Table of Contents
For the last several years, authorities across the country have been implementing measures, to lessen the impact of air pollution. The subject found mention in finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s budget speech for 2021-22. The FM said that the urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will be implemented, with a total financial allocation of Rs 1,41,678 crores over a period of five years, from 2021-2026. The focus of this mission is to bring about overall improvement.
“For further swachhta of urban India, we intend to focus on complete fecal sludge management and wastewater treatment, source segregation of garbage, reduction in single-use plastic, reduction in air pollution by effectively managing waste from construction and demolition activities and bioremediation of all legacy dump sites,” announced Sitharaman, as she tabled the Budget on February 1, 2021. While we await details about the implementation, it is important to note that this is a crucial announcement, in light of the fact that Indian cities dominate the global list of most-polluted cities.
Budget 2021: Funding to ensure clean air, environment
With an aim to revive the environment and work towards sustainable development, the government has laid out substantial funding. However, the funding will be released in intervals. For example, the Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will receive the allocated funding over a period of five years from 2021-2026. Similarly, the Jal Jeevan Mission aims at universal water supply in all 4,378 urban local bodies with 2.86 crore household tap connections, as well as liquid waste management in 500 AMRUT cities. It will be implemented over the next five years.
Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0
Rs 1,41,678 crores
Rs 2,217 crores
Jal Jeevan Mission (Urban)
Rs 2,87,000 crores
Steps taken to check vehicular pollution
Details about vehicular pollution is still awaited but from its trailer in the Budget 2021, we gather that the scrapping policy for vehicles will encourage owners to give in to fuel-efficient vehicles. As per the policy, personal vehicles over 20 years and commercial vehicles over 15 years will now be required to undertake fitness tests in automated centres. It is on the basis of this test that unfit vehicles will be discarded. The Centre calls it a “voluntary” vehicle scrapping policy and the details of this scheme is yet to be shared by the concerned ministry.
Pollution in India, national capital tops the list
Delhi topped the list of most polluted capital cities in the world in 2019, according to a new report, which also revealed that 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India. According to the World Air Quality Report 2019 compiled by IQAir Air Visual, Ghaziabad is the most polluted city in the world, followed by Hotan in China, Gujranwala and Faisalabad in Pakistan and then Delhi in the fifth place.
- Greater Noida
List of most polluted Indian cities
- Greater Noida
Most polluted countries in the world
However, the report also mentions that Indian cities have shown improvement from last year. “Whilst cities in India, on average, exceed the World Health Organisation (WHO) target for annual PM 2.5 exposure by 500%, national air pollution decreased by 20% from 2018 to 2019 with 98% of the cities experiencing improvement,” the report said.
Commenting on the report, Avinash Chanchal, senior campaigner at Greenpeace India said the latest report and the one released in the previous year are reflective of the trend that household and agricultural biomass burning is falling but fossil-fuelled energy consumption remains very high. “Power plants have not adhered and missed the deadline to install Flue Gas Desulphurization units to control pollution and the public transportation is nowhere near to be adequate to turn the tide on reducing dependence on private vehicle use. These facts are out in public domain, media reports about it regularly and the public is aware as well. Now the responsibility lies with the government to fix the accountability,” he said.
BS-VI fuel to be available from April 2020
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar has said that vehicular pollution is likely to reduce by 80%-90%, with Bharat Stage VI fuel becoming available in several big cities, from April 2020
October 9, 2019: Bharat Stage (BS)-VI fuel will be available in several big cities of the country, including Jaipur, from April 1, 2020 and the initiative will reduce vehicular pollution by 80% to 90%, union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said, on October 8, 2019. “An investment of Rs 60,000 crores has been made for this. The initiative will reduce vehicular pollution by 80-90 per cent,” Javadekar said.
Earlier, Javadekar had informed the Rajya Sabha that fuel conforming to stringent BS-VI emission norms, was introduced in the national capital to reduce air pollution. The minister also informed the upper house that the sale of BS-VI-compliant vehicles, would begin in the country from 2020. He said the government had prepared a national clean air programme for 122 cities of the country, under which schemes for reducing pollution would be made.
