate and Absolute Is the Air Quality Data Reported?

  • The present National Air Quality Monitoring Network is limited in scope as the recorded values are indicative and there is immense time lag in reporting the data.
  • So real time action is not possible. Also, involvement of various monitoring agencies, personnel and equipment in sampling, chemical analyses and data reporting brings uncertainty and biases.
  • But even with the existing system the non-compliance with standards in cities is found to be enormous. As many as 131 cities are exceeding the permissible limit for PM 10 and 18 cities are exceeding the permissible limit for NO2. Therefore, it is the action that matters even as we upgrade our monitoring systems.

Who Carries Out Monitoring in India?

  • The ambient air quality in India is monitored collectively by
    • CPCB,
    • State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs),
    • Pollution Control Committees (PCCs), and
    • National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in cities, and covers 215 cities and towns.
  • A total of 523 manual monitoring stations are being operated across states. Some states have set up additional monitoring stations in cities.
  • However, there is a shortfall in operation as about 1,000 stations with additional continuous ambient air quality monitoring (CAAQM) stations, that report data real time, are required.
  • As per 2011 census, 46 cities have million-plus population and in 16 cities CAAQMS have already been installed and commissioned. The CAAQM stations collect the data of 8 pollutants, except metals and BaP.
  • Real time monitoring results will help in calculating air quality index to issue health advisories as well as for formulation of action plan to meet standards.

Weakest Links in Air Quality Management:

  • Most SPCBs keep their special monitoring and surveillance efforts confined to industrial areas. Very few turn their attention towards the urban air quality of cities.
  • As a principle, what matters most is the ability of the authorities to understand the profile of a city’s air pollution sources and their emissions rates and trends; cities also must go beyond routine monitoring to generate specialised data. Unfortunately, Indian cities do not score on these counts.

About CSIR:

  • The CSIR was established by the Government of India in September of 1942 as an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India.
  • Although it is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • The research and development activities of CSIR include aerospace engineering, structural engineering, ocean sciences, life sciences, metallurgy, chemicals, mining, food, petroleum, leather, and environmental science.

CSIR NPL:

  • The CSIR-NPL, situated in New Delhi, is the measurement standards laboratory of India.
  • It maintains standards of SI units in India and calibrates the national standards of weights and measures.
  • Each modernized country, including India has a National Metrological Institute (NMI), which maintains the standards of measurements. This responsibility has been given to the NPL.
  • The NPL maintains standard units of measurement such as Metre, Kg, Seconds, Ampere, Kelvin, Candela, Mole and Radiation.

WAR ON PLASTIC

Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Mann Ki Baat urged the people to observe the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year as a day to make India plastic free and urged municipalities, NGOs and the corporate sector to come up with ways for safe disposal of accumulated plastic waste before Deepavali.

Need to Define Single Use Plastic:

  • Single Use Plastics (SUPs) is often misunderstood to be polythene carry bags, but it is not the case.
  • The United Nations classifies single-use plastics as products that are commonly used for plastic packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.
  • These includes grocery bags, food packaging products, bottles, straws, containers, cups and cutlery.
  • Government’s take
    • A committee was formulated by the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers to define SUPs and prepare a roadmap for its elimination. However, in the four committee meetings that have been held this year, nothing concrete has come out.

Study on Plastic Data Is Also Needed:

  • Approximately 70 per cent of plastic packaging products are converted into plastic waste in a short span, according to the last estimate done by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2015.
  • Almost 66 per cent of plastic waste, comprising polybags, multilayer pouches used for packing food items, etc. (belonging to high-performance poly ethylene/ low-density polyethylene or polypropylene materials), was sourced mainly from households and residential localities, it showed.
  • The composition of our waste has changed drastically in the last decade adding more plastics to the waste that we generate.
  • This needs a re-assessment. To understand the challenge and work on processing methods, robust inventorisation studies needs to be done in cities.

Is Banning Plastic A Solution?

  • Though the idea of restricting the inflow by imposing a ban sounds good, the question on the economics, availability and applicability of alternatives remains unanswered.
  • Plastic ban can be effective if users simply switch to alternatives such as paper, cloth or jute bags.
  • About 47 per cent of the plastic waste generated globally, came from multi-layered packaging waste. Nearly half came from Asia, according to the UN.
  • Multi-layered packaging cannot be exempted from ban since it doesn’t have a readily available alternative.
  • Therefore, there is an imminent need for a rethink on the alternate options which are cheap, durable and easily available.
  • The industry needs to be pushed for R&D on packaging design and use of alternatives in a phased manner.
  • For this, concrete timelines should be fixed giving industry enough time for transition. Certain eco-friendly materials could also be exempted from taxes to encourage usage of alternatives.
  • The capacity of the local governments to impose a ban remains a challenge. How green are our recycling technologies is another question unanswered and needs to be looked into far deeply than we did before.
  • Recycling:
    • Globally, only nine per cent of the plastic is getting recycled, about 12 per cent incinerated and 79 per cent ends up in landfills, according to UNEP 2018 report.
    • In India, however, about 60 per cent of plastics gets recycled as per estimates but most of it is downcycled, which means polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is not recycled to PET but to a low-value product.
  • Issue in Recycling:
    • In the current paradigm, recycling alone will not work. Yes, recycling, repair and refurbishing — all three have their place as the building blocks of a circular economy. However, the dependence on a silver bullet system that takes your waste and turns it into something valuable is far from reality.
    • We need to work on making recycling greener by including the vast informal sector. Also, sustainable technological interventions need to be mapped, authorised and promoted.

Issue with Multi-layered Plastic (MLP):

  • Multilayered plastic (MLP) waste is difficult to collect or treat.
  • There are no proven industry solutions for tackling MLP.
  • The government too does not have a clue how to deal with these packets which are indestructible and add to garbage dumps.

What Can Be Done for Multilayered plastic (MLP)?

  • The only way is to recover aluminium and convert the plastic into a chemical or fuel via a process called pyrolysis.
  • Collecting MLP too is tedious.
  • In the US, Recycling Partnership, a consortium of companies and state governments, has put special bins for recyclable plastics, which includes MLP. Enval, a spin-off from the Department of Engineering, Cambridge University, provides the infrastructure for pyrolysis to recover 100 per cent aluminum.
  • Plastic components are converted to fuel, which is used to power the process.
  • In India, MK Aromatics Ltd, a Bengaluru-based company, converts MLP into sulphur-free polymer oil. The impurities during the processing are collected as coke from which aluminium is extracted. MK Aromatics also treats the industrial MLP waste of Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) and the oil manufactured is bought back by HUL.

What Government Should Do?

  • The Centre and state governments need to focus on effective implementation of extended producer responsibility, which includes a mixture of tools like deposit refund scheme, advanced recycling fee to collect back the plastic waste induced into the market.
  • All this with targeted campaigns and social engineering tools can make people aware of the concerns and alternatives to plastics.

Way Forward:

  • While there exists no single solution to the palpable problem of plastics, a clear definition, data on generation and solutions with long sightedness backed by technical feasibility and scientific reasoning, rather than short-term wrapping is what the need of the hour is.
  • In the end, the burden of change comes down to us — to you and me to say no unless something is reusable — to reject the system that has been pushed upon us by refusing disposables and demanding better products and services.

Features of Plastic Waste Management Rules:

  • Companies that use plastic in their processes — packaging and production — have a responsibility to ensure that any resulting plastic waste is safely disposed of.
  • Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR)
    • EPR is a practice and policy approach in which producers are made responsible for collecting and processing their manufactured products upon end of their lifetime. Responsibility may be fiscal, physical or a combination of both.
    • Companies have to specify collection targets as well as a time line for this process within a year of the rules coming into effect.
  • The Rules also mandate the responsibilities of local bodies, gram panchayats, waste generators and retailers to manage such waste.

INDIA LARGEST EMITTER OF SULPHUR DIOXIDE

Why in news?

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

Why India?

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

NASA data:

  • The report also includes NASA data on the largest point sources of sulphur dioxide.
  • The largest sulphur dioxide emission hotspots have been found in Russia, South Africa, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Serbia.
  •  Air pollutant emissions from power plants and other industries continue to increase in India, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the report says.
  •  In Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Turkey, emissions are currently not increasing — however, there is not a lot of progress in tackling them either. 
  • Of the world’s major emitters, China and the United States have been able to reduce emissions rapidly.
  •  They have achieved this feat by switching to clean energy sources.
  •   China, in particular, has achieved success by dramatically improving emission standards and enforcement for sulphur dioxide control.

MICROPLASTICS

Context-

  • Tiny particles of plastic, known as microplastics, have been found in the Arctic region and the Alps, carried by the wind, according to a new study that was widely reported this week. The study called for an urgent assessment of the risk of inhalation of the microplastics.

What are Microplastics

  • Microplastics are tiny plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter.
  • In the last four decades, concentrations of these particles appear to have increased significantly in the surface waters of the ocean. Concern about the potential impact of microplastics in the marine environment has gathered momentum during the past few years.

Research Findings

  • The researchers found huge amounts of them in the Arctic snow;
  • their study claims to be the first that contains data on contamination of snow by microplastics.
  • Several other recent studies have established the presence of microplastics in groundwater in the United States, and in the lakes and rivers of the United Kingdom.
  • A study published in June estimated that the average human ends up consuming at least 50,000 particles of microplastics in food every year.

Where they come from

  • Microplastics are either manufactured — for instance, microbeads that are used in cosmetics and beauty products — or they are formed when larger pieces of plastic break down.
  • The small, shiny particles advertised as “cooling crystals” in certain toothpastes qualify as microplastics if the ingredients of the toothpaste mention “polyethylene”.
  • Even so, manufactured microbeads are not a major contributor to microplastic pollution. One of the main contributors to this pollution, instead, is plastic waste, 90% of which is not recycled.
  • Plastic bottles, bags, fishing nets, and food packaging are some examples of the larger pieces that break down into microplastics, eventually finding their way into the soil, water and the air we breathe.

Medium

  • There are just two possibilities, he noted: “from the water or from the air.”
  • While it’s known that microplastics and other plastic debris is transported by ocean currents, scientists have become increasingly convinced that small plastic fragments are also being carried through winds and precipitation.

Action by countries

  • In the recent past, several countries have passed laws to limit the amount of microplastics in the environment.
  • The United States passed a law in 2015 to prohibit the manufacture of rinse-off cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads.

Plastic consumption in India

  • Average Indian consumes approximately 11 kg of plastic products in various forms every year. Though it is much less than what an American or a Chinese does, it still is a problem.

Microplastic in Body

  • Scientists say plastic particles can reach our stomach, and depending on their size, these plastics are either excreted, get entrapped in stomach and intestinal lining or move freely in body fluids such as blood, thereby reaching various organs and tissues of the body.
  • While a number of studies have shown negative effects of plastics on nervous system, hormones, immune system together with cancer-inducing property of plastics are already well known, scientists are now trying to understand how the basic machinery of body interacts with plastic particles.

STUBBLE BURNING

Context-

  • A new study has found that farmers in north India can not only help reduce air pollution but also improve the productivity of their soil and earn more profits if they stop burning their crop residue and instead adopted the concept of no-till farming.

Why Farmers Burn Stubble?

  • Farmers usually burn the paddy straw after combine harvesters leave a 7-8 inch stubble on the field following harvest, and farmers have to prepare the field for planting of wheat crop in two to three weeks.
  • As the straw cannot be fed to cattle, the way out is on-field management of stubble by using machines such as straw management system, mulchers, rotavators and happy seeders. The central and state governments have announced 50-80% subsidy on purchase of these machineries but have seen limited success.
  • The machinery is very expensive despite the subsidy and manufacturers raised prices after these subsidies were announced,”

Advantages of stubble burning:

  • It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.
  • Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
  • Kills slugs and other pests.
  • Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.

Penal Provision Against Burning Stubble:

  • Burning crop residue is a crime under Section 188 of the IPC and under the Air and Pollution Control Act of 1981.

Supreme Court’s Observation:

  • The problem is required to be resolved by taking all such measures as are possible in the interest of public health and environment protection.
  • Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.
  • The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.

New Study:

  • Direct seeding of wheat into unplowed soil and with rice residues left behind was the best option.
  • It saved on water, labour and use of agro-chemicals, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and improved soil health and crop yield and thus benefitting both farmers and the society at large.

