Despite increasing the budget allocation to NCAP, the budget lacks a plan to tackle air pollution from crop management.

Budget for National Clean Air Programme raised to ₹756 cr, ‘No plan to tackle crop residue’

The Centre increased the budget of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) this year to Rs756 crore from ₹406 crore in 2021-22 to ₹600 crore in 2022-23 and ₹756 crore in 2023-24. But the budget lacks a plan to tackle air pollution from crop management, experts said. Bhargav Krishna, fellow at New Delhi-based think tank, Centre for Policy Research (CPR) told TOI that the lack of attention to crop residue management or crop diversification mean there is unlikely to be any substantial improvement in crop residue burning this winter.

The Commission for Air Quality Management, which was formed last year, was allocated ₹17 crore as regulator for air quality management in Delhi and adjoining areas. 

In February 2020, the government had allocated ₹4,400 crore for 42 urban agglomerations based on the 15th Finance Commission’s interim report. The first tranche of ₹2,200 crore was released in November 2020. In her Union Budget speech for 2021-22, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced ₹2,217 crore as the second tranche based on the XV FC recommendation. The entire amount was disbursed to the cities in 2020-2021.

Toxic fumes: Polluting paper mills owe millions to residents of Muzaffarnagar alone

Paper mills in north India are emitting toxic fumes by burning waste paper (imported form USA and Canada) containing plastic impurities three times the permissible limit, as they fail to transition to cleaner fuel, reported the Quint. Plastic incineration is known to be 4,100 times more toxic than wood combustion. The report estimated the health and social costs for the residents of UP’s Muzaffarnagar (one of the worst hit by mill emissions) alone between $250 million to $500 million annually, according to the EU- and OECD-supported ‘polluter pays principle’.  

Earlier, the mill owners told the Supreme Court they required nearly Rs15 crore a day and investment of Rs40-100 crore to convert units from coal, biomass and paper to PNG. The mills said they have installed Online Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (OCEMS) to stick to pollution control norms, but the data is not available to citizens, the Quint report said. 

Centre allocates Rs10,000 crore for 500 compressed biogas plants

India announced 500 new ‘waste to wealth’ plants under Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan scheme (GOBARdhan) in the Union Budget 2023.  The plants will promote a circular economy in the country, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.  “These will include 200 compressed biogas (CBG) plants—75 in urban areas—and 300 community or cluster-based plants at a total investment of Rs10,000 crore,” Sitharaman said. In due course, a 5% CBG mandate will be introduced for all organisations marketing natural and biogas, the FM said. For collection of biomass and distribution of biomanure, appropriate fiscal support will be provided.

Centre pledges more funds for scrappage policy to boost new and cleaner vehicles

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her budget speech, said more funds have been allocated now to support effort to scrap old vehicles under the central government. States will also be supported to help them scrap old vehicles and old ambulances, she said. India announced a scrappage policy last year with a target of phasing out vehicles older than 15 years to boost new car sales and clean-energy vehicles.  From April 23, the government plans to scrap 9 lakh vehicles owned by central and state governments. As per the scrappage policy, central and state governments will provide 25% tax rebate from road tax for vehicles that are purchased by scrapping old vehicles.  

Parts of India, China hotspots of nitrate radicals which spike up heart-threatening ozone: Study 

New research found hazardous levels of nitrate radicals that could increase amount of ozone and PM 2.5 (both bad of health of heart) in the air in some parts of India and China. Nitrate radical is an oxide of nitrogen that consists of three oxygen atoms bound to a nitrogen atom, reported the Indian Express. The newspaper wrote that while cities in Europe and the United States have experienced a decline in the night-time production of nitrate radicals, parts of China and India have become hotspots and experienced a rapid increase. 

Express quoted one of the co-authors Zongbo Shi saying that nitrogen oxides are reactive gases that regulate the formation of air pollutants, including ozone and PM2.5 particles. Nitrate radicals oxidise gas pollutants such as volatile organic compounds(VOCs), which then generate ozone and secondary organic aerosol, which deteriorates air quality. Ozone is an air pollutant that affects human health and crop yield. Secondary organic aerosol is an important component of PM2.5. 

Scientists in London find Arsenic in smoke from burning wood

In a survey scientists found arsenic among the chemicals from wood smoke in London. The survey revealed that about 9% of people who burned wood at home were burning waste wood from construction sites. Researchers asked 30 men to grow beards for two weeks, then shave and collect the hair for analysis. Arsenic in their bodies would be incorporated into their growing beard forming a record of their exposure.

The study said that aside from cigarette smoking, the biggest factor that affected arsenic in the men’s beards was the frequency of wood-burning smells in their neighbourhood, suggesting that nearby wood-burning was a main exposure route. More arsenic was also found in the beards of men who burned wood offcuts.

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