Learning from the past: The NGT’s order follows the 2020 breach of fly ash dyke at Sasan Ultra project in Singrauli, in Madhya Pradesh, which killed six people. Photo: New Indian Express

Green court asks govt to set up mission to monitor disposal and use of fly ash

India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked the Centre to set up a fly ash management and utilisation mission. It will monitor scientific utilisation and disposal of environmentally hazardous remains of burnt coal and take strict action if coal plants do not comply. The mission will also see how thermal power plants can dispose of a massive 1670 million tonnes of legacy fly ash in the least hazardous way, aside from monitoring annual disposal of fly ash. 

The mission will be jointly run by top officers of power, coal and environment ministers along with chief secretaries of states. It will have to prepare a roadmap to utilise and dispose of legacy fly ash as per recommendations of the NGT’s expert committee. The NGT’s order follows the 2020 breach of fly ash dyke at Sasan Ultra project in Singrauli, in Madhya Pradesh, which killed six people, including three children. There have been various incidents of dyke breaches that have destroyed fields and properties of villagers around various power plants. 

15 Haryana units shut for ‘significantly’ polluting air and ground water 

Fifteen chemical industrial units in Haryana were shut down by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for “significantly” polluting air and ground water. The companies were manufacturing formaldehyde without environmental clearance (EC) and requisite safeguards. Out of the 15 industrial units, 10 are located in Yamuna Nagar district, two in Jhajjar, two in Karnal and one in Ambala. The factories discharge excess steam using chimneys during condensation, which adds to air pollution. The report also found some units didn’t have the mechanism to check leaking of cancerous methanol from underground tanks. Around 39% of national deaths from cancer are taking place in the state of Haryana.

A panel of the central and state pollution control boards observed discrepancies in their report filed on August 25, 2021. Environmental lawyer Shilpa Chouhan blamed the state pollution control board for permitting the illegal operations. “Now, the same board has been tasked to look into the violations by NGT,” Chouhan told DTE.  

Crop residue burning contributes to secondary particulate matter that travels long distances: IIT study

According to new research by IIT Kanpur scientists, crop residue burning contributed to around 31% of PM 2.5 concentrations (in the range of 15% to 47%) in Delhi and around 21% in the range of 6% to 36% in Kanpur during October and November of 2013 and 2014. The authors told HT that their research found that stubble burning contributes to secondary particulate matter. Vapours and gases like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, non-methane hydrocarbons and non-methane volatile organic compounds convert to particulate matter through photochemical reactions as they travel through the Ganga basin, the scientists said. This is why their contribution to PM 2.5 concentrations is high. The authors pointed out that studies normally only account for primary particulate matter emissions from crop residue burning. The paper also highlights how the gases and particulate matter from crop residue burning can travel long distances up to Kanpur.

During the study period, the contribution of crop residue burning to PM 2.5 concentration was on average 72 micrograms per cubic metres in Delhi and 48 micrograms per cubic metres in Kanpur. The average PM2.5 concentration was 246 micrograms per cubic metres (in the range of 117 to 375) in Delhi and 229 micrograms per cubic metres (in the range of 115 to 343) in Kanpur during October and November.

China expands air pollution monitoring to include GHG emissions

Reuters reported that China will force key industrial sectors and regions to take action to measure greenhouse gas emissions as part of a new initiative to improve data quality and oversight. 

China’s biggest coal-fired power providers, steel mills and oil and gas producers must draw up comprehensive new greenhouse gas monitoring plans by the end of this year.

China needs to beef up its measurement of carbon emissions in line with its monitoring of air pollutants to become carbon neutral by 2060, experts said, adding that expanding the emission monitoring and disclosure that is currently in place for air pollutants to CO2 would be a huge step forward.

Ground-level ozone pollution causes $63 billion damage annually to East Asian crops

Rising levels of ground-level ozone, mainly from vehicles, in China and nearby countries are reducing yields of staple crops such as wheat, rice and maize. The relative fall in yields of wheat, rice and maize in China, Japan and South Korea is costing $63 billion a year, according to researchers at Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology in China.

Ozone is a highly reactive gas. In the stratosphere it blocks dangerous ultraviolet light, but ground-level ozone harms plants and animals. Surface ozone forms when nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight.

Surface ozone levels have increased because of NOx pollution, mainly from vehicles. Based on measurements from 3,000 sites in China, Japan and South Korea, scientists estimated that ozone pollution is causing relative yield losses of 33% for wheat, 23% for rice and 9% for maize.

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