Happy Seeder:

  • The Happy Seeder option will eliminate air pollution by crop burning and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from on-farm activities by more than 78 per cent relative to all burning options.
  • The Happy Seeder-based systems are on average 20 per cent more profitable than the most common ‘burnt’ systems and almost 10 per cent more than the most profitable burning options, found the study.

What is Happy Seeder:

  • Happy Seeder is a tractor-mounted device. It cuts and lifts the residue of previous crop (in this case the rice straw) and sows a new crop (wheat) in its place.
  • It is a direct sowing machine that is capable of seeding for the new wheat crop even in presence of the rice straw residues on the soil surface without any tillage.
  • To add to the benefit for the farmers, they can deploy the system immediately after the harvest of the rice crop. It deposited the straw over the sown area as much.

What government did last year:

  • Package of policies put in place by the Government of India last year to stop farmers from burning their crop residue.
  • The package includes a $166 million subsidy to promote mechanisation to manage crop residues in fields.

Other Solutions:

  • Farmers can also manage crop residues effectively by employing agricultural machines like:
    • Happy Seeder (used for sowing of crop in standing stubble)
    • Rotavator (used for land preparation and incorporation of crop stubble in the soil)
    • Zero till seed drill (used for land preparations directly sowing of seeds in the previous crop stubble)
    • Baler (used for collection of straw and making bales of the paddy stubble)
    • Paddy Straw Chopper (cutting of paddy stubble for easily mixing with the soil)
    • Reaper Binder (used for harvesting paddy stubble and making into bundles)

URANIUM MINING IN NALLAMALA HILLS

  • Context: Joint Forum for People’s Democratic Rights protests uranium mining in Nallamala Forest.

Background:

  • Many of these forest reserves have rich mineral deposits under them which are being eyed upon by both- government departments and corporates.
  • The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has been scouting the length and breadth of the country in search of high- grade uranium, given the severe shortage of domestic uranium to feed our ambitious nuclear energy program.

Indian Uranium shortage:

  • India has 22 nuclear power reactors and domestic uranium is used in nuclear plants which are not under the international nuclear energy watchdog- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • Without uranium fuel, these reactors are running at partial capacity, producing less electricity, while the starting of new plants have also been delayed.
  • The DAE officials informed a parliamentary panel in 2018 that India was facing a ‘critical shortage’ of uranium and was growing increasingly dependent on imports of uranium from Canada, Kazakhstan and Japan.
  • Domestic source
    • Currently, a major portion of domestic production of uranium was being extracted from the Jaduguda mines of Jharkhand.
    • But, because the uranium is being dug at considerable depth, extraction costs have made the process unviable.
    • Andhra Pradesh, and more recently Telangana, are the other states where uranium deposits have been found.
    • The Cuddapah basin in Telangana has been found to have the potential for high grade and extensive uranium deposits.

Amrabad Tiger Reserve:

  • The Department of Minerals, a wing of the DAE, zeroed-in on the lush forest of the Amrabad Tiger Reserve, which, in undivided Andhra Pradesh was a part of India’s largest tiger reserve- the Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve.
  • The latter continues to be the largest and the Amrabad Tiger Reserve carved from it, is the second largest tiger reserve in India.
  • The Amrabad Tiger Reserve lies in the Nallamala hills and is home to the Chenchu tribe, which, in the past was primarily a hunter-forest produce gathering community who now eke out their livelihood by largely working under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) program.

About Nallamala Forest:

  • Nallamala Forest is one of the largest undisturbed stretches of forest in South India.
  • It is located in the Nallamala Hill which is a part of the Eastern Ghats
  • The forest has a good tiger population, and a part of the forest belongs to the Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve.

Protest by locals:

  • The Joint Forum for People’s Democratic Rights protested, demanding an end to uranium mining in Nallamala hills.
  • The forum, which represents several organisations and activists, has voiced concerns over the mining in the forest region.

Impact of Uranium Mining:

  • Drilling of 4,000 deep holes will, activists believe, end up destroying the Amrabad Tiger Reserve which is home to a vast variety of wildlife.
  • The exploration will expose and pollute surface water, groundwater and leech minerals and dangerous chemicals into the Nagarjunasagar Dam.
  • Activists further warn that the construction of roads will fragment and degrade the dry forests, which may never recover after such a massive exercise.
  • impact on Biodiversity
    • Cautioned against this move, noting that rare, endangered and unique species of flora and fauna will be destroyed.
    • Listing out the number of animals in this habitat, they mention the names of tigers, panthers, sloth-bears, wild dogs, jungle cats, foxes, wolves, pangolins, peafowls, bonnet macaques, pythons, cobras, nilgais, spotted deers and sambars- all of whom have been living there for centuries.

Radiation

  • There is another problem with uranium mining. Radiation from these mines is known to cause havoc to the lives of people who live around them, as has been found in Jharkhand’s Jaduguda.
  • Around 50,000 villagers who live in this area suffer from serious radiation related health problems and the mines in East Singhbhum district have been found to be conducting their mining operations without adequate safety measures.
  • large number of cases of villagers suffering from congenital deformities, sterility, cancer and spontaneous abortions.
  • This could well be repeated in the case of the Chenchu tribe who are living in the Amrabad Tiger Reserve.

Conclusion:

  • Wildlife conservationists also point out that despite large investment of money and resources, nuclear energy remains a small blip on India’s energy horizon, providing barely 3% of the electricity produced in the country.
  • Destroying scarce water bodies and entire ecosystems can hardly be compensated by uranium mining which can be excavated in other parts of the country.
  • Despite its miniscule contribution, nuclear energy looms large in the minds of our political establishment- who are willing to sacrifice scarce forest and biological resources, which occupy a mere 2% of the landmass of India for the sake of nuclear energy.

FORMALIN IN FISH

  • Context: Government has banned the import of fish in view of the scare of formalin, a cancer inducing chemical used to illegally preserve fish being found in it.

Background:

  • Over the last few days, the word formalin or formaldehyde is on the lips of most fish-loving Goans, after the state Food and Drugs Administration cracked down on consignments of fish from other states laced with the chemical.

Issue in Goa:

  • In July last year, the government banned the import of fish in view of the scare of formalin, a cancer inducing chemical used to illegally preserve fish being found in it.
  • The ban was later lifted and the government launched stringent checking measures on all fish stock brought to the State.
  • The Directorate of Food (FDA) has been regularly testing samples of fish brought to Goa from outside and sold in local markets.

What is Formalin?

  • Formalin is derived from formaldehyde which is a known cancer-causing agent. It is used to preserve bodies in mortuaries.
  • It can also increase shelf life of fresh food.
  • While formalin can cause nausea, coughing and burning sensation in eyes, nose and throat in the short term, it can cause cancer if consumed over a long period of time.

Why is Fish Laced with Formalin?

  • Fish is a highly perishable commodity.
  • If it isn’t maintained at the proper temperature of 5 degree Celsius, it gets spoilt.
  • To avoid that and increase its shelf life, the sellers now use chemicals such as formalin and ammonia.
  • If the point of sale is far from the place of catch, formalin is used as a preservative. Meanwhile, ammonia is mixed with the water that is frozen to keep fish fresh.

The Approaching Fish Famine:

  • Pollution, the overkill of fish for export and to cater to the hospitality industry in the tourism-oriented state, as well as rising sea temperatures, have already triggered a fish famine of sorts in the waters off Goa, driving prices of locally consumed staple fish through the roof.

Operation Sagar Rani:

  • In June 2018, Kerala food safety department officials seized nearly 9,600 kg of fish preserved in formalin at a border check post in Kollam district.
  • The seized fish included 7,000 kg of prawns and 2,600 kg of other species. The seizure was part of ‘Operation Sagar Rani’ launched by the state.

MERCURY POISONING

Context:

  • IIT­-H, Harvard varsity study mercury accumulation in fish
  • The joint research looked into how climate change impacted accumulation of the metal

Background:

  • A joint research by the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IIT­H), Harvard University, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a Canadian government agency,has found that though there has been a decrease in the levels of mercury pollution, the amount of mercury found in fish have been different in different species — some types of fish have less mercury than before, and some, alarmingly more.

What is Mercury:

  • Mercury is naturally occurring element in the Earth’s crust that is released into the environment with natural events such as volcanic activity.
  • Mercury commonly occurs in three forms: elemental, inorganic and organic.
  • Activities that release mercury
    • Human activities like coal burning, gold mining and chloralkali manufacturing plants currently contribute the vast majority of the mercury released into our environment,

Explanation of Mercury Entering Food Chain:

  • When mercury is released into the atmosphere, it is dissolves in fresh water and seawater.
  • A type of mercury called methylmercury is most easily accumulated in the body is and is particularly dangerous.
  • About 80 to 90 percent of organic mercury in a human body comes from eating fish and shellfish, and 75 to 90 percent of organic mercury existing in fish and shellfish is methylmercury,
  • Once in the water, mercury makes its way into the food chain. Inorganic mercury and methylmercury are first consumed by phytoplankton,
  • Next, the phytoplankton are consumed by small animals such as zooplankton.
  • The methylmercury is assimilated and retained by the animals, while the inorganic mercury is shed from the animals as waste products,
  • Small fish that eat the zooplankton are exposed to food-borne mercury that is predominantly in the methylated form.
  • These fish are consumed by larger fish, and so on until it gets to humans.
  • “Because the methylmercury is highly assimilated and lost extremely slowly from fish, there is a steady build-up of this form of mercury in aquatic food chains, such that long-lived fish at the top of the food chain are highly enriched in methylmercury,
  • Methylmercury therefore displays clear evidence of biomagnification, where its concentrations are higher in predator tissue than in prey tissue.”

What is Biomagnification?

  • Biomagnification stands for Biological Magnification, which means the increase in concentration of contaminated substances or toxic chemicals that take place in the food chains.
  • These substances often arise from intoxicated or contaminated environments.
  • The contaminants include heavy metals namely mercury, arsenic, pesticides such as DDT, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) compounds which are then taken up by organisms because of the food they consume or the intoxication of their environment.

Causes of Biomagnification

  • Agriculture
  • Organic contaminants
  • Industrial manufacturing activities and pollution
  • Mining activities in the ocean

Effects of Biomagnification

  • Impact on human health
  • Effects on reproduction and development of marine creatures
  • Destruction of the coral reefs
  • Disruption of the food chain

Findings of The Study:

  • The variations in the accumulation of mercury in fish is the result of changes in sea temperature in the recent years and changes in the dietary pattern of fish due to overfishing.
  • There are three factors that result in mercury accumulation in
    • Fish overfishing which leads to dietary changes among marine animals,
    • Variations in the temperature of the sea water,
    • Which leads to changes in fish metabolism that gears towards survival rather than growth, and changes in the amounts of mercury found in sea water as a result of pollution,

Minamata Convention:

  • The Minamata Convention on Mercury will be implemented in the context of sustainable development with the objective to protect human health and environment from the anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
  • The Convention protects the most vulnerable from the harmful effects of mercury and also protects the developmental space of developing countries. Therefore, the interest of the poor and vulnerable groups will be protected.
  • India has Ratified the convention

INDIAN ARMY LAUNCHES E-CARS IN DELHI TO FIGHT AIR POLLUTION

Why in News?

  • The Indian Army launched e-cars for use of its officials in New Delhi on August 1.
  • The e-car initiative has been launched in partnership with Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) in a joint venture of the Central PSU’s under the Ministry of Power.

Highlights:

  • The e-car launch is in line with government policies on environmental protection.
  • The plan to deploy e-cars in Indian Army at Delhi was visualized on the occasion of the World Environment Day. The first batch of e-cars was flagged off on August 1, 2019.
  • The Indian Army plans to operate 10 e-cars in the first lot as a pilot project and develop further such e-cars in Delhi to ensure minimal emissions and efficiency.
  • The e-car initiative is expected to boost further development of electric vehicle technology and its adoption by the general public in the near future.
  • The Indian Army has played a leading role in several environment conservation activities. The Indian Army’s Territorial Army Battalions have been a part of major environmental protection initiatives such as forestation.
  • Besides this, army units stationed in remote areas have been involved in several conservation activities in close coordination with the locals to help preserve the ecological balance and protect the environment.

