Measures to combat Air Pollution in India

MAINS

Air Pollution

Explain the Various Measures to Reduce Air Pollution in India? Critically Evaluate?

There are various measures to curb air pollution. Air pollution is one of the biggest killers, causing almost seven million deaths a year due to exposure to air pollution. This exposure leads to diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

In fact, according to Health of the Nation’s States, household air pollution was responsible for 5% of the total disease burden in India in 2016, and outdoor air pollution was responsible for 6% of the burden.Electric and hybrid vehicles

1 Increase distribution of electric and hybrid vehicles:

This should be carried out through necessary financial measures and infrastructural support. The procurement of electric vehicles (EVs) should be mandatory for vehicles for Central Government use and certain public facilities.

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All Central Government offices should replace existing fleets older than 15 years to electric vehicles in the next 3 years i.e. by 2021 April. Research and development activities should be enhanced in the areas of battery cell technologies, electric vehicle power train system integration, electric motors and power electronics. Availability of citywide support infrastructure for electric vehicles should be ensured.

Set up low-emission zones in Delhi and other similar cities by restricting private vehicle entry in highly polluted zones: this needs to be supported by clean public transportation, preferably based on electric vehicles.

1.1 Encourage electric 2 and 3 wheelers:

A scheme to convert existing ICE autos into electric ones either by retrofitting or by discounting the residual value of the exiting auto from a new electric auto should be launched. Additional incentives like free registration and ease of getting permits for electric 2 wheelers and 3 wheelers should be immediately notified by MoRTH. In addition, all public transportation and 3 wheelers should adopt ZEVs by 2020

1.2 Boost Last Mile connectivity through clean/e-Rickshaws:

Use of aggregators may be encouraged to provide further incentives to commuters to migrate to public transport.

2 Strong measures to curb vehicular emission

2.1 Implement a large scale Feebate program from 2020 onwards:

A feebate is a policy by which inefficient or polluting vehicles incur a surcharge (fee) while efficient ones receive a rebate (bate). Austria, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Ontario (Canada) and Singapore have introduced variations of feebates.

Its advantages include its market-based design; its potential to be revenue neutral, size neutral, and technology agnostic; and its alignment of private interests with societal interests and incentives. The CAFE norms in India’s case can be suitably amended and a suitable feebate policy for India can be developed.

2.2 Issue guidelines for vehicle ownership and usage:

Measures like congestion pricing, escalation of taxes and insurances, higher costs of parking, and implementing restrictions on certain areas and times need to be employed to reduce private vehicle usage.

A congestion pricing scheme could be employed in big cities like Delhi to discourage private vehicle use. High congestion stretches in all major stretches for all major cities should be immediately identified and a congestion tax/charge should be imposed immediately. Enforcement can begin with manual processes, which can be later supported by electronic systems using ITS.

2.3 Switch to low Sulphur fuel (10 ppm) and implement Bharat VI (similar to Euro VI) standards for engine emissions:

This will require tail-pipe controls like diesel particulate filters for PM and selective catalytic reduction for NOx.

  • BS VI norms to be implemented in Delhi NCR by April 2019
  • BS VII norms to be implemented all over India by April 2020

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This will also call for engine optimization and technologies like exhaust gas recirculation. The Government of India has already announced these norms and timely implementation of these norms will be important. We further recommend that legacy vehicles that are still in use are retrofitted with these control technologies.

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This solution will cut down soot (black carbon) emissions by up to 90% and drastically reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx which is a main precursor for ozone formation), carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrocarbon emissions.

2.4 Introduce a scrapping policy and ensure fleet modernisation: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, is coming up with a voluntary fleet modernisation mechanism supported by financial incentives in the form of discounts from the manufacturers and lower excise duties.

The programme should be strengthened through the mandatory scrapping of very old vehicles. Specific purpose grants could be used to motivate state transport companies and city bus operators to modernize their fleets. Retrofitting options can be explored for ‘not so old’ vehicles, which can be fitted with tail-pipe treatment technologies.

There is a need for a research and development programme for low-cost, robust, easily maintained tail-pipe filters, and other treatment technologies. Commercial vehicles older than 15-20 years will be scrapped and a discount can be provided for new vehicle purchase.

3 Reduce Emission by optimizing the power sector

3.1 Expedite strategic decommissioning of old and inefficient power plants:

Power plants with inefficient power generation contribute heavily to air pollution. These inefficient power plants should be replaced by efficient super-thermal plants or with power generators that are based on renewable energy.

