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. 

Let’s Have Water & Traffic Index, Like CEPI

9th October 2019


The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) carried out the physical study of the industrial clusters in the country with reference to the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) that includes weightages on nature of pollutants, pollutant concentrations in ambient, number of people affected and additional high risk elements. On the basis of the study jointly carried out by the CPCB and State Pollution Control Boards during 2009-10, 88 industrial clusters were notified as Polluted Industrial Areas (PIAs). The PIAs were further ranked as ‘Critically Polluted Area’ (CPA), ‘Severely Polluted Area’ (SPA) and ‘Other Polluted Areas’ (OPAs), depending upon the CEPI scores. Where the CEPI score crossed 70, the area was designated as CPA, where the index was between 60 and 70 it was termed as SPA and those below 60 as OPAs. As per the CPCB’s CEPI-2009, 43 industrial clusters in 16 cities were identified as CPAs and 32 were identified as SPAs.

In 2016, CPCB revised the criteria for determining CEPI. The revised criteria laid out components which included, scale of industrial activity, level of exposure, the health related statistics and compliance status of industries. Based on the CEPI-2016 criterion, CPCB carried out further monitoring in the year 2017-18 where it was found that number of identified polluted industrial clusters went up to 100, in which 38 CPAs, 31 SPAs and remaining 31 OPAs were found.

The matter is being considered by Hon’ble National Green Tribunal, who has directed for no further industrial activities or expansion be allowed with regard to ‘red’ and ‘orange’ category units till the said areas are brought within the prescribed parameters or till carrying capacity of area is assessed and new units or expansion is found viable having regard to the carrying capacity of the area and environmental norms. It is obvious from the direction that there should not be any grant of Consent-to-Establish by a State Pollution Control Board or Pollution Control Committee in respective areas, and also no Environmental Clearance be granted to any project falling under red and orange category. Instead of citing the term “industrial activities” Hon’ble NGT may consider to add project and state as “industrial and project activities”, which clearly includes construction projects too – a significant contributor towards dust pollution at different stages of construction.

This must be accepted as a remarkable decision in favour of the environment. Similar classification is also done by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB). Grant of no objection certificate (NOC) or approval for extraction of groundwater from underground aquifers are regulated on the basis of exploitation level. With massive success of Jal Shakti Abhiyan, CGWB may undertake a further study to assess the underground aquifer status. Wherever there has been a positive change in the carrying capacity, the approval may be granted, otherwise groundwater based activities must be banned till the period of attainment of carrying capacity. This kind of decisions and orders should also be clearly sent to various other departments – so that a project proponent could take befitting decision, prior to starting any related activities.

Besides, the Pollution Control Boards and Ground Water Authorities; other local administrations such as Traffic Regulating Authorities may also be involved in certain categories of projects. Despite Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Studies carried out by National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET) accredited EIA Consultants, in almost all cases, once a project starts – traffic becomes a tragic issue. This happens mostly in case of construction projects – be it hotels, hospitals, malls, office complex or group housing colonies. In many parts of India, the roads and traffic plan are old and the carrying capacity has exceeded by many folds. A joint reporting of CPCB, CGWB and Traffic Authorities could set a milestone in environment management. If not, separate reports and index be prepared. Project approvals should comply on the observation of such reports and indices. 

Why Scared of Delhi’s Air Pollution?

2nd October 2019  

Heat in the air has gone down. Festive season has arrived. A series of festivals to celebrate from the Navaratris, Durga Puja, Dussehra, Diwali, Bhaiya Dooj, Chhath Puja, and so on. On the side of this also culminating the worries of smog and pollution, especially in cities. News on anvil that Delhi Government is going to distribute 40 Lakh masks to government school students and their parents. What do you think? Does this act show that the government really cares for the students and their parents? If yes, it could have been uniform for every school child. Secondly, it enunciates that in the last one year, whatever measures taken or declared have remained ineffective. 

The concern is genuine. In the last one year also, environmental clearance were granted to projects in Delhi and National Capital Regions (NCR), with the same spirit – Diesel Generators up to 30000 kW were allowed for installation, proposal for reduction in greenbelt area approved and tree cutting allowed in new and expansion projects. On the contrary, Hon’ble National Green Tribunal has directed for adoption of piped natural gas (PNG), a comparatively clean fuel. Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been consistently advocating an increase in our renewable capacity. In the recently concluded UN Global Climate Summit, in his address, he said "We are increasing our dependence on non-fossil fuel sources of energy. By 2020, we intend to increase our renewable capacity to 175 Gigawatt, and we are working to further increase it to 450 Gigawatt capacity in the future. In our investments, we are giving e-mobility priority." The Prime Minister also mentioned that "We are making a lot of advances towards large-scale mixing of petrol and diesel with biofuel. We have given 150 million families access to clean cooking gas connection.” 

His initial remark, as he said “There is a lot of work being done around the world to address climate change. But we also have to accept that to meet this big challenge head-on, there isn't enough being done to solve this challenge as there should", however, was befitting. The change on the ground is still unimpressive. The road dust contributes towards maximum dust pollution. Road sweeping in the entire Delhi and NCR has not been mechanized and automatized. Therefore, vehicular movement and wind aggravates dust pollution. Despite series of efforts and expenditure, the burning of stalks in the neighbouring states has not stopped. Secondary particles contribute 30% in for PM2.5 winter followed by the contribution of the biomass burning in winter is quite high at 17% for PM10 and 26% for PM2.5. What is the sources of secondary particles, the major contributors to Delhi’s particulate matters? According to a report titled “Comprehensive Study on Air Pollution and Green House Gases (GHGs) in Delhi” prepared by the Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Kanpur - These particles are expected to source from precursor gases like SO2, and NOx, which are chemically transformed into particles in the atmosphere. Mostly the precursor gases are emitted from far distances from large sources. For sulfates, the major contribution can be attributed to large power plants and refineries.

As decided by Delhi Government, all other State Governments attached to NCR need to adopt tree audit. The tree audit data should be declared on their website, with complete transparency. It is noteworthy to remember Hon’ble Prime Minister’s statement "What we need is a comprehensive approach that considers education, values, and lifestyle, but also development and philosophy. We need a revolution to create a behavioural change in people. It has been our responsibility and duty to protect the world's natural resources, and this is also part of our culture and belief. Need not greed has been our guiding principle."