Electric Cars in India 2019:

  • Electric vehicle technology has proved to be a sound alternative to fight air pollution as it reduces carbon emission footprint.
  • Several Indian automobile manufacturers including Tata Motors and Mahindra have taken the initiative in manufacturing Electric Cars.
  • The EESL has played the role of the main facilitator in providing these e-vehicles to various Government agencies.

GRAIN BY GRAIN – CSE’S REPORT ON ENVIRONMENTAL RATING OF INDIA’S FERTILIZER INDUSTRY

  • Context:Grain by Grain’ Report which is the complete assessment of the environmental performance of fertilizer industry in India was released by Centre for Science & Environment (CSE)

About:

  • The report – ‘Grain by Grain’ – is the complete assessment of the environmental performance of fertilizer industry in India.
  • This first of its kind of environmental rating of Indian fertilizer industry has been done by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), along with its Green rating project (GRP).
  • It rated India’s all 28 operational fertilizer plants on around 50 parameters.
  • This is the seventh rating project undertaken by GRP. The Project has, earlier, rated the pulp and paper, automobile, chloro-alkali, cement, iron and steel and thermal power sectors.

Key Highlights of The Report:

  • The widespread production and use of the common fertiliser chemical urea in India’s large agriculture sector has led to alarming levels of nitrogen pollution of surface water and groundwater in many Indian states.
  • Nitrogen is found in most chemical fertilisers and contributes to groundwater contamination, damaging the environment and people’s health globally, just as many regions around the world face acute water shortages.
  • Chemicals such as urea form the bulk of fertilisers in India, which remains the world’s second-largest consumer of the chemicals after China, according to the report.
  • Report calls for the government to liberalise the industry to make it more competitive, potentially leading to greater efficiencies and more environmentally sound production practices.
  • India’s fertilizer sector is among the best in the world in energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, its staggering records on water use, water pollution and plant safety is a cause of concern.
  • It found Grasim Industries Ltd’s Indo Gulf Fertilizers unit at Jasdishpur, Uttar Pradesh as the best, followed by Hazira unit of KRIBHCO in Gujarat and Panambur unit of Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd. in Karnataka.

INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION FOR THE PREVENTION OF POLLUTION FROM SHIPS (MARPOL)

Why in News?

  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes.
  • The MARPOL Convention was adopted on 2 November 1973 at IMO. The Protocol of 1978 was adopted in response to a spate of tanker accidents in 1976-1977.
  • The Convention includes regulations aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships – both accidental pollution and that from routine operations – and currently includes six technical Annexes.

India is a signatory to MARPOL.

  • Special Areas with strict controls on operational discharges are included in most Annexes.
  • Annex I: Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil
  • Covers prevention of pollution by oil from operational measures as well as from accidental discharges; the 1992 amendments to Annex I made it mandatory for new oil tankers to have double hulls and brought in a phase-in schedule for existing tankers to fit double hulls, which was subsequently revised in 2001 and 2003.
  • Annex II: Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
  • Details the discharge criteria and measures for the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk; some 250 substances were evaluated and included in the list appended to the Convention; the discharge of their residues is allowed only to reception facilities until certain concentrations and conditions (which vary with the category of substances) are complied with. In any case, no discharge of residues containing noxious substances is permitted within 12 miles of the nearest land.
  • Annex III: Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form Contains general requirements for the issuing of detailed standards on packing, marking, labelling, documentation, stowage, quantity limitations, exceptions and notifications. For the purpose of this Annex, “harmful substances” are those substances which are identified as marine pollutants in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code) or which meet the criteria in the Appendix of Annex III.
  • Annex IV: Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships Contains requirements to control pollution of the sea by sewage; the discharge of sewage into the sea is prohibited, except when the ship has in operation an approved sewage treatment plant or when the ship is discharging comminuted and disinfected sewage using an approved system at a distance of more than three nautical miles from the nearest land; sewage which is not comminuted or disinfected has to be discharged at a distance of more than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land.
  • Annex V: Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships Deals with different types of garbage and specifies the distances from land and the manner in which they may be disposed of; the most important feature of the Annex is the complete ban imposed on the disposal into the sea of all forms of plastics.
  • Annex VI: Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships Sets limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances; designated emission control areas set more stringent standards for SOx, NOx and particulate matter. A chapter adopted in 2011 covers mandatory technical and operational energy efficiency measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

PLASTIC WASTE MANAGEMENT RULES, 2016, (AMENDED 2018)

Context:

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pulled up 52 companies — including Amazon, Flipkart, Danone Foods and Beverages and Patanjali Ayurveda Limited — for not specifying a time line or a plan to collect the plastic waste that results from their Business Activities.

Plastic Waste- Stats:

  • Plastic Infrastructure Report, 2017, India consumes close to 12.8 million tonnes of plastic per annum, of which, close to 5 million tonnes is rendered as waste every year.
  • 70% of the plastic waste industry is informal in nature and no action plan for formalising the industry has been pushed in the last two years.

Issues with Policies on Plastic:

  • Under Good and Service Tax (GST), plastic waste was put under a 5 per cent bracket, hurting the informal sector, which already lacks a concrete action plan.
  • The status of plastic waste management in the country is grim even after the rules gave emphasis on Banning Plastics below 50 Microns, phasing out use of multi-layered packaging and introducing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for producers, importers and brand owners to ensure environmentally sound management of plastic products until the end of their lives.

Features of Plastic Waste Management Rules:

  • Companies that use plastic in their processes — packaging and production — have a responsibility to ensure that any resulting plastic waste is safely disposed of.

Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR)

  •  EPR is a practice and policy approach in which producers are made responsible for collecting and processing their manufactured products upon end of their lifetime. Responsibility may be fiscal, physical or a combination of both.
  • Companies have to specify collection targets as well as a time line for this process within a year of the rules coming into effect.
  • The Rules also mandate the responsibilities of local bodies, gram panchayats, waste generators and retailers to manage such waste.

Issues with Plastic Waste Management Rules:

  • Rule 15 (Explicit pricing of carrying bags) has been omitted in the amendment.
    It earlier required every vendor, who sold commodities in a carry bag, to register with their respective urban local body and pay a minimum fee of Rs 48,000 annum (4000/month) after the announcement of the bye-laws.
  • Under Section 9 (3), the term ‘Non-Recyclable Multi-Layered Plastic if any’ has been substituted by ‘multi-layered plastic which is non-recyclable or non-energy recoverable or with no alternate use’. This gives plastic producers a scope to argue that their products can be put to some other use, if not recycled.

Issue with Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR):

  • As per CSE’s publication on Model Framework for Segregation, major changes required in the plastic waste rules are concerning EPR.
  • EPR targets have to be accounted for at the national level, irrespective of which state the products are sold or consumed in. The amendment does not address these issues.
  • No example of deposit refund scheme system has been implemented in any state.
  • The producers have been reluctant in taking the onus of the waste despite various interventions across the country by government and civic societies.

Model Framework for Offset Mechanism:

  • The amount of equivalent plastic and packaging that the producers and brand owners are able to recover and recycle will be used as an offset.
  • Such mechanisms will be product and brand neutral and the collection will not be confined to the packaging of the producer or brand owners’ products only and can be carried out in any location(s) of their choosing.
  • This offset mechanism must be included EPR in the rules by the producers and brand owners: By working with the government for promoting segregation at source through propagation;
  • Taking the onus of implementation and devising their EPR plans and setting up a team to monitor.
  • Supporting the implementation of segregation and account-keeping of plastic waste.

Concept of Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs):

  • A PRO is a third-party organisation that facilitates the responsibility of producers to take back waste from open market, recycle or process, and file compliance.
  • With a PRO, producers do not physically take back the product, but instead support the process financially.

PRO In E- Waste and Plastic Waste:

  • PROs have been tried and tested when it comes to managing e-waste.
  • Their roles and activities are defined in the Guidelines for PRO under e-waste management rules.
  • PRO does not find a mention in the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2018.
  • CPCB has started registering PROs for plastic waste management.

Global Examples of PROs Operating Successfully:

  • Europe has set precedent when it comes to plastic-generating corporations establishing PROs to collect plastics and facilitate processing.
  • Long-term agreements are facilitated, enabling PROs to establish infrastructure for collection, guaranteed by secured reimbursements from the brands liable for collection as per the policy.

Problems with PROs:

  • PRO would experience great challenges on the ground due to low level of source segregation
  • Success would lie in creating a strong monitoring and reporting structure for both PROs and recyclers.

Conclusion:

  • It is imperative to develop a Phase-Wise Implementation of the EPR programme with yearly targets and a system of nationwide offsets and credit to ensure effective implementation of the rules.
  • With a worldwide crisis due to plastic waste, India has to find a way to curb its plastic pollution at the earliest and that is only possible when all the stakeholders take the responsibility of ensuring minimisation, reuse and recycling of plastic to the maximum

HYDROGEN-ENRICHED COMPRESSED NATURAL GAS (HCNG)

Why in News?

  • Delhi will be the first city in the country to roll out hydrogen-enriched compressed natural gas (HCNG) buses for public transport from November 2020.

Highlights:

  • It will start as a pilot project with 50 CNG buses retrofitted with HCNG.
    Also, the Delhi government along with Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) began work to set up India’s first semi-commercial HCNG station.

HCNG:

  • The blending of hydrogen with CNG provides a blended gas termed as HCNG.
    HCNG stands for hydrogen-enriched compressed natural gas and it combines the advantages of both hydrogen and methane.
  • HCNG allows customers early hydrogen deployment with nearly commercial technology. It is being treated as a first step towards a future hydrogen economy.
  • Hydrogen has been regarded as a future secondary fuel for power system due to carbon-free operation.
  • The rapid increase in the emission of greenhouse gases and very strict environmental legislation are major motivating factors for the usage of hydrogen in fuel cells and internal combustion engines.
  • Hydrogen is an excellent additive to improve the combustion of hydrocarbon fuel due to its low ignition energy, high reactivity, diffusivity and burning velocity.

HUMAN WASTE ON EVEREST MOUNTAIN

Context:

  • Concern over the human waste left behind by climbers on their way to the world’s highest mountain peak, Mount Everest.

Issue:

  • It (human waste left by climbers on Mount Everest) has become a problem that is causing pollution and threatening to spread disease on the world’s highest peak.
  • Climbers usually dig holes in the snow for their toilet use and leave the human waste there.
  • The government had imposed new rules last year requiring each climber to bring down to the base camp 8 kg of trash, the amount it estimates a climber discards along the route. Climbing teams must leave a deposit of $4,000 which they lose if they don’t comply with the regulations

Philippines returns trash to Canada

Why in news

  • Tonnes of garbage sent to the Philippines years ago was shipped back to Canada after a festering diplomatic row.

Details:

  • Asian nations are increasingly objecting to being treated as dumping grounds for international trash.
  • The 69 shipping containers of garbage were loaded onto a cargo vessel at Subic Bay to begin the lengthy trip to Canada.

Malaysia to return non-recyclable plastic waste

  • The Malaysian Government has announced it will return around 3,000t of smuggled non-recyclable plastic waste to their countries of origin, including the UK, US, Australia and Canada. The offending countries were urged to review their management of plastic waste and to stop shipping waste out to developing countries.

Waste dumping proposal defeated

  • A proposal by India to prevent developed countries from dumping their electronic and plastic waste onto developing countries, was defeated at the recently concluded meeting of the Basel Convention in Geneva.
  • “India and Nigeria were the only countries that had strongly opposed the guidelines, pushed by the European Union, to dilute safeguards against the trans-boundary movement of e-waste,”

The Basel Convention

  • Formally called: The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. It is an international treaty
  • Aims to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries

SURAT FIRE TRAGEDY

Why in News:

  • More than 20 students died in a massive fire in a Surat coaching centre.
  • Besides fixing accountability, the tragedy calls for updating the fire safety protocol countrywide.
  • What are the shortfalls in this regard?

    • The Surat fire cannot be completely called an accident.
    • As, there are reports of notices having been served to the builder on the risks, but not pursued. Two deaths had occurred in another coaching centre in the city the previous year too. The earlier tragedies, at least, should have led to a comprehensive review of public buildings. But civic officials were largely indifferent to these.

    What are the larger concerns?

