Action in Sync can Beat Delhi Air Pollution

6th November 2019


The soothing song of the Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar “Aey Hawa Mere Sang Sang Chal”, doesn’t charm any more in the nation’s capital. The situation in Delhi, the city often referred to as the city of people with big hearts, has been gloomy. The air in the city is the worst polluted. So much is the level of pollution that sometimes it manifests as thick smog, respiratory illness, and disease. People’s heart sinking in fear. According to a report by the Indian Council of Medical Research has stated that in 2017, air pollution accounted for 12.4 lakh deaths in India.

Hon’ble National Green Tribunal has rightly stated the problem of deterioration in air quality is not the creation of one day but the result of continuous negligence and apathy in enforcing the law. The latest hue and cry exhibited that there is no clue to hit upon the problem. And the entire nation has failed to pinpoint any source. Mitigation of air pollution has become the focus of many who hope to identify and eliminate its sources. But to do that accurately, the pollution must be tracked by research-grade air quality monitors that measure pollutants including particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, ammonia, and other parameters. Most of these parameters are not regularly monitored. The data obtained from monitoring is not satisfactorily analyzed with substantial reasoning. The online monitoring mechanism is based on low-cost sensors, which are not calibrated. There is no appropriate calibration facility available. Data obtained from monitoring by the manual equipment is quite acceptable, as the same is used for validation of online monitoring instruments. However, lack of adequate training and development of personnel in the area has made it a failure. Further, the online analyzers available in India, which offers scientists, policymakers, and the public the opportunity to detect pollution fall far short of what research-grade equipment can deliver in terms of precision, accuracy, sensitivity, interferences, drift, and so on.

At a time, when under an able leadership of the Prime Minister, India has expanded its solar-generation capacity by nearly 12 times from 2,650 MW on 26th May 2014 to over 31.101 GW as of 30thSeptember 2019, the experts hired by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change have ignored some basic issues during appraisal of projects. To cite some references, (1) EC No.21-111/2017-1A-III dated 11thOctober 2019 granted for expansion of construction project by DLF Homes Developers Limited allows to install 17 diesel generator (DG) sets totaling 23400 kVA. (2) EC granted for expansion of Bamboo Hotel & Global Centre (Delhi) Pvt. Ltd., Asset No. 13, Hospitality District, DIAL IGI Airport, Delhi has approved the installation of 14 DG sets of 2000 KVA totaling 28000 kVA as against 3 No. initially planned (3) the proposal for installation of DG sets up to 25000 KVA as against 1500 KVA earlier planned, in the expansion project is permitted in EC No. F.No.21-275/2017-1A-III Dated 27th August 2018 accorded to ‘DLF Cyber Park’ in Udyog Vihar, Sector 20, Gurgaon. There could be many such cases. And, all these projects were granted with EC after the Ministry’s own notification of Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) on 12th January 2017. 

At a time, when Delhi’s air quality deterioration is a recurring phenomenon, and the government of India has been given thrust for the maximum utilization of solar energy, whether projects of such standards should be allowed to commission DG sets? Such an approval from MoEF&CC needs a serious review at a time when the EPCA is striving for the implementation. All decisions to mitigate environmental problems need to go in sync. These facts may also be considered by Hon’ble Supreme Court. 

Let us Lobby for a Nobel in Environment Category

23rd October 2019  


Despite our many scientific and technological advances, we are utterly dependent on the environment for air, water, food, shelter, energy, and everything else we need to stay alive and healthy. And Sustainable Development, which is the essence of prosperity and peace – depends largely on the skillful management of these natural resources. A critical component of sustainability is natural capital - natural resources. Fortunately, resources such as air, water, and soil are often classified as renewable. Bearing this widespread knowledge in mind, civilizations after civilizations have exploited natural resources for speedy progress with the help of science and technology. Scholarly descriptions of climate change being recognized as the reason for the extinction of gigantic species like Dinosaurs have caused severe worries amongst the current civilizations. This implies physics, chemistry, medicine and physiology, literature, economics and peace in which Nobel Prizes are categorized. All these could be of significance next to the environment and sustainable development. Nobel prizes are awarded after the Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who in his final will bequeathed the majority of his considerable fortune to the establishment of a foundation that would award prizes to: “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”  