3.2 Upgrade efficient thermal power plants to meet the requirements of dynamic operation:

Dynamic and flexible power plants will allow power generating companies to enter into flexible Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with DISCOMs/Captive-Loads to meet the dynamic power requirement. This will open a larger window of opportunities for the renewable power generators.

3.3 Push rooftop solar and distributed generation:

Larger penetration of rooftop solar panels will increase the share of renewable power; hence it is a critical measure that needs to be adopted in order to reduce air pollution caused by power generation. Simplification of rules, regulations and leasing policy for operations and power distribution reforms will augment renewable’s share in power mix.

3.4 Ensure high grade low polluting coal to the power plant:

Availability and usage of high grade coal will allow power plants to operate at a high efficiency point. This will minimize the emission of polluting components for the same amount of power generated. Government should come forward with a comprehensive approach that links coal mines and imported coal with the thermal power plants.

3.5 Emphasis on improved power reliability in urban areas to eliminate the operation of DG sets:

Ensure reliable power supply in urban areas at an affordable price that will demotivate the separate usage of Diesel Power Generators (DG Sets); this can be pushed forward by efficiently implementing Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS). Current installed capacity of DG sets is approximately 85 GW and it is a major cause of urban industrial pollution.

4 Regulatrory framework for industrial  Air Pollution

4,1 Revise standards and practices:

The ambient air quality standards of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as well as individual categories of industrial emissions should be considered for revision. A revised regulatory framework for installation of devices like vortex separators, electrostatic precipitators, settling chambers etc. needs to be developed. The revised norms should also address strict implementation of stack height standards for all existing and new industries. Furthermore, formulation of a fuel substitution sub-action plan with the following measures should be explored.

  1. Mandated increase in content of ash in coal used for powering boilers and thermal plants.
  2. Mandatory use of beneficiated coal Promotion of clean coal technologies. (FBC, PFBC, IGCC, etc.)
  3. Emission standards for DG sets.
  4. Use of LDO/ Natural gas instead of coal in small boilers.
  5. Nationwide ban on usage of highly polluting fuels such as coke and furnace oil
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4.2 Improve audit process:

Development of a right incentive structure for the environmental auditors will lead to an improved auditing process. The current practice of self-audit with the industry managing and paying the auditors should be changed.

Introduction of measures such as random assignment of auditors to industrial plants, payment from a common pool, monitoring for accuracy and accuracy-based bonus payment system have proven to be effective in enhancing the compliance of industries.

4.3 Incentivise law enforcement:

To improve law enforcement at the state level, stricter law enforcement against polluting industries is critical. Incentivising the performing states will be instrumental to speed up corrective action against air pollution. One of the measures being creation of a competitive ‘Air Pollution Index’ with sub-indices for corresponding sources of pollution can be used to rank the states and create competition.

This ‘name and shame’ policy based on the index combined with performance-linked transfers from a common ‘Clear Air Fund’ (created with the support from the central government under MoEF&CC) can combat air pollution

5 National Emission on trading

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Introducing a market-based instruments within a regulatory framework based on the concept of ‘polluters pay’ should be implemented. It would entail capping the individual pollution levels of all industries to certain emission allowance. The currency of trade would be tonnage of pollutants produce such as ‘CO2, SOx and NOX units’, which are inter-convertible.

Similar trading units for particulate matter can also be introduced. This cap should be shrunk annually, leading to a faster adoption of cleaner fuel and stringent pollution curbing mechanisms. Similar models exist in the European Union (Emissions Trading System) and in India (Perform Achieve Trade) for combating greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

The emission allowances should be customized – division of industries into clusters, with respect to factors such as polluting intensity, scale, type etc. The firms operating at a deficit, i.e. emitting more than permitted, can purchase through the open trade exchange from the firms that are operating at a surplus. Additionally, firms that do not use their allowance can monetize their trading units.

To incentivise adoption of renewable energy sources like solar energy, wind energy, and to promote installation of efficient filtration equipment provisions such as accelerated depreciation lower GST rates or import duties should be explored.

6 Cleaner Construction Practice

6.1 Mandate Environmental Risk Assessment for construction projects:

Similar to Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), which examines the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development activity, Environment Risk Assessment must be prepared for any cluster where large scale construction is going to take place.