    • India’s abysmal record on fire safety is reflected in the death of 17,700 people countrywide in fires (public and residential buildings) during 2015. Notable ones are the Uphaar cinema blaze in Delhi that killed 59 people in 1997, and Kumbakonam school fire in Tamil Nadu in 2004 that killed 94 children. The latest tragedy highlights the gap between India’s dreamy smart cities visions and the worrisome reality of urbanisation and lawlessness. None of these had been a strong case for governments to make fire safety the priority it should be. The courts too have allowed this to continue without severe penalties.
    • The prolonged, aggressive litigation by the affected families in the Uphaar case made no difference. The role of administrative machinery and officials who sanctioned unsafe buildings, often in return for bribes, remains largely unaddressed.

    What is to be done?

    • The present inquiry should go into any deviations from the sanctioned plan for the commercial building housing the coaching centre. The role of urban planning officials in allowing it to come up should also be inquired into.
    • It is essential now that the judiciary stresses on ‘no tolerance’ to corruption and evasion in the enforcement of building rules and fire safety.
    • Beyond suspending a few officials and filing cases against the building owners, the role of sanctioning and enforcement authorities should also be looked into. Mandating compulsory insurance for all public buildings against fire risk and public liability can help.
    • With this, the insurer would require a reduction of risk and compliance with building plans.
    • It would thus bring about a change to the way architects and builders approach the question of safety.

WORLD’S RIVERS LOADED WITH ANTIBIOTICS WASTE

Why in news:

  • Rivers worldwide are polluted with antibiotics that exceed environmental safety thresholds by up to 300 times, according to research unveiled at a conference on meeting of environmental toxicologists in Helsinki.

Details:

  • In many locations, concentrations of the drugs used to fight off bacterial infection in people and livestock exceeded safety levels. Ciprofloxacin, a frontline treatment for intestinal and urinary tract infections, has surpassed the industry threshold
  • In Bangladesh, concentrations of another widely used antibiotic, metronidazole, were 300 times above the limit, the widespread presence of antibiotics not only impacts wildlife, but likely contributes to the problem of antimicrobial resistance.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the world is running out of antibiotics that still work, and has called on industry and governments to urgently develop a new generation of drugs. In 1920s, antibiotics have saved tens of millions of lives from pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis and a host of deadly bacteria.
  • Overuse and misuse of the drugs are thought to be the main causes of antimicrobial resistance. Safety limits were most frequently exceeded in Asia and Africa, but samples from Europe and the Americas showed that the problem is global in scope.
  • The countries with the highest levels of antibiotic river pollution were Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria.
  • Within Europe, one site in Austria had the biggest concentrations anywhere on the continent.

Background: / Antibiotic resistance

  • Antibiotic resistance arises when bacteria evolve mechanisms to withstand the drugs which are used to fight infection.
  • It is one of the most important public health issues currently. Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics).
  • Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”. As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.

Reasons for Antibiotic Resistance:

  • Caused by indiscriminate use, wrong dosage, not completing the treatment, poor hygiene, poor regulation, wrong incentives for doctors to prescribe them
  • Unchecked use of antibiotics in humans, agriculture and livestock.
  • Health system factors are also at fault. Doctors routinely receive compensation from pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists in exchange for antibiotic prescriptions. Infection control in hospitals is poorly monitored and could be improved
  • The problem of resistance is exacerbated by a wide range of fixed-dose combinations in the market, often without scientific or medical merit or evaluation.
  • Loose antimicrobials come without packaging and do not mention the name of the drug, its manufacturer, the date of manufacture, or the date of expiry. There is poor clinician awareness of the rationality and dosing of fixed-dose combinations
  • Environmental antibiotic pollution encourages the transfer of resistance genes to. In particular, waste water treatment plants serving antibiotic manufacturing facilities have been implicated in the transfer of resistance genes into humans and pose a serious threat to antibiotic effectiveness given the size of India’s pharmaceutical sector

Steps taken to deal with the menace:

  • Over-the-counter access to antibiotics is a problem, but regulations to restrict access have to be balanced against the need to maintain access for the significant proportion of the population that lacks access to doctors. Indeed, lack of access to effective and affordable antibiotics still kills more children in India than does drug resistance.
  • However, to prevent over-the-counter (OTC) sales of important antibiotics, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) implemented Schedule H1 that takes an important first step in that direction by introducing a stringent rule that prohibits medical stores from selling 24 key antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription
  • Further the ICMR has set up National Anti-Microbial Surveillance Network for understanding of underlying mechanisms of resistance
  • National Cell for Monitoring Anti-Microbial resistance has decided to start a Rs 30 Crore Surveillance Plan in tertiary care centres across the country
  • National Policy for Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance (2011), to address the problem of multi-drug resistance due to widespread and indiscriminate use of antimicrobial / antibiotic drugs in the country.
  • The salient features of the policy are as follows:

    • To review the current situation regarding manufacture, use and misuse

    • To initiate studies documenting prescriptions patterns & establish a monitoring system for the same.

    • To recommend the design for creation of a National Surveillance System for Antibiotic Resistance

    • To enforce and enhance regulatory provisions for use of antibiotics in human & veterinary and industrial use.

    • To recommend specific intervention measures such as rational use of antibiotics and antibiotic policies in hospitals

    • Diagnostic Methods pertaining to antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring

VARANASI HAS ONLY ONE AIR QUALITY MONITORING

Why in News:

  • Varanasi is being ranked as one among the top 3 most polluted cities in the world three years ago, a Right to Information request has found.

Details:

  • The Central Pollution Control Board’s 2015 dataset found Varanasi’s air quality to be
    among the most toxic in the country.
  • It had only one air quality monitor capable of measuring particulate matter 2.5 and particulate matter 10 levels. Out of 227 days measured in 2015, the city had zero ‘good- air’ days and this was attributed to the heavy levels of industrial pollution.
  • Biomass burning, vehicular emissions, brick kilns and diesel generator sets were also major contributors. Varanasi is one of the cities that is part of the National Clean Air Campaign, an initiative by the Union Environment Ministry to improve air quality in 100 cities by 20% at least by 2024. One of the commitments under this is to improve air quality monitoring.

National Clean Air Programme / Objective:

  • The overall objective of the programme includes comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
  • It also aims to augment the air quality monitoring network across the country and strengthen the awareness and capacity building activities.
  • Also, city-specific action plans are being formulated for 102 non-attainment cities that are considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
  • The Smart Cities programme will be used to launch the NCAP in the 43 smart cities falling in the list of the 102 non-attainment cities.
  • Target:

  • It proposes a tentative national target of 20%-30% reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
  • However, the government has stressed that NCAP is a scheme, not a legally binding document with any specified penal action against erring cities.
  • Implementation:

    • NCAP talks of a collaborative, multi-scale and cross-sectoral coordination between central ministries, state governments and local bodies. The CPCB will execute the nation-wide programme for the prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution within the framework of the NCAP. NCAP will be “institutionalised” by respective ministries and will be organised through inter-sectoral groups that will also include the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health, NITI Aayog, and experts from various fields.

    Other features of NCAP

    • Increasing the number of monitoring stations in the country including rural monitoring stations, Technology support
    • Emphasis on awareness and capacity building initiatives Setting up of certification agencies for monitoring equipment Source apportionment studies
    • Emphasis on enforcement Specific sectoral interventions.

    National Ambient Air Quality Standards

    • National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the standards for ambient air quality set by the Central Pollution Control Board that is applicable nationwide.
    • The CPCB has this power of setting the standards given by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The main objective of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 is to prevent and control Air Pollution. Recent industrialization and increased number of air polluting sources has polluted the environment with toxic materials which not only harm human health but are also a threat to the eco system in general.
    • In order to cope up with deteriorating air quality, Government of India enacted Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which is an umbrella act for the protection of all aspects of the environment.

    The main functions of CPCB are:

    • To advise the appropriate government regarding improvement of the quality of air and the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution. To execute and plan a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution. To carry out due diligence related to prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
    • To provide annual standards for the quality of air.
    • To compile, collect and publish technical and statistical data related to air pollution.

    180 NATIONS AGREE ON A NEW UN ACCORD TO CURB EXPORT OF PLASTIC WASTE

    Why in News:

    • Around 180 governments agreed on a new UN accord to regulate the export of plastic waste, some eight million tonnes of which ends up in the oceans each year.

    Details:

    • The 1,400 representatives, meeting in Geneva reached the agreement after 12 days’ discussion on what UN Environment Programme (UNEP) called “one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues”.

    Basel Convention

    • The Geneva meeting amended the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of hazardous wastes to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework. Parties to the Basel Convention have reached agreement on a legally-binding, globally-reaching mechanism for managing plastic waste, the new amendment would empower developing countries to refuse “dumping plastic waste” by others.
    • Developed countries like the US and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country. “Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean,” Plastic waste pollution has reached “epidemic proportions” with an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic now found in the oceans. The meeting also undertook to eliminate two toxic chemical groups — Dicofol and Perfluorooctanoic Acid, plus related compounds.
    • The latter has been used in a wide variety of industrial and domestic applications including non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, as well as carpets, paper and paints.
    • Even though the U.S. and a few others have not signed the accord, they cannot ship plastic waste to countries that are on board with the deal.

    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

    • It is an UN agency, it coordinates UN’s environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the UN Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) in 1972. HQ: Nairobi, Kenya. Its activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy. UNEP is also one of several Implementing Agencies for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol.

    BELLANDUR LAKE IS DRYING UP

    Why in News:

    • Bellandur Lake, the city’s most polluted waterbody, is drying up. In the past few days, the water level has reduced with the lakebed being visible in some places

    Why the lake count has started to decrease?

    • The terrain on which Bengaluru is situated allowed for the natural formation of lakes. These lakes, were at one time, the main sources of water for the city.
    • The essential nature of lakes to life has even gave rise to development of a sacred practice called Karaga. The
    • city has lost an estimated 79% of water bodies and 80% of its tree cover from the baseline year of 1973. As the city grew, it faced a dilemma. If the additional population was to be accommodated, it would require more land. If it decides to protect all its lakes, it must expand far beyond its already extensive boundaries, thereby hurting the interests of farming. In this context, the city chose to hurt the lake beds instead.

    What did the state government do?

    • Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) is currently the custodian of the water body for its rejuvenation.
    • But BDA feels that there is no point in restoring a lake if sewage water  is not stopped entering the lake.
    • Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board is in charge of diversion of sewage water, which clearly it has not been able to do.
    • Meanwhile, the response of the state government too has been piecemeal.
    • But without addressing the question of how many lakes a modern city could sustain, they typically will end up with policies that are considered impractical by those who see cities as engines of growth.

    ONLY 10 OF 100 SEWAGE PROJECTS ON GANGA HAVE BEEN COMPLETED

    Why in News:

    • Only 10 of the 100 sewage infrastructure projects commissioned after 2015 have been finished under the Namami Gange mission, according to records.

    Details:

    • Commissioning of sewage treatment plants (STP) and laying sewer lines are at the heart of the mission to clean the Ganga.
    • Nearly ₹23,000 crore has been sanctioned of the ₹28,000 crore outlay for sewage management work.
    • River-front development, cleaning Ghats and removing trash from the river — the cosmetic side of the mission — make up about for ₹1,200 crore of the mission outlay.
    • Uttar Pradesh, responsible for about three-fourths of the inadequately treated industrial waste and municipal sewage, had 18 pre-2015 STP and sewage infrastructure projects commissioned. The incomplete projects are reflected in the river quality. None of the towns through which the Ganga courses through has water fit for bathing or drinking, according to water monitoring reports by the State and Central Pollution Control Board.

    Hybrid Annuity-PPP model

    • The Union Cabinet had approved to Hybrid Annuity-PPP model with 100% central sector funding. Under this model, development, operation and maintenance of STPs will be undertaken by Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) created by winning bidder at local level

    National Mission for Clean Ganga

    • NMCG is a river cleaning project.
    • NMCG is the implementation wing of National Council for Rejuvenation, Protection and Management of River Ganga
    • It was established in 2011 as a registered society under Societies Registration Act, 1860.
    • It has a two-tier management structure and comprises of Governing Council and Executive Committee.
    • The Union Cabinet has recently approved changes allowing the National Mission for Clean Ganga to fine those responsible for polluting the river. Earlier this power was vested solely with the Central Pollution Control Board. The power to fine the polluters is derived from the Environment Protection Act.