In 2004, Wangari Maathai, Kenya's popular environmental activist who was also the country's Deputy Environment Minister awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace." She was well-known for fighting poverty by trying to save Africa's shrinking forests. This was the first Nobel Prize given to an environmentalist. Many were of the view that it was marking a new interpretation of Swedish philanthropist Alfred Nobel's will, on the basis of which the prize was constituted. Again after 3 years, the Nobel Peace Prize 2007 was awarded jointly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

The first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901. It took more than a century to recognize an environmentalist for a Nobel. That too was in the category of Peace. How should it be interpreted? Predominantly the industries worldwide have remained in question for exploiting most of the natural resources, often in an unsustainable manner. The curse of deadly pollution is also associated with industrial activities. In spite of these truths, there was no successful lobbying for a Nobel in the field of Environment. The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics for outstanding contributions to the field of economics, which is officially named as The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel was added into after nearly 7 decades. People fantasize Environment Nobel with many alternatives such as the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement established in 1973 by the late John and Alice Tyler, Goldman Environmental Prize, founded in 1989 by U.S. philanthropists Rhoda and Richard Goldman. Countering the criticism for digressing from the theme of 'Peace' by giving the prize to an environmentalist in 2004, the Nobel Committee Head, Ole Danbolt Mjoes said "Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. We have emphasized the environment, democracy-building and human rights and especially women's rights. We have added a new dimension to the concept of peace." With elapse another 15 years and fast-changing dynamics of the environment, when Antarctica ice melting has accelerated by 280% in the last 4 decades it is high time now to institutionalize a new category for Environment that could cover inspirational works in the fields of sustainable development, climate change, water resources management, green production, and so on. 

Footprints of A Champion of the Earth

16th October 2019

The United Nations’ one of the Champions of the Earth, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi acknowledged innovative ideas and ways of Ripudaman on 29th September 2019, in his “Mann Ki Baat” programme. The Prime Minister informed about the ‘Fit India Plogging Run’. He said, “While we jog for 2 kilometers; and on the way, collect all kinds of plastic waste. Through endeavor, we shall not only pay better attention to our health; we shall also take a step towards ensuring protection for Mother Earth. This campaign is resulting in raising awareness levels in people; as far as sanitation and cleanliness, along with fitness levels. I do believe that a single step towards freedom from single-use plastic taken by 130 crore countrymen will give India a lead by 130 crore steps.” 

Soon after, recently, at Mamallapuram, the whole world experienced the emotional side of the towering leader, who bowed down before the Sea, Mother Nature, during the morning stroll along the beaches of Bay of Bengal. He was so touched and inspired to pen a poem titled “Hey Sagar Tumhe Pranam” on the Sea and its virtues. Not only that. The 69-year-old Indian Prime Minister, who had been striving for a Swachh Bharat, also set the highest level of example to the nation by picking garbage and strewn plastic, for over 30 minutes, in an effort to clean the surroundings by displaying the practice of Plogging at Mamallapuram Beach. This doesn’t happen to all. Such action could be attained by someone who bears a harmonious blend of emotion and courage to beat the limitations of gigantic stature. A subsequent tweet was shared with the world, “Let us ensure our public places are clean and tidy! Let us also ensure we remain fit and healthy.”

His clarion call from the ramparts of Red Fort had already created a massive impact amongst many Indians to put in their best efforts in the cleanliness drive. This exemplary truest leadership, which fabulously matches his words with deeds, will further inspire the fellow countrymen to traverse towards a plastic-free India. People from across the nation and beyond have appreciated this greatness of the tallest leader of the most populous democracy. Nearly one year back, while awarding the Champions of the Earth award, for PM Modi's extensive efforts to 'Beat Plastic Pollution'- including an ambitious pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, "We are recognising a statesman who embodies true leadership."

India generates about 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste, every day, out of that only 13,000-14000 tonnes are collected. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has banned the import of plastic waste with effect from 31st August 2019 through a notification vide GSR 178(E) dated 1st March 2019 and a subsequent Office Memorandum dated 7th March 2019. Every Indian needs to ponder on how to reduce plastic use. Our lifestyle must not cause the surroundings unclean, which leads to an extent that one of our most admired Prime Ministers has to do such work. As a society, we have to shun the wrong practices that led us to consumerism and diminished our own strengths. To cite an example, on average a plastic bag is used for only 25 minutes. It takes between 100 and 500 years for a plastic bag to disintegrate, and up to 80% of ocean plastic pollution enters the ocean from land. Let's shut from the source to ensure cleanliness. The footprints of our Prime Minister will not wane away by the windblown sand nor by the ocean waves. It will remain visible till the last piece of garbage disposed of aptly.