6.2 Revise parameters of Green Building Ratings to include construction process:

Expand the ambit of Green Building ratings to include adherence to construction process indicators that follow cleaner construction guidelines. Higher score on the Green Ratings can then be linked with subsidised financial support.

6.3 Set up smog free towers:

It is an innovative technological solution deployed across Europe, which cleans the polluted air in an area around it. A 23-foot-tall air purification system at present with a cost of $54,000 will clean up 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour of ultra-fine smog to create smog-free bubbles in public spaces. These can be installed at the point sources of construction activities.

6.4 Enforce use of ready-made concrete:

In view of the large environmental impacts, Ready Made Concrete usage should be mandated so as to eliminate the negative externalities of using Site Batch Concrete.

7 Business Model to reduce crop residue

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During the winter months, crop residue burning (CRB) accounts for 17% of PM10 and 16% of PM2.5 air pollution. The problem of crop burning is mainly observed in the major paddy producing states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Maharashtra, where CRB is practiced among the sugarcane farmers.

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7.1 Direct procurement of crop residue by large agro-waste management companies: The agro-residues collected by major agro-waste management companies must be procured by large thermal units like NTPC at the standard market rate. At present NTPC has already brought out a tender issuing purchase at Rs 5,500 per tonne.

The focus should be on promoting local level entrepreneurs to purchase crop residue directly from the farmers and then sell the residue to large thermal power plants. This can involve promotion of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO) and active Self-Help Groups (SHG) to purchase paddy stubble at the per acre declared rate from the local farmers.

7.2 Encourage new markets for purchase of crop residues from farmers: The Government should provide subsidies (in term of incentives and tax rebates) to set up new plants of agro-waste management companies in major paddy and sugarcane farming States. State governments can utilize the Green Climate Fund (GCF) for this purpose. In India, NABARD has been accredited with a Direct Access Entity (DAE) to channelize the GCF for recommended projects related to environmental management.

7.3 Mandate an inter-State trading model: Centre must direct, on pilot basis, inter-state trading for paddy stubble. For instance, paddy straw collected from Punjab can be procured by other States for mushroom cultivation, ethanol production and various other purposes.

7.4 Reward PRIs with performance-based incentives: It is recommended that PRIs, where zero-burning incidences are observed, should be provided with performance-based non-monetary incentives. A single incidence of crop-burning should disqualify a village from receiving the incentive.

8 Integrated waste management policy

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An estimated 62 million tonnes of waste are generated annually in India, but only about 75-80% gets collected, of which only 22-28% is processed and treated. A bulk of allocated funds are spent on collection, leaving inadequate amounts for treatment, which means that even landfilled waste creates pollution. Reducing landfilled waste would also contribute to energy reductions in transporting massive quantities of waste.

In addition to the Solid Waste Management Policy 2016, the principles of circular economy for waste reduction and waste processing need to be implemented.

8.1 Enact Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): These regulations, common in the EU and the United States, ensure a life cycle approach to products from the manufacturers themselves, holding them responsible for safe disposal of their products. It also encourages producers to use less polluting materials, and is particularly effective in areas like electronics, vehicles, plastic packaging etc.

8.2 Adopt landfill taxes and regulation: Charging extra fees at the gate for landfill entry can shift economic viability from more land filling to treatment/processing methods. This will be a shift from prevailing policies that encourage land filling by paying for even untreated and unsegregated waste by the tonne. The next step would be setting targets for percentage reduction in land filled biodegradable waste, like in Sweden.

8.3 Incentive’s waste to energy systems: Incentives like tax reduction for energy produced through biogas, consumer subsidies for biogas plants, or incentives for upgraded incineration with energy capture, will help make treatment more viable than dumping or burning. E.g.: Gramacho Landfill Gas to Energy System, Rio De Janeiro.

8.4 Decentralize waste processing: Alternatives to landfilling can be effectively implemented, as demonstrated by waste segregation in Bengaluru, pipe and aerobic composting in Alappuzha, recycling business models in Mysuru, municipal segregation models in Panaji, etc.

8.5 Pilot blockchain initiatives: Initiatives taken by the Government of Netherlands, Agora Tech Labs, Swachh Coin, Plastic Bank etc. are demonstrating the use of blockchain in waste management. For example, in return for items recycled, tokens are provided to people that can be exchanged for other services.

Raja Raja Cholan
About Raja Raja Cholan 652 Articles
Trainer & Mentor for aspirants preparing for civil service examination

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