    INDIA’S CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS UP 5%

    • India emitted 2,299 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018, a 4.8% rise from last year, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). India’s emissions growth this year was higher than that of the United States and China — the two biggest emitters in the world — and this was primarily due to a rise in coal consumption.together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand.
    • India’s per capita emissions were about 40% of the global average and contributed 7% to the global carbon dioxide burden. The United States, the largest emitter, was responsible for 14%.
    • As per its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India has promised to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 2030, compared to 2005 levels
    • It has also committed to having 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and, as part of this, install 100 GW of solar power by 2022
    • However, the IEA report, showed that India’s energy intensity improvement declined 3% from last year even as its renewable energy installations increased 6% from last year.
    • Global energy consumption in 2018 increased at nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy and higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of theWorld
    • The United States had the largest increase in oil and gas demand worldwide. Gas consumption jumped 10% from the previous year, the fastest increase since the beginning of IEA records in 1971
    • India needs at least $2.5trillion (Rs. 150 trillion ) to implement its climate pledge, around 71% of the combined required spending for all developing country pledges.

    International Energy Agency (IEA)

    • Autonomous intergovernmentalorganization
    • Established in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oilcrisis
    • The IEA was initially dedicated to responding to physical disruptions in the supply of oil, as well as serving as an information source on statistics about the international oil market and other energy sectors.
    • TheIEAactsasapolicyadvisertoitsmemberstates,butalsoworkswithnon-member countries, especially China, India, andRussia
    • India has become an associate member ofIEA.
    • Presently it has 30 member countries includingIndia.
    • The Agency’s mandate has broadened to focus on the “3Es” of effectual energy policy:
      • Energy security,
      • Economic development, and
      • Environmental protection
    • TheIEAhasabroadroleinpromotingalternateenergysources(includingrenewable energy), rational energy policies, and multinational energy technology co-operation

    Reports Published:

    • Global Energy & Co2 Status
    • Tracking Energy Transitions
    • World Energy Outlook

    STUBBLE BURNING MENACE EMERGES IN KUTTANAD

    • Paddy fields in Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala, look black these days with some of them emitting plumes of smoke. Relatively a new phenomenon in this part of the region, setting paddy fields on fire after harvest by ‘padashekhara samitis’ and farmers is emerging as a major cause for concern.
    • It is posing serious health and environmental hazards. After the harvest of the puncha crop (first crop) began last month in Kuttanad, Fire Services and Rescue personnel and fire tenders have been pressed into action several times after the blaze went out of control, threatening to engulf even houses, life and property.
    • In Punjab or Haryana, residue burning is rampant after harvest, resulting in heavy smog choking the region every year.

    What Is Stubble Burning?

    • Stubble burning is, the act of removing paddy crop residue from the field to sow wheat.
    • It’s usually required in areas that use the ‘combine harvesting’ method which leaves crop
    • residue behind. It is mainly carried out in Haryana and Punjab.
    • Open burning of husk produces harmful smoke that causes pollution. Open burning of husk is of incomplete combustion in nature. Hence large amount of toxic pollutants are emitted in the atmosphere. Pollutants contain harmful gases like Methane, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile organic compound (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

    What is combine harvesting?

    • Combines are machines that harvest, thresh i.e separate the grain, and also clean the separated grain, all at once.
    • The problem, however, is that the machine doesn’t cut close enough to the ground, leaving
    • stubble behind that the farmer has no use for.
    • There is pressure on the farmer to sow the next crop in time for it to achieve a full yield. The quickest and cheapest solution, therefore, is to clear the field by burning the stubble.

    Why do Farmers Burn?

    • Cost Factor: The straw management equipment is costly and process is time consuming. Also, the cost of stubble management is not taken into account while determining the minimum support price (MSP).
    • Increasing mechanization of agriculture: Stubble problem was not as severe when paddy was harvested manually because the farmers use to cut it as close to the ground as possible. Due to mechanization the crop residue that remains in the field is of larger quantity;
    • Labour costs are very high now
    • Combine harvester machines to tide over the labour scarcity- The machine appears to be the key reason behind the problem because it only reaps the grains, leaving stalks or stubble of around 40 cm. Those who want fodder have to get the stubble removed manually or use specialised machines to do the job. But that is costly. For every 0.4 ha of wheat crop, the cost of renting a combine harvester is just Rs 800. Once the machine has harvested, the cost of getting the stubble removed is Rs 3,500/ha.
    • Time Factor: Delay in sowing means yield decline, this leaves very little time to clear the farm for sowing.
    • Monoculture of wheat and paddy. In Andhra, bean gram and black gram are planted while rice stubble decomposes on its own. Unlike wheat stalks that are used as animal fodder, the paddy straw has high silica content that animals can’t digest.
    • Since farmers need to sow wheat within a fortnight of harvesting paddy, they burn the straw to save time, labour and money.

    Measures taken by government:

    • In the budget of the 2018-19, the central government had announced a special scheme’ to encourage farmers in these states to shift to alternative ways of dealing with agricultural waste. In pursuance of the announcement in the budget, the government announced a central sector scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue. The scheme provides for in-situ crop residue management machinery to the farmers on subsidy, the establishment of Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs) of in-situ crop residue management machinery and undertaking Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities for creating awareness among farmers to avoid stubble burning.
    • The Union Ministry of Power has brought out a policy for biomass utilization for power generation through co-firing in pulverized coal-fired boilers. The Ministry of Power has decided that the States of Haryana and Punjab shall issue bids for all coal based Thermal Power Plants to use a minimum of 5 per cent of biomass pellets and up to 10 per cent to be co-fired with coal.
    • The government is also taking steps to popularize zero tillage farming where the crop seed will be sown through drillers without prior land preparation and disturbing the soil where previous crop stubbles are present.

    Sunstroke claims three lives in Kerala

    Sunburn marks were reportedly found on the men, but autopsy reports are awaited to ascertain the cause of death.

    Though a third death reportedly due to sunstroke was reported from Pathanamthitta, it was not conformed.

    Sunburn

    It is a form of radiation burn that affects living tissue, such as skin, that results from an overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, commonly from the sun.

    Common symptoms in humans and other animals include red or reddish skin that is hot to the touch, pain, general fatigue, and mild dizziness.

    An excess of UV radiation can be life-threatening in extreme cases. Excessive UV radiation is the leading cause of primarily non-malignant skin tumors.
    Sunburn is an inflammatory response in the skin triggered by direct DNA damage by UV radiation.

    When the skin cells’ DNA is overly damaged by UV radiation, type I cell-death is triggered and the skin is replaced.

    What is a heatwave?

    The Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) defines a heatwave as an excess of five to six degrees C over the maximum daily temperature (over a 30-year period) of less than 40 degree C or an excess of four to five degree C over a normal historical maximum temperature of over 40 degree C.

    • The IMD declares a heat wave when the actual maximum temperature is above 45 degree C.

    How heat waves are formed?

    • Heatwaves are caused by a system of higher atmospheric pressure, whereby air from upper levels of the atmosphere descends and rotates out.
    • As it descends, it compresses, increasing the temperature.
    • The outward flow, meanwhile, makes it difficult for other systems to enter the area, and the large size and slow speed of the hot air causes the heat wave to remain for days or even weeks. The longer the system stays in an area, the hotter the area becomes. The high-pressure inhibits winds, making them faint to nonexistent.
    • Because the high-pressure system also prevents clouds from entering the region, sunlight can become punishing, heating up the system even more.
    • The combination of all of these factors come together to create the exceptionally hot temperatures we call a heat wave.

    India Bans Import of Plastic Waste

    • Taking an important step towards tackling menace of plastic waste, the government has put a complete ban on import of solid plastic waste/scrap into the country. India every day generates 25,940 tonnes of such waste.

    About:

    • The country has now completely prohibited the import of solid plastic waste by amending the Hazardous Waste (Management & Trans-boundary Movement) Rules on March 1,” said an environment ministry official. The Rules were amended, keeping in view the huge gap between waste generation and recycling capacity in the country and also India’s commitment to completely phase-out single-use plastic by 2022.
    • Under other amendments in the rules the ministry made a provision where white category (practically non-polluting or very less polluting) industries will have to hand over their hazardous wastes generated in their units to authorized users, waste collectors or disposal facilities.
    • The white category of industries contains 36 industrial sectors such as air-coolers, air-conditioners, biscuits making, metal caps, hand-loom a chalk-making among others. Besides, the amendments brought certain changes in trans-boundary movement of electrical and electronic components and silk waste. Referring to those amendments, the environment ministry said, “Exporters of silk waste have now been given exemption from requiring permission from the ministry.”
    • Similarly, electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, if found defective can now be imported back into the country, within a year of export, without obtaining permission from the environment ministry.
    • It has been done keeping into consideration the ‘ease of doing business’ and boosting ‘Make in India’ initiative by simplifying the procedures under the Rules, while at the same time upholding the principles of sustainable development and ensuring minimal impact on the environment.

    Background:

    • Earlier, such import was partly banned as India did not prohibit it in the Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Besides, import of plastic waste/scrap was also allowed by the Export Oriented Units (EOUs) which used to procure it from abroad as post-recycling resources.
    • After a ban by China few years ago, India had emerged as one of the world’s largest importers of the plastic waste. The provision of partial ban used to be reportedly misused by many companies on the pretext of being in the SEZ.
    • Since there is no adequate capacity of recycling of plastic waste in the country, a huge quantity of such hazardous waste remains uncollected causing substantial damage to soil and water bodies. According to a study, conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), total 10,376 tonnes (40%) out of 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste per day remain uncollected in the country.

    IQ AIR AIRVISUAL AND GREENPEACE REPORT

    • Gurugram led all cities in pollution levels in 2018 according to data released by IQ Air AirVisual and Greenpeace. Three other Indian cities joined Faisalabad, Pakistan, in the top five.

    About:

    • The Greenpeace and AirVisual analysis of air pollution readings from 3,000 cities around the world found that 64% exceed the World Health Organization’s annual exposure guideline for PM2.5 fine particulate matter – tiny airborne particles, about a 40th of the width of a human hair, that are linked to a wide range of health problems.
    • Every single measured city in the Middle East and Africa exceeds the WHO guidelines, as well as 99% of cities in south Asia and 89% in east Asia. Since many cities, particularly in Africa, do not have up-to-date public air quality information, the actual number of cities exceeding PM2.5 thresholds is expected to be much higher, the report authors said.
    • The report is based on 2018 air quality data from public monitoring sources, such as government monitoring networks, supplemented with validated data from outdoor IQAir AirVisual monitors operated by private individuals and organisations.

    India:

    • India dominates the top of the list. The tech hub of Gurugram, a city just to the south-west of Delhi which was previously known as Gurgaon, and where international firms including Uber and TripAdvisor have headquarters, ranked the most polluted in the world with an average of more than 135 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre (µg/m3) throughout the year. Delhi is ranked 11th.
    • Twenty-two of the world’s 30 worst cities for air pollution are in India, according to a new report, with Delhi again ranked the world’s most polluted capital.
    • Faisalabad in Pakistan is ranked third with 130 (µg/m3), with Lahore 10th. Dhaka in Bangladesh is ranked 17th. The only other country to feature in the top 30 is China, which appears five times, including Hotan in the western Xinjiang province (eighth) and the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar (19th). The highest-ranking capital cities are Delhi, Dhaka and Kabul in Afghanistan (52nd). The Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, is the most polluted European city with an annual average of 38.4 µg/m3. London is the 48th most polluted capital with 12.0 µg/m3 and Washington DC 56th with 9.2 µg/m3.

    South Asia:

    • The problem is particularly pronounced in South Asia. South Asian countries, along with China, are the worst affected, air pollution is a global issue.
    • Eighteen of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities are in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, including the major population centers of Lahore, Delhi and Dhaka, which placed 10th, 11th and 17th respectively last year. Climate change “is making the effects of air pollution worse by changing atmospheric conditions and amplifying forest fires,” the report said, while noting that the key driver of global warming, burning fossil fuels, is also a major cause of dirty air.
    • What is clear is that the common cause across the globe is the burning of fossil fuels coal, oil and gas worsened by the cutting down of our forests.

    Air Pollution Due to Residue Burning IFPRI Study

    In News

    • Air pollution due to crop residue burning in northern India causes an estimated economic loss of $30 billion annually, and is a leading risk factor of acute respiratory infections, especially among children, according to a study unveiled by IFPRI.