In Jaipur, he said the country’s forest area had increased by 15,000 sq kms, as a result of efforts made in the direction of environment protection. He stressed the need to make further efforts, to increase the forest cover to 33% of the total geographical area in the country.
Vehicular pollution grips Indian cities
Exposure to toxic vehicular pollution has worsened in India due to staggering pace of motorisation, with the number of registered vehicles going up 700 times from 0.3 million in 1951 to 210 million in 2015, a study has said
June 13, 2019: A study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), titled ‘At The Crossroads’, has revealed that the growing number of private vehicles without adequate public transport in cities, will lock in enormous amounts of pollution and carbon. “It took 60 years (1951 to 2008) for India to cross the mark of 105 million registered vehicles. But thereafter, the same number was added in a mere six years (2009–15). The number of vehicles in India has increased 700 times – from 0.3 million in 1951 to 210 million in 2015,” it said.
According to the study, the number of cars registered in India between 1951 and 2005 stood at 10.3 million and cars almost twice that number were registered in just 10 years – 20 million from 2006 to 2015. It said the number of two-wheelers registered in India from 1951 to 2004 was 51.9 million, more than twice the number of those registered from 2005 to 2015. As many as 102 million two-wheelers were registered during the 10-year period.
“Even when vehicles are emerging as a serious source of exposure in cities, solution at a scale has remained a challenge. This is a serious national issue, as India is in the grip of a staggering pace of motorisation,” it said. “If cars and two-wheelers are combined, the personal motorisation rate in India would exceed that of many advanced countries. Automobile dependence will worsen exposure to toxic vehicular pollution,” the study said. “The situation is dire, as adequate attention has not been paid to the development of public transport systems and promotion of walkable and cycling environments,” it said.
“Cities have to move lakhs of travel trips a day, but without adequate public transport, cities will lock in enormous (amounts of) pollution and carbon,” it added. “Every trip made in a car or two-wheeler pollutes around seven to 14 times more than a trip made in a bus in Delhi. However, bus ridership is declining and even pedestrians and cyclists are under pressure, due to poor infrastructure and unsafe roads,” the CSE said.
According to the Delhi Master Plan 2020-21, public transport ridership should be at least 80% of all motorised trips by 2020-21. A report submitted by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority to the Supreme Court, had said that there is an enormous shortfall in the current level of public transport services. It had called for massive augmentation of public transport, so that people do not use their cars.
Environment Ministry rejects reports claiming 1.2 million deaths in India due to pollution
Union minister Harsh Vardhan has discredited the recent global reports claiming over one million deaths in India are due to air pollution, saying that such studies were only aimed at ‘causing panic’
May 6, 2019: Union minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Harsh Vardhan, has said that he does not agree with recent data claiming millions of deaths caused by air pollution. “Pollution can cause premature illness and other things. Pollution does affect health but to create such a panicky situation and say millions of people are dying, I do not agree with that,” Vardhan, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Chandni Chowk constituency in the national capital, said. He added that the government was working hard to tackle the problem of pollution and had been supporting the AAP-led Delhi government in this direction. “We are doing our best to handle air pollution. The number of good days are consistently going up and bad days coming down,” he said.
A report by environment NGO Greenpeace recently, stated that Delhi topped the list of most-polluted cities in the world. The US-based Health Effects Institute report revealed that around 1.2 million people were killed in India in 2017, due to air pollution. Countering this, the minister highlighted the initiatives taken by the centre and said aggressive campaigns had been organised in the national capital, to handle pollution. “You must be already aware of our National Clean Air Program (NCAP), which we started pro-actively and aggressively to improve air quality in 102 cities, where we found that consistently for five years, the PM 10 levels were beyond the desirable levels. You know about our Graded Response Action Plan and other activities like rules for dust mitigation and solid waste management. We have been handling it in the most aggressive manner,” he asserted.
