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Interview with Dr. Paritosh Tyagi, Former  Chairman, CPCB - on air pollution

Dr P. K. Gaur, Former Officer of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board, an able Environmental Engineer who has written 9 textbooks and a passionate environmentalist talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra.

Earlier, you have served as the Field Officer of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board office at Gurugram, Regional Officer at Panipat and now, a resident of Gurugram. How would you respond to the speculations on the basis of a report by Greenpeace and IQ AirVisual, which terms Gurugram, the erstwhile Gurgaon as the world’s most polluted cities in 2018?

Prima facie, the Greenpeace and IQ AirVisual report stating Gurugram as the worst polluted city in the world - seems bogus, baseless and seems to be influenced by vested interests. Environmental issues including air pollution have become serious matters for contemporary human life. In the age of social media, such speculations cause traumatic effects in human psychology. Environmental reporting and journalism should be sensible.

What are the possible reasons to support your claims?

There are several technical reasons, which indicates the Greenpeace and IQ AirVisual report is not factual. For example, total numbers of rainy days in 2018 were 73 as compared to 44 in 2017. The report under discussion is based on PM2.5 that settles with rain. Secondly, Gurugram got 4 underpasses and four flyovers in the most traffic-concerned areas. Besides, traffic flow has become smooth in the DLF cyber city area and Golf Course road with the help of several underpasses and flyover. Further, the traffic management has significantly improvised in many parts of the city. Thirdly, construction activities have slowed down and virtually there is no addition to the number of industries. A fourth reason could be that the working of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) has significantly improved in terms of road sweeping, cleanliness and even plantation. Moreover, there was no shortage of power and no power cuts during 2018, so working hours for DG Sets may have considerably reduced. Nevertheless, the newspaper flash reports do not provide the technical depth. 

How do you reckon the reports of the World Health Organization (WHO) over Greenpeace and IQ AirVisual?

The identity of both organizations has radical differences. Although, there are findings to substantiate that sometimes WHO reports are also based on data lacking traceability, their reports are more reliable as compared to the other one.  

Do you think the air pollution issue is being overhyped?

Yes. Because it is visible. Water pollution and noise pollution are equally grave or even more in terms of seriousness. Especially, in cities like Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Faridabad groundwater pollution is a major concern. Sound pollution or noise pollution pose a dangerous effect, almost everywhere in the country. And people are ignoring this part. One has to be careful about the much-hyped propaganda as these are influenced by a select section.

What are the vested interests you think?

The vested interests could be the Air purifier sales force. It is also possibly a concerted effort to dent the image of Gurugram that could result in brain-drain and demagnetize investors. 

Do you think that the online monitoring systems are working satisfactorily? Because there is no calibration system available to support the online system generated data.

Working of online monitoring systems has been in question because we don’t have a calibration facility. However, validation with the data obtained from other traditional methods shows satisfactory trends.

Do you have any suggestion with regard to the ambient air quality monitoring policy?

Yes. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Bureau of Indian Standards and some premier institutions like NEERI, IITs have made a significant contribution in this field. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), State Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) and some State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) specify conditions of ambient air quality monitoring while according Environmental Clearances, Consents, and approvals. What we are lacking is – effective communication between projects or industries and these authorities. And this is more important in urban areas. The SPCBs must become proactive and take forward steps to devise effectively workable monitoring plans. For example selection of monitoring locations with specific reference to the guidelines and standards as well as the climatic conditions. They also clarify the required test parameters. Because it is specified in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, 2009; most of the laboratory service buyers opt to go for 12 parameters without even the source of Nickel and Lead kind of parameters, which are extremely costly. Also, it is often found that there is no appropriate pricing mechanism for monitoring. Actual implementation could be attained by means of establishing a trail of documentary evidence such as test reports, calibration and reference materials, purchase orders, payments, and technical data sheets. And this should be made a standard practice by delineating in the form of a condition. 

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Mr. K. P. Singh, Director (Construction & Operations), M/s Global Realty Venture Limited, New Delhi

  

Mr. K. P. Singh, Director (Construction & Operations), M/s Global Realty Venture Limited, New Delhi talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra. Mr. Singh has enormous experience of over 3 decades in several iconic national and international construction projects.


You must be aware of two notifications the MoEF&CC introduced in November 2018, in which the construction projects are mostly made out of the purview of EIA Notification. What is your view as a domain expert? 

It is unfortunate. On the one hand we are talking about decentralization of power, and when a government act on it, some people are too scared to bear that change. At the same time, as democracy prevails in our country, the government should also have consulted with experts before taking such important decisions. The basic objective should remain sustainable and progressive investments. I believe that the new government will address all concerns and objections and also take everyone into the same page.

Do you think that it was a concerted plan or a hurried action or an act of some other reason not shared with the public? 

I would like to reiterate, in a democratic country like India, the Government should have consulted all stakeholders before taking a decision.

Do you think Indian Municipal Corporations and Panchayats can take up such responsibilities? 

Decentralization of power and Capacity building is a continuous process of development. There were similar concerns when SEIAAs were formed. So far, there is no such legal complication found in the cases of projects cleared by the SEIAAs. Therefore, I am optimistic that an institution, once empowered, delivers. We have many experts available at different levels, who could participate in decision-making processes. Moreover, the power decentralization could have reduced post-project legal hassles with effective use of single-window clearance policies.

In the post-Katowice scenario, we are expecting much funds to flow into the green building sector. What are the challenges we have?

Green Building is a sustainable construction concept, which meets the needs of the present with good consideration of future demands and requirements. Sustainability in the construction industry is brought basically by good technical use of sustainable materials and energy etc. with simultaneous minimization in wastage and pollution. The number of green buildings in the country is rapidly growing. The biggest challenge for the green building sector is lack of awareness and demand among end users. Another challenge is the availability of viable cost-effective technologies. The concept of green building has got a substantial boost, since the last couple of years. Still, there are many stones remaining unturned. We have to imbibe technology and restructure the same to fit into our cases.

How to overcome those challenges?

By exploring cost-effective technologies. For example, the adoption of solar energy was a good measure. But, it was high on capital investment. As, lately, the CAPEX in solar energy utilization has come down, it has become popular. Also, there is a need for open communications between corporates, research institutions, government and society (activists and buyers). Projects should not take too much of a long time for completion. Infrastructure must be created by the government at the same time when it brings in new policy or amendments.

What are the parameters primarily considered in a green building project?

The term Green Building refers to a structure and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle. The Green Building project differs from conventional building projects by assigning equal priorities to economic, social, and environmental goals. It has now been universally accepted that it is critical to the design of environmentally responsible buildings for sustainable development. Research shows that Green Building improves tenants‘ satisfaction and health, enabling higher individual productivity in respective areas of expertise. As a result of the increased interest in Green Building concepts and practices, a number of organizations have developed standards, codes and rating systems conservation of water, energy, and building materials, and occupant comfort and health.

How is the construction industry responding to the Construction & Demolition Waste Rules?

The major source of Construction and Demolition waste is from the demolition of existing structures.  Eliminating wastes, minimizing wastes and reusing imminent wastes need to be practiced. Recycling of demolition waste is not new. It was first carried out after the Second World War in Germany to tackle the problem of disposing of large amounts of demolition waste caused by the war and simultaneously generate raw material for reconstruction. Having said that, again state-of-art proven technologies should be adopted and the final disposal should be carried out as per the legal provisions. 

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