    About:

    • Researchers from the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and partner institutes found that living in districts with air pollution from intense crop residue burning (CRB) is a leading risk factor for acute respiratory infection (ARI), particularly in children less than five years of age.
    • To be published in the upcoming edition of the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study analysed health data from more than 250,000 individuals of all ages residing in rural and urban areas in India. It used NASA satellite data on fire activity to estimate the health impact of living in areas with intense crop burning by comparing them with areas not affected by CRB.
    • The study that estimates for the first time the health and economic costs of CRB in northern India also found that CRB leads to an estimated economic loss of over $30 billion annually. “Poor air quality is a recognised global public health epidemic, with levels of airborne particulate matter in Delhi spiking to 20 times the World Health Organization’s safety threshold during certain days.
    • They also examined other factors that could contribute to poor respiratory health such as firecracker burning during Diwali (it usually coincides with time of CRB) and motor vehicle density.

    Findings:

    • Among other factors, smoke from the burning of agricultural crop residue by farmers in Haryana and Punjab especially contributes to Delhi’s poor air, increasing the risk of ARI three-fold for those living in districts with intense crop burning.
    • The study also estimated the economic cost of exposure to air pollution from crop residue burning at $30 billion or nearly Rs 2 lakh crore annually for the three north Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. The researchers observed that as crop burning increased in the northern Indian state of Haryana, respiratory health worsened. Health was measured by the frequency of reported hospital visits for ARI symptoms.
    • Economic losses owing to exposure to air pollution from firecracker burning are estimated to be around USD 7 billion or nearly Rs 50 thousand crore a year.
    • In five years, the economic loss due to burning of crop residue and firecrackers is estimated to be USD 190 billion, or nearly 1.7 per cent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP),.
    • “Severe air pollution during winter months in northern India has led to a public health emergency. Crop burning will add to pollution and increase healthcare costs over time if immediate steps are not taken to reverse the situation.
    • The negative health effects of crop burning will also lower the productivity of residents and may lead to long-term adverse impacts on the economy and health.
    • The study shows that it is not only the residents of Delhi, but also the women, childrenand men of rural Haryana who are the first victims of crop residue burning.
    • Much of the public discussion on ill-effects of crop residue burning ignores this immediately affected vulnerable population.
    • Even though air pollution has been linked to numerous health outcomes, and respiratory infections are a leading cause of death and disease in developing countries, none of the existing studies have directly linked crop burning to ARI.

    Way Forward:

    • This study suggests that targeted government initiatives to improve crop disposal practices are worthy investments.
    • Programmes and policies must simultaneously address indoor and outdoor pollution through a possible combination of bans and agricultural subsidies.
    • Other important interventions for improving respiratory health are increasing household access to clean cooking fuels, electricity, and improved drainage systems.
    • Researchers noted that crop burning is a widespread global practice and in India is concentrated in northwest India, though has spread to other regions of the country in the past decade as new crop harvesting technology is adopted.
    • Farmers try to maximise their yields by planting the next crop as soon as possible after the previous crop has been harvested (generally wheat after rice).
    • To quickly clear the field for the next crop, they burn the leftover stubble rather than using the traditional method of clearing it by hand.

    Inkjet Solar Panels set to Reshape Green Energy

    Perovskites-coated cells are light, Flexible and Inexpensive:

    • Perovskites — a new generation of cheaper solar cells — that makes it possible to produce solar panels under lower temperatures, thus sharply reducing costs.
    • Perovskite solar cells have the potential to address the world energy poverty
    • Solar panels coated with the mineral are light, flexible, efficient, inexpensive and come in varying hues and degrees of transparency.
    • They can easily be fixed to almost any surface — be it laptop, car, drone, spacecraft or building — to produce electricity, including in the shade or indoors.
    • Though the excitement is new, perovskite has been known to science since at least the 1830s, when it was first identified by German mineralogist Gustav Rose while prospecting in the Ural Mountains and named after Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski.

    ‘Bull’s Eye’:

    • In the following decades, synthesising the atomic structure of perovskite became easier. But it was not until 2009 that Japanese researcher Tsutomu Miyasaka discovered that perovskites can be used to form photovoltaic solar cells.
    • Initially the process was complicated and required ultra-high temperatures, so only materials that could withstand extreme heat — like glass — could be coated with perovskite cells.

    Self-sufficient Buildings:

    • The Swedish construction group Skanska is testing the cutting-edge panels on the facade of one of its buildings in Warsaw. It also inked a licencing partnership with Saule for exclusive right to incorporate the technology in its projects in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
    • “More or less transparent, the panels also respond to design requirements. Thanks to their flexibility and varying tints, there’s no need to add any extra architectural elements.

    India’s Solar Policy:

    • About 70% of India’s electricity generation capacity is from fossil fuels. India is largely dependent on fossil fuel imports to meet its energy demands.
      By 2030, India’s dependence on energy imports is expected to exceed 53% of the country’s total energy consumption. Greater import dependence is a a threat to India’s energy security as it introduces global market volatility into the mix.

    Solar Energy:

    • As per World Energy Outlook Report 2015, India has substantial solar potential around 750 gigawatts (GW) (based on the assumption that 3% of wasteland in each state can be used for solar power projects, plus an assessment of the potential for rooftop solar). This represents almost three times India’s total installed power capacity today.
    • Solar capacity region wise:
      The solar resource is strongest in the north and northwest of the country (Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir), but the potential is also considerably high in several other states, including. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh.

    India’s renewable energy target:

    • Target: 175GW from renewable energy sources by 2022 · Break up:100 GW from solar, 60 GW from the wind, 10 GW from biomass and 5 GW from small hydroelectric projects. · 100GW = 60 GW of utility-scale projects (both solar PV and CSP) like solar parks + 40 GW of rooftop solar applications for commercial users and households, together with some small-scale schemes and off-grid capacity
      PV: Photo Voltaic CSP: Concentrated Solar Power
    • Note: World’s total installed solar power capacity was 181 GW in 2014. If India achieves this target, it would make it a global leader in renewable energy.
      National Solar Mission or Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM)
      It was launched on 11th January 2010 Apex ministry: Ministry of New and
      Renewable Energy (MNRE).
      · India’s Solar capacity in 2010: 17.8MW
    • Grid connected solar power in 2016: 8GW

    Objectives of JNNSM:

    • To establish India as a global leader in solar energy
    • To promote ecologically sustainable growth while addressing India’s energy security challenges
    • Short term: To create enabling environment for penetration of solar technology throughout the country Mission’s target was revised in 2015,
      Initial Target: 20GW
      Revised Target: 100GW
      Target is to be achieved in 3 phases,
      • 1st Phase: 2010-13
      • 2nd Phase: 2013–17
      • 3rd Phase: 2017–22

      At each stage, progress will be reviewed and roadmap for future targets will be adopted.
      Note: We are currently in 2nd phase of the mission

    Scientists Warn of Climate ‘Time Bomb’

    • Future generations face an environmental “time bomb” as the world’s groundwater systems take decades to respond to the present-day impact of climate change.
    • Found underground in cracks in soil, sand and rock, groundwater is the largest useable source of freshwater on the planet and more than two billion people rely on it to drink or irrigate crops.
    • It is slowly replenished through rainfall — a process known as recharge — and discharges into lakes, rivers or oceans to maintain an overall balance between water in and water out.
    • Groundwater reserves are already under pressure as the global population explodes and crop production rises in lockstep.
    • But the extreme weather events such as drought and record rainfall — both made worse by our heating planet — could have another long-lasting impact on how quickly reserves replenish, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change.
    • An international team of researchers used computer modelling of groundwater datasets to put a timescale on how reserves may respond to the changing climate.
    • “Groundwater is out of sight and out of mind, this massive hidden resource that people don’t think about much yet it underpins global food production. The effect we are having now is going to have this really long lag-time in terms of climate change. There’s a memory in the system — and the memory is very large in some places.
    • Cuthbert and his team found that only half of all groundwater supplies are likely to fully replenish or re-balance within the next 100 years — potentially leading to shortages in drier areas.
    • “This could be described as an environmental time bomb because any climate change impacts on recharge occurring now, will only fully impact the base flow to rivers and wetlands a long time later.

    Massive lags:

    • The process through which rainwater is filtered through bedrock and accumulated underground can take centuries and varies greatly by region.
    • As climate change delivers longer droughts and bigger superstorms, the extremes of rainfall become more pronounced, impacting groundwater reserves for generations to come.
    • The team found that reserves in arid areas took far longer — several thousand years in some cases — to respond to alterations in climate than reserves in more humid parts.
    • Parts of the groundwater that’s underneath the Sahara currently is still responding to climate change from 10,000 years ago when it was much wetter there. The team said their research showed one of the hidden impacts of climate change, and called for immediate action to ensure future generations aren’t left high and dry.
    • Some parts of the world might get wetter, some might get drier but it’s not just the overall amount of rainfall that is important, it is also how intense the rainfall is.
    • Climate science says that changes in rainfall intensity are very significant for groundwater.

    Giant Cavity in Antarctic Glacier Signals Rapid Decay

    The 300-metre-tall gap can hold 14 billion Tonnes of ice:

    • NASA scientists have discovered a gigantic cavity, almost 300 metres tall, growing at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, indicating rapid decay of the ice sheet and acceleration in global sea levels due to climate change.
    • The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, highlight the need for detailed observations of Antarctic glaciers’ undersides in calculating how fast sea levels will rise in response to warming.
    • Researchers expected to find some gaps between ice and bedrock at Thwaites’ bottom, where ocean water could flow in and melt the glacier from below.
    • The size and explosive growth rate of the hole, however, is surprised. It is big enough to have contained 14 billion tonnes of ice, and most of that ice melted over the last three years.It has been suspected for years that Thwaites was not tightly attached to the bedrock beneath. The cavity was revealed by ice-penetrating radar in NASA’s Operation Ice Bridge, an airborne campaign beginning in 2010 that studies connections between the polar regions and the global climate.

    18 Indian Institutions to Study Nitrogen Pollution

    Context:

    • Eighteen research institutions in India are among a group of 50 institutions — called the South Asian Nitrogen Hub (SANH) — in the United Kingdom and South Asia that have secured £20 million (about Rs. 200 crore) from the U.K. government to assess and study the quantum and impact of “nitrogen pollution” in South Asia.

    Details:

    • 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”, and it may be polluting and even exert a potent greenhouse gas (heat trapping) effect.

    Major Impacts:

    • “So far, we have focussed on carbon dioxide and its impact on global warming. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide but isn’t as prevalent in the atmosphere. However, this is poised to grow,” said N. Raghuram, Chairman, International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) and Professor of Biotechnology at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi.
    • “In the future, reactive nitrogen pollution will be a matter of significant global discussion and, unlike carbon, India and South Asia cannot wake up at the last minute, realising that it has no updated, scientific assessment of its inventory.”

    Conclusion:

    • Last year, Dr. Raghuram led a consortium of researchers who assessed trends in nitrogen emissions in India, where NOx emissions grew at 52% from 1991 to 2001 and 69% from 2001 to 2011. The SANH will study the impacts of the different forms of pollution to form a “coherent picture” of the nitrogen cycle. In particular, it will look at nitrogen in agriculture in eight countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives.

    Green Land ICE melts four times faster in a decade: Study

    In News:

    • Greenland’s melting ice, which causes sea levels to rise, disappeared four times faster in 2013 than in 2003 and is noticeable across the Arctic island, not just on glaciers.