Vardhan, who is also the Union Minister of Science and Technology, said 60 teams of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) were sent to the national capital to tackle the pollution mess. He said the results can be seen, as compared to the scenario in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The minister also underlined that the city government led by Arvind Kejriwal was helped by the centre in every possible way to curb pollution woes. “On two occasions, we took initiatives jointly. Both the governments (the centre and Delhi government) did historic 15-20 days’ extensive drives, by visiting various sites causing pollution in the national capital,” he said. “We informed the chief minister and the lieutenant governor about it and last year, we made everything transparent on the portal. We are helping the city government in all possible ways,” Vardhan said.
He added that the mobile application SAFAR, was launched for real-time monitoring of air pollution in the city. He, however, added that along with governments, the public should also be conscious and responsible towards environment. “Ultimately, people have to change their habits and focus on environment-friendly actions. That is why, we launched Green Good Deeds movement in the country which has been recognised by the United Nations and talked about in BRICS. We our doing our best. Waste management rules were also modified in 2015-16, to make them more eco-friendly and useful for society,” Vardhan said.
“We have launched the best software in the world for environmental proposals and clearances – PARIVESH. Now, the next step is to ensure that the states also have similar software. We have also reduced our clearance timing from 600 days to 100 days,” he said.
India has 15 out of 20 most polluted cities in world: Study
Fifteen of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, with Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Noida and Bhiwadi in the top six, according to a new study
March 5, 2019: India’s National Capital Region (NCR) has emerged as the most polluted region in the world in the last year, according to a new report. The latest data compiled in the IQAir AirVisual 2018 World Air Quality Report and their interactive World’s Most Polluted Cities Ranking, prepared in collaboration with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, reveals the state of particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in 2018.
India has 15 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, with Gurugram and Ghaziabad being the most polluted cities, followed by Faridabad, Bhiwadi and Noida in the top six, with Delhi in the 11th spot, it said. Out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 18 are in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the report said.
China’s capital Beijing, once among the most polluted cities in the world, ranked 122nd in the list of the most polluted cities last year, based on PM2.5 data but is still at least five times more polluted than the World Health Organisation annual safety limits of 10 µg/m3. The database comprised of PM2.5 data for more than 3,000 cities.
The report identified some of the major sources or causes of ambient air pollution. “Industries, households, cars and trucks emit complex mixtures of air pollutants, many of which are harmful to health. Of all of these pollutants, fine particulate matter has the greatest effect on human health,” it said. “Most fine particulate matter comes from fuel combustion, both, from mobile sources such as vehicles and from stationary sources such as power plants, industry, households, agriculture or biomass burning,” the report added.
Environment activists have expressed concern and said the government’s programmes to clean air should ‘do more than making political statements’. Pujarini Sen, an activist associated with Greenpeace India, said the report was a reminder to us, indicating that we need to put efforts and actions to reduce the invisible killer.
“If we want India to breathe clean air, it is high time that our plans such as the National Clean Air Programme, Graded Response Action Plan and Clean Air Programme, become much more stringent, aggressive, legally binding and most of all implementable at ground, rather than just being used as a political statement without much happening at ground,” Sen said.
Jyoti Pande Lavakare, co-founder of Care for Air NGO, said Delhi and its neighbouring areas have held the dubious distinction of being the most polluted places in the world. “Delhi will remain the most polluted, unless we make a concerted effort on a war footing from the top-down to clean the air. What we need is a ‘clean air czar’ – an empowered, accountable authority whose single goal is to reduce pollution in our country through measurable and time-bound actions,” she said. “This is a national public health emergency and we cannot afford small, incremental progress. We need strong, focussed action that befits a real emergency,” Lavakare added.
Ravina Kohli, environmentalist and a member of #MyRightToBreathe campaign, said the country lacks the ‘political will’ to make public health a priority. “Just because health issues do not historically convert to votes, politicians have slashed budgets, ignored this public health emergency and compromised citizens’ lives. Human lives will matter more than political gain, if we have true leaders in charge,” she added. Ashutosh Dikshit, CEO of URJA, added: “It is for the government to promote eco-friendly industries and construction solutions, as well as hasten the usage of better fuels for automobiles, as well as two-wheelers that are also major polluters. The pollution control boards are toothless and ill-equipped.”
(With additional inputs from Sneha Sharon Mammen)