The new law also dropped jail terms for most violations and replaced it with a fine in the range of ₹10,000 to ₹15 lakh.

Bill to amend Water Act to decriminalise small offences cleared

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Amendment Bill, 2024, which decriminalises almost all penal provisions in the earlier 1974 law, was passed in Parliament, reported HT. 

Now all penal provisions have been replaced only with penalty, except section 25 and 26. For section 41 to 45A, there is provision for imposing financial penalty instead of prosecution in court, environment minister Bhupender Yadav said. Section 25 makes it mandatory to take consent from state pollution boards to operate and section 26 applies to discharge of sewage or trade effluents. The government earlier decriminalised several provisions related to air pollution under the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Act, 2023.

According to DTE, the Bill specifies that the Centre, in consultation with the Central Pollution Control Board, may exempt certain categories of industrial plants from obtaining consent from state pollution control boards to establish industries. This was mandatory in the earlier Act.  

The new law also dropped jail terms for most violations and replaced it with a fine in the range of ₹10,000 to ₹15 lakh. DTE added that the Bill allows the Centre to appoint adjudication officers to determine penalties. The original Act vested this power with the state governments.

Environment Minister: No study on air pollution’s impact on cognitive decline

Environment minister Bhupendra Yadav informed the House that there has been no specific study on whether high air pollution damages brain and motor functions among children. He stated that there are studies on the impact of air pollution, which is one of the many factors affecting respiratory ailments and associated diseases, “There is no specific study conducted in regard to the impact of air pollution on cognitive and motor impairment of children,” HT reported. 

An average Indian citizen is losing around 5.3 years of life expectancy according to the annual Air Quality Life Index report of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago released last year. Delhi recorded an average air quality index of 204 in 2023 compared to 209 in 2022— both in the “poor” category as per Central Pollution Control Board.

The State of Global Air 2020 report said India has the highest burden of infant deaths due to air pollution. The newspaper report pointed out that there are global studies that indicate the noxious air impacts pregnant women and may impair the early neurological development of children, adding that a paper published in Springer Nature’s Journal of Environmental Health in January last year found that higher exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy was inversely associated with motor, cognitive and language scores of two-year-old children. “These results indicate that prenatal ambient air pollution may negatively impact neurodevelopment in early life,” found the study led by the department of integrative physiology at the Colorado University in Boulder.

Another study led by the department of environmental and occupational health sciences at the Washington University found that children whose mothers experienced higher nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution exposure during pregnancy were more likely to have behavioural problems. Higher exposures to PM 2.5 pollution when children were 2 to 4 years old was associated with poorer child behavioural functioning and cognitive performance.

Clean water crisis: Nitrogen pollution to triple scarcity in river sub-basins worldwide, India, Africa to be biggest polluters

Nitrogen pollution in rivers may persist until 2050 contaminating water quality in numerous regions, says a new study adding that the situation is expected to worsen in the years to come. An additional 40 million sqkm of river basin area and three billion more people may face water scarcity in 2050 than previously estimated. The study introduces the term “clean-water scarcity” and provides a comprehensive assessment considering both water quantity and quality. 

Future clean-water scarcity hotspots were identified in China, India, Europe, North America, and potentially Central Africa in the worst-case scenario. Nitrogen losses in rivers can stem from various sources, including human waste, agricultural practices and fertiliser applications. In the worst-case scenario, sewage is projected to become the dominant source of nitrogen pollution in rivers due to rapid urbanisation and inadequate wastewater treatment infrastructure.

India experiences nitrogen pollution primarily from agriculture, but sewage is projected to surpass agriculture as the main source in the worst-case scenario, DTE reported.

Mahagenco issued notices over failing to instal pollution-cutting tech at Koradi units

The Maharashtra State Power Generation Company (Mahagenco) filed an affidavit in a case that accused the state power firm of failing to install pollution-cutting equipment at its Koradi power plants, TOI reported. The petitioners said Mahagenco had received environmental clearance for its Koradi units in 2010 subject to installation of flue gas desulfurizers (FGDs) on all the units to reduce pollution. It failed to comply with those conditions for almost 14 years leading to widespread pollution in Koradi and adjoining areas.

Mahagenco stated it has submitted a detailed schedule, including procurement (ordering, manufacturing and delivery) of mechanical and electrical equipment, control systems and instruments. The schedule regarding construction, civil and fabrication works, installation and testing of mechanical systems, electrical equipment, control systems and instruments also forms part of the agreement. The company said a letter of award was given to Shapoorji Pallonji on November 16, 2023, after which its team visited the site for survey and to draw a layout plan. Accordingly, the Mumbai firm finalised the location of main equipment such as booster fans, absorber unit, oxidation blowers, and chimneys and also started a detailed engineering process.

Canada: Pollution from bitumen extraction from tar sands underestimated by 6,300%?

Employing a limited technique of measuring air pollution grossly underestimated the toxic emissions from extraction of the Canadian tar sands, according to new research. The research said air pollution from the vast Athabasca oil sands in Canada exceeded industry-reported emissions by a staggering 1,900% to over 6,300%. The Guardian reported that Canadian tar sands, also called oil sands, are a massive site of oil extraction in Alberta, an area larger than England. The type of oil in the tar sands is called “bitumen”. It is extremely heavy and difficult to extract as it requires massive amounts of water—what a small city may use on a daily basis.

Using aircraft to measure pollutants, researchers found that there are many organic compounds being released during the process that are missed by traditional ways of measuring air pollutants—with devastating health consequences. The report said for decades Indigenous communities in the region have complained about the health impact of toxic air caused by the oil sands operations.

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