    Expalined:

    • “While 111 cubic kilometres of ice disappeared per year in 2003, 10 years later this figure had almost quadrupled to 428 cubic km,
    • These are notable and surprising changes we are seeing in the ice melt pattern
    • Until now, most of Greenland’s ice melt was observed on the ice cap, predominantly on the glaciers in the island’s northwest and southeast. But most of the ice loss from 2003 to 2013 was from Greenland’s southwest region, which is largely devoid of large glaciers.
    • The ice now appeared to be melting from the surface mass, “melting inland from the coastline. That means that in the southwestern part of Greenland, growing rivers of water are streaming into the ocean.
    • We knew we had one big problem with increasing rates of ice discharge by some large outlet glaciers. But now we recognise a second serious problem: Increasingly, large amounts of ice mass are going to leave as meltwater, as rivers that flow into the sea this would have major implications, causing additional sea level rise.
    • The melting ice observed in the study is caused by rising land temperatures, and in part, the fact that the ice comes into contact with waters that are increasingly warmer
    • As the atmosphere’s temperature gradually rises, we will immediately notice an acceleration of the ice melt

    Greenland:

    • Greenland is the largest island in the world. Its northerly location, at the point where the Atlantic meets the Arctic Ocean, means that Greenland is surrounded principally by cold ocean currents so the coasts are constantly being cooled.
    • This, combined with the radiation of cold from the inland ice, gives Greenland its arctic climate. The ice cap or inland ice covers 1,833,900 square km, equivalent to 85 percent of Greenland’s total area, and extends 2,500 km (1,553 miles) from north to south and up to 1,000 km from east to west. At its center, the ice can be up to 3 km thick, representing 10 percent of the world’s total fresh water reserves. If all the ice were to melt, the world’s oceans would rise seven meters.
    • Denmark contributes two thirds of Greenland’s budget revenue, the rest coming mainly from fishing. Potential oil, gas and rare earth mineral reserves have attracted prospecting firms.
    • The USA has long seen Greenland as strategically important and established a radar base at Thule at the start of the Cold War
    • The Northern Lights appear all year round, but they are most impressive in the autumn months. They can also be seen in March and they “disappear” in the light summer nights.
    • The midnight sun is another magnificent Greenland phenomenon which is encountered north of the Arctic Circle. Daylight can be enjoyed round the clock, depending on how far north you are.

    No Pause in Climate change: Study

    Context:

    • The research says the world’s oceans are heating up at an accelerating pace as global warming threatens a diverse range of marine life and a major food supply for the planet

    Details:

    • Ocean heating is a very important indicator of climate change and more rapid warming would only threaten our biodiversity and human life.
    • The study says about 93% of excess heat, trapped around the Earth by greenhouse gases that come from the burning of fossil fuels, accumulates in the world’s oceans.
    • Various scientific models have predicted that the temperature of the top 2,000 metres of the world’s oceans will rise 0.78 degrees Celsius by the end of the century if no measures were taken to reduce greenhouse gases
    • The thermal expansion, water swelling as it warms, would raise sea level 30 cm, above any sea level rise from melting glaciers and ice sheets.

    Bid to curb Pollution, Govt Launched NCAP Scheme for 102 Cities

    Context:

    • Looking beyond national capital which invariably gets wider attention on critical issue of air pollution, the Centre launched a comprehensive pan-India air pollution abatement scheme for 102 cities, National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

    Details:

    • The Centre has formally unveiled details of its mid-term (five year) pollution reduction target and strategies with keeping states into the loop for implementation and bringing global multilateral agencies on board for technical support.
    • It has a target to reduce air pollution by 20-30% by 2024, taking 2017 as a base year.
    • Contrary to demand of environmentalists, the pollution reduction target in these cities will, howver, not be legally binding on respective states, despite being collaborative and participatory in nature.
    • And the programme will be linked with existing programmes of the National Action Plan on Climate Change and other other existing initiatives such as implementation of smart cities schemes in 43 cities. It will be implemented through city specific air pollution abatement action plans for all non-attainment cities, similar to the comprehensive action plan for Delhi.All cities will have details of time-bound action plans and emergency measures such as graded response action plan (GRAP) on the basis of Air Quality Index (AQI). It will be operationalised through inter-sectoral groups which include ministries of road transport and highways, petroleum and natural gas, renewable energy and urban affairs among others.

    Gas Hydrates Produced Under ‘SPACE’ Conditions

    Context:

    • Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have experimentally shown that methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) can exist as gas hydrates at temperatures and pressures seen in interstellar atmosphere.

    Details:

    • In terrestrial conditions, gas hydrates are formed naturally under the sea bed and glaciers under high pressure, low temperature conditions.
    • The researchers have stimulated the conditions of deep space (very low pressure and temperature) to produce methane and CO2 hydrates in the lab
    • It is been inferred from the produced carbon dioxide hydrate that there could be high possibility of sequestering or storing carbon dioxide as hydrates by taking advantage of ice exiting in environmental conditions favourable for hydrate formation.
    • It is said that in these environmental conditions, the carbon dioxide will have enough energy to interact with ice, and hence both molecules will have enough mobility to allow interaction to form carbon dioxide hydrate.
    • It is further said that CO2 hydrate is thermodynamically more stable than methane hydrate. So if methane hydrate has remained stable for millions of years under the sea bed, it would be possible to sequester gaseous CO2 as solid hydrate under the sea bed

    About Gas Hydrates:

    • Gas hydrate is a solid ice-like form of water that contains gas molecules in its molecular cavities. In nature, this gas is mostly methane. Methane gas hydrate is stable at the seafloor at water depths beneath about 500 m. The gas hydrate stability zone extends into the seafloor sediments down to a depth where temperature exceeds gas hydrate stability, usually some 10s to 100s of meters beneath the seafloor.
    • Large quantities of gas hydrates exist on the world’s continental margins. Methane from gas hydrates may constitute a future source of natural gas.
    • Gas hydrates are also important for seafloor stability studies, because “melting” gas hydrate may cause seafloor “land” slides. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Methane released from gas hydrate may therefore play a significant role in climate change.
    • It is important to distinguish between the climate change aspects of methane released naturally from gas hydrates and those of methane produced from gas hydrates for energy use. By burning methane or using it in fuel cells, the methane is converted to CO2. – just like burning coal or oil.
    • Combustion of methane, however is more CO2 efficient than that of any other hydrocarbon, e.g., twice as efficient as burning coal. Hence, using methane from gas hydrate as an energy resource would be, compared to other hydrocarbons, relatively climate friendly.

    Sale BAN on BS – IV Vehicles from 2020

    • The Supreme Court has ordered a ban on sales of vehicles compliant with BS-IV emission norms in India starting 1st April 2020. Thus, India will be moving directly on from BS-IV emission norms to BS-VI in 2020, skipping BS-V norms.

    About:

    • The decision, taken by a three-judge bench implies that only BS-VI compliant vehicles will be sold in the country starting 1st April 2020.
    • The need of the hour was to move to a cleaner fuel.
    • It is an established principle of law that the right to life, as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, includes the right to a decent environment. It includes within its ambit the right of a citizen to live in a clean environment.
    • Bharat Stage-IV emission norms came in to force in India on 1st April 2017, which was also the apex court’s deadline for a ban on BS-III compliant vehicles. Bharat stage emission standards are standards instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from motor vehicles.

    Significance:

    • The difference between BS-IV and BS-VI is in the amount of sulphur in the fuel with the latter estimated to bring down sulphur content by almost 80 per cent.
    • Once BS-VI emission norms are enforced, there will be a 68% improvement in PM 2.5. It is a vast improvement and the faster it is brought, the better it is.
    • The PM limit from its new BS-VI diesel vehicles is lower by 82% compared to the BS-IV diesel vehicles. Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution.
    • Another relevant outcome of the new BS-VI compatible engines is that there has been a drastic decline in NOx emissions level by 68%, narrowing the gap between petrol and diesel emissions.
    • The Supreme Court order on the ban on the sale of BS-VI compliant vehicles has come well in advance and hopefully, the transition to higher emission standards will be smoother than the last time. During the last transition from BS-III to BS-IV in 2017, several automobile manufacturers faced heavy losses owing to huge stockpiles of outdated vehicles that remained after BS-IV emission norms were put into force.
    • Vehicle makers will be able to plan well ahead to meet the new norm. As the verdict has come at a fairly advanced time.
    • It gives enough time to automakers to plan their inventories unlike the BS-IV situation where it came almost closer to the date.
    • As other developing countries such as China have already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro VI emission norms a while ago. So, India is lagging behind even after implementation of BS VI norms.
    • India is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 33-35% by 2030. The court’s verdict is being hailed as a step forward in that direction.

    Background:

    • In 2016, the Centre had announced that the country would skip BS-V norms altogether and adopt BS-VI norms by 2020.
    • The government has set up BS emission standard to control the degrading air quality. BS-VI, which is based on the European regulations (Euro norms) and originally to be introduced in 2024, has been now rescheduled to 2020, instead. Thus, the country will move directly from BS-IV to BS-VI.
    • Bharat Stage emissions standards are emissions standards instituted by the Government of the Republic of India that regulate the output of certain major air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter, sulphur oxides by vehicles and other equipment using internal combustion engines.
    • They are comparable to the European emissions standards. India started adopting European emission and fuel regulations for four-wheeled light-duty and for heavy-dc from the year 2000.
    • For two and three wheeled vehicles, the Indian emission regulations are applied. As per the current requirement, all transport vehicles must carry a fitness certificate which is to be renewed each year after the first two years of new vehicle registration. The National Fuel Policy announced on October 6, 2003, a phased program for implementing the EU emission standards in India by 2010.

    Green Fire crackers unlikely to hit market this Deepavali

    Why in News?

    • There is little likelihood of ‘green’ firecrackers being available in the market in time for this year’s Deepavali even though a clutch of CSIR laboratories have developed them, according to Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, who didn’t specify a timeline for when such improved crackers would become commercially available.

    Green crackers:

    • Restricting the use of fireworks during all events to an 8-10 pm window, the Supreme Court ordered that only crackers with reduced emission and “green crackers” can be manufactured and sold. The court observed that efforts have gone into producing such crackers.
    • “Green crackers” are so named because they “do not contain harmful chemicals” that would cause air pollution. Components in firecrackers are replaced with others that are “less dangerous” and “less harmful” to the atmosphere, says director the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI).

    Tests & results:

    • The idea, proposed by Science & Technology Minister, was announced in January. It was carried forward by a network of CSIR labs, including Central Electro Chemical Research Institute (CECRI), Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, National Botanical Research Institute and National Chemical Laboratory. “The idea was to assess if we can replace or reduce dangerous components with materials that are less harmful. They came up with 3-4 formulations and looked at 30-40% of active materials which reduce particulate matter.
    • The CSIR, which employed seven of its 39 labs over a year in a ₹65 lakh project, said it was in talks with manufacturers and “had approached” the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation to analyse and test the crackers for safety and viability.
    • CSIR-CECRI has developed flower pots by using “eco-friendly materials” that can potentially reduce particulate matter by 40%. CSIR-NEERI is testing the efficacy of bijli crackers by “eliminating the use of ash as desiccants”. Scientists have also developed potential sound-emitting functional prototypes that do not emit sulphur dioxide, and are testing a prototype of flower pots substituting barium nitrate with an eco-friendly version.
    • Scientists have given these crackers names: Safe Water Releaser (SWAS), Safe Thermite Cracker (STAR) and Safe Minimal Aluminium (SAFAL). It has the unique property of releasing water vapour and/or air as dust suppressant and diluent for gaseous emissions and matching performance in sound with conventional crackers. The Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation is testing and analysing these crackers for safety and stability.

    Peso:

    • As a statutory authority, PESO is entrusted with the responsibilities under the Explosives Act, 1884; Petroleum Act, 1934; Inflammable Substances Act, 1952, Environment (Protection Act), 1986 and the following rules framed there under: –
    • Petroleum & Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), Nagpur is the nodal Organization to look after safety requirements in manufacture, storage, transport and use of explosives and petroleum. The Organization is headed by Chief Controller of Explosives with its headquarter located at Nagpur (Maharashtra). It has five Circle Offices located in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Faridabad and Agra and 18 Sub-circles Offices in the country.
    • It has a Departmental Testing Station (DTS) at Gondkhairy, Nagpur where tests on explosives, safety fittings of road tanker, cylinders/ containers are carried out. Fireworks Research and Development Centre (FRDC) at Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu for testing and development of eco-friendly fireworks has been set up by PESO to ensure safety and security of public and property from fire and explosion.

    Delhi Tops National Charts in Bad Air Quality

    Context:

    • WHO has released the report which that Delhi and Varanasi are among the 14 Indian cities that figure in a list of 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels. WHO reported that Delhi topped the charts of bad air quality nationally.

    More in details:

    • It also mentions that 93% of children below 15 years breathe polluted air on a global scale.
    • India faces the highest air pollution-related mortality and disease burden in the world with more than 2 million deaths occurring prematurely every year, accounting for 25% of the global deaths due to poor air quality.
    • In that 14 cities, only Delhi has enough monitoring stations to check the pollutants levels, rest of the cities have either less or no monitoring stations
    • Most cities do not have emergency response plan and also no special governing body in place to issue advisories or mitigate then pollution at source except Delhi

    Way forward:

    • There should be monitoring stations, mitigation plans should be in place for all mentioned 14 cities and gradually increase to other cities as well.
    • State agencies and municipalities should be strengthened to tackle air pollution.

    Pollution hits a high in Delhi

    Why in News?

    • The Capital continues to battle dangerous levels of pollution and it recorded its worst score on the Air Quality Index (AQI) for the season.

    Very poor category:

    • The city registered an average AQI of 366, which falls in the ‘very poor’ category, based on the reading of 32 monitoring stations. The Capital was engulfed in haze throughout the day.
    • Data by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) showed several areas in the NCR, including Gurugram and Ghaziabad, recorded AQI in the ‘severe’ category.
    • There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe. The proposed AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.
    • Based on the measured ambient concentrations, corresponding standards and likely health impact, a sub-index is calculated for each of these pollutants. The worst sub-index reflects overall AQI.
    • The AQI values and corresponding ambient concentrations (health breakpoints) as well as associated likely health impacts for the identified eight pollutants are as follows:

    Level of PM2.5 and PM10:

    • The PM2.5 level in the city was recorded at 236 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3), the highest of the season so far. The PM10 level stood at 394 ug/m3, as per CPCB data. Safe limits for PM2.5 and PM10 are 60 ug/m3 and 100 ug/m3 respectively.

    Reasons for poor air quality:

    Environmentalists said that the dip in air quality was due to

    • Construction dust
    • Vehicular pollution
    • Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana
    • Deforestation and high Population Density
    • Emissions from Factories
    • Other Factors- Diwali, Geography, the Winter Season

    Recommendations to check pollution:

    • The CPCB has issued health advisories and recommended stringent measures from November 1 to 10 forecasting further deterioration in air quality ahead of Diwali. Some of the recommendations include
      • Shutting down coal and biomass factories,
      • Increased inspection by Transport Department to check polluting vehicles
      • Reducing traffic congestion in the NCR.
    • The Centre-run System of Air Quality Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) also issued a health advisory urging people with heart or lung disease to avoid prolonged or heavy exertion in the open. It also recommended that people go for shorter walks instead of jogs, keep windows closed and wear masks.
    • SAFAR envisages a research-based management system where strategies of air pollution mitigation go hand in hand with nation’s economic development to target a win-win scenario.
    • The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for betterment of air quality and related health issues.
    • Its engineer’s awareness drive by educating public, prompting self-mitigation and also to help develop mitigation strategies for policy makers.
    • SAFAR stated that pollution levels are likely to increase but will not touch ‘severe’ level
    • for the next three days.
    • This is owing to stagnation conditions forced by calm winds with low ventilation and moderate stubble injection, stated SAFAR.

    #righttobreathe

    • On some of the social media, #righttobreathe trended where Delhiites used the hashtag to express concern over the rising pollution.
    • One can escape the epidemic and water pollution. But there is no escape from air pollution. Air is everywhere.

    SC Control on fire Crackers

    • Supreme court places restrictions on the nature of firecrackers that can be burst during festivals. The court has also placed rules around timings for bursting firecrackers.

    About:

    • The court favoured a balanced approach in dealing with the situation in view of the stiff resistance put up by fire cracker makers on a complete ban, citing loss of employment affecting their fundamental right of carrying out business and thereby revenue generation as well.
    • The right of health, which is recognised as a facet of Article 21 of the Constitution and, therefore, is a fundamental right, assumes greater importance.
    • The Supreme Court declared that only “green crackers” with reduced emission and low decibel would be allowed to be sold and manufactured in the country.
    • It also restricted the bursting of fire crackers to strictly between 8 pm and 10 pm on Diwali day or on any other festivals and between 11.55 pm and 12.30 am on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
    • The manufacture, sale and use of joined firecrackers (series crackers or laris) is hereby banned as the same causes huge air, noise and solid waste problems. Its entrusted PESO to ensure that only those fire crackers with low decibel were allowed in the market.
    • The production and sale of those fire crackers not approved by the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) would be banned.
    • In Delhi and the National Capital Region covering adjoining districts of Noida, Gurgaon and Ghaziabad, the court directed the Centre, the Delhi government and the state governments to permit community firecrackers only.
    • Relying on various reports including the one by the Central Pollution Control Board, the court noted PM2.5 (fine particulate matter in air) crosses the normal limits during Diwali, causing severe health hazards.
    • Such problems are virtually irreversible, which means that a person whose health gets affected because of this particulate has a long-suffering including aggravation of asthma, coughing, bronchitis, retarded nervous system breakdown and even cognitive impairment. It also ordered that the sale of the “green” fire crackers would be through licensed traders and e-commerce sites like Flipkart and Amazon would not be permitted to do any online sale.

    Background:

    • On a contention that bursting of crackers during Diwali was part of religious practice protected under the Constitution, the question is as to whether it should be allowed to be continued in the present form without any regulatory measures, even if it is proving to be a serious health hazard.
    • Article 25 is subject to Article 21 and if a particular religious practice is threatening the health and lives of people, such practice is not entitled to protection under Article 25.
    • In any case, balancing can be done here as well by allowing the practice subject to those conditions which ensure nil or negligible effect on health.
    • The court indicated more stringent norms would be adopted in future, based on monitoring reports from the pollution boards from all states in their cities for 14 days before and after Diwali for the parameters namely, aluminium, barium, iron, apart from the regulatory parameters against the short-term Ambient Air Quality Criteria Values proposed by CPCB with regard to bursting of fire crackers.

    Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization:

    • Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) works under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Government of India. As a statutory authority PESO is engaged in the activities related to safety in manufacture, possession, use, sale, import, export, transport & handling of explosives, petroleum, flammable and non-flammable compressed gases and other hazardous substances through comprehensive administration of various Rules framed under the Explosives Act, 1984 & Petroleum Act, 1934 with the objective of prevention of accidents.
    • PESO provides technical advice on matters related to safety to the central government and state government, local bodies, law-enforcing agencies, industry, trade and users of Explosives, Petroleum, Calcium Carbide, Gas Cylinders, Pressure Vessels and other hazardous substances within the ambit of Petroleum Act 1934, Explosives Act 1884 and the rules made thereunder.

    Air Pollution Weakens Bones

    In News:

    • Recent research shows pollution accelerates the process of bone deterioration, Air pollution has been linked to increase in worsening of bone diseases and their symptoms.

    Background:

    • Osteoporosis is a common problem and occurs due to decrease in bone density over time. It is a common disorder among elderly people. It literally means “porous bones”.
    • Elderly people who are more frequently exposed to air pollutants from vehicular and industrial emissions experience faster bone loss and thus, higher risk of bone fractures. So, bad air is bad for your bones.

    Risk of Fractures:

    • After onset of osteoporosis bones become weaker, increasing the risk of fractures, especially in the hip, spinal vertebrae and wrist.
    • As the bones become weaker, there is a higher risk of a fracture following a fall or even a fairly minor knock. Osteoporosis fracture is a huge problem in the ever-increasing elderly population, especially in India in future

    No early symptoms for osteoporosis:

    • There are no such symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. But once your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you may have signs and symptoms that include — back pain, caused by a fractured, loss of height over time and a bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected,
    • Till the age of 50-55 men are more at risk of developing these diseases. But menopause in women worsens the equation. Estrogen, the female hormone, lends a protective cover to the bone cartilage which reduces its wear and tear. After menopause, as the amount of estrogen hormone in the female body lessens, women become more at risk of arthritis and osteoporosis.

    India’s First methanol cooking fuel Debuts in Assam

    Why in News?

    • The Namrup-based Assam Petrochemicals Limited (APL) on Friday rolled out the country’s first methanol-based cooking fuel which will be cheaper than conventional LPG fuel.

    About:

    • Oct 5th, 2018 is a historic day for India, Northeast and Assam Petro-chemicals, a state-owned company for launching Asia’s first cannisters based and India’s first “Methanol Cooking Fuel Program”. The program was inaugurated by Dr V K Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog.
    • 500 households inside the Assam Petro Complex will be the first pilot project, scaling it to 40,000 households in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Goa and Karnataka.
    • The project is a natural extension of our Prime Minister’s vision of reducing import of crude and an effort to provide clean, import substitute, cost effective and pollution free cooking medium. Assam Petrochemicals Limited has been manufacturing methanol for the last 30 years and is in the process of upgrading their 100 TPD methanol plant to 600 TPD by Dec 2019.
    • The safe handling cannister based cooking stoves are from Swedish Technology and through a Technology transfer a large-scale cooking stove manufacturing plant will come up in India in the next 18 months producing 10 lakh Cookstoves and 1 Crore Cannisters per year.

    Advantages:

    • This technology is very unique, it handles methanol extremely safely, does not need regulator or any piping system. The cooking medium can directly substitute LPG, Kerosene, Wood, Charcoal and any other fuel for cooking. The gaseous form, Methanol – DME, can be blended in 20% ratio with LPG. LPG-DME blending program is expected to kickstart in the country by next year. 1.2 litres cannisters can last for full five hours on twin burners and 8 such Cannisters as rack can last for one month for a family of three.
    • The cost of energy equivalent of one cylinder of LPG for Methanol is Rs. 650, compared to Rs. 850 per cylinder resulting in a minimum of 20% Savings. For instance, in Manipur the cost of transportation of LPG is Rs. 200, whereas same cost for Methanol will be Rs. 12.
    • This provides for an excellent alternative as household fuel and commercial, institutional and fuel for restaurants. China uses 4 MMTA of Methanol as Cooking Fuel annually.

    Other advantages of Methanol:

    1. Clean cooking fuels:

    • Methanol/DME to help in achieving the objective of access to clean cooking fuels in India and further the flagship initiative of the Government, PMUY (Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

    2. Displacing diesel in Telecom Towers:

    • Telecom towers in India consume around 2% of diesel (1.5 MT) consumption which is a significant amount indicating a vast potential for DME to replace diesel.

    3. Production of various chemicals:

    • Methanol can be used for producing various chemicals like formaldehyde, acetic acid and olefins which can be exported and can be high foreign exchange earners.

    4. Boost to Swachh Bharat Mission:

    • Methanol can also be produced from waste which would give a boost to India’s flagship programme “SWACHH BHARAT MISSION”

    Polluted cities

    Why in news?

    • A good number of India’s most polluted cities are not too keen to clean up their act, according to a list maintained by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

    Background:

    • Out of 102 cities listed out by the Centre for their alarming pollution levels, only 73 have submitted a plan of remedial action to the CPCB.
    • Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Nagpur and Jaipur are among the prominent cities that are yet to submit their plans.
    • These so called ‘non-attainment cities’ were among those marked out by the CPCB and asked – as part of the National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP) – to implement 42 measures aimed at mitigating air pollution.

    Mitigation measures:

    • These included steps such as implementing control and mitigation measures related to vehicular emissions, re-suspension of road dust and other fugitive emissions, bio-mass, municipal solid waste burning, industrial pollution, and construction and demolition activities.
    • The directives to take remedial measures were initially issued to Delhi NCR, and subsequently to the State Pollution Control Boards for implementation in other ‘non-attainment’ cities.

    NAQQS:

    • The non-attainment cities are those that have fallen short of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for over five years.
    • The aim of pollution mitigation measures was to cut overall pollution in these cities by 35% in the next three years.
    • The NCAP also envisions setting up 1,000 manual air-quality-monitoring stations (a 45% increase from the present number) and 268 automatic stations (from 84 now). Only 30 of these cities are ready to roll out their plans on the ground. In May, the World Health Organisation said that Delhi and Varanasi were among 14 Indian cities that figured in a global list of the 20 most polluted cities in terms of PM2.5 levels.

    Potato Carry Bags

    A Bag made of potatoes could replace plastic as the biodegradable and recyclable alternative for carry bags.

    Benefits:

    • The potato based bag claims to be 100% plastic free
    • It is also said to be dissolve in hot water and burn like paper.
    • As compared with regular plastic, which takes thousands of years to decompose, the potato based bag degrades in a few months. It is said to be a stronger than a plastic carry bag.

    The most likely ingredient are said to be potato and tapioca starch, vegetable oil extracts and other organic waste that are natural.

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