Little progress: Indian green court has ordered pollution control board to set up 175 AQI monitoring stations across the country | Photo: Sentinel Assam

Green court: Set up 175 air pollution monitoring stations, conduct Carrying Capacity study

India’s green court, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), has ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to set up 175 air quality monitoring stations across the country within six months using the environmental compensation fund (EC). The CPCB was told to hold online meetings with the heads of state pollution control boards to monitor the work. The court ordered more stations to be set up after CPCB said 173 stations have already been established.

The court also ordered that state pollution control boards should conduct Source Apportionment and Carrying Capacity studies using the environmental compensation money. Carrying Capacity marks the limit of the number of people at a location without the risk of degrading its environment. Earlier, the NGT had criticised the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) 2024 deadline for reducing air pollution by 30% saying that clean air was people’s fundamental right and it should be provided immediately. The NGT has asked the Centre to modify the NCAP.

Delhi records cleanest air day since records began

Delhi recorded its cleanest air quality day since monitoring began in 2015 on August 31 with an AQI of 41. It is the result of incessant rain for over the past two weeks, less air pollution because of COVID-19-related lockdown and good winds, experts said. Delhi received 364.8 mm rainfall in August, 30% above normal for the city in the wettest August in 12 years.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB), it was also the fourth ‘good’ air day recorded over a month since 2015. A total of five ‘good’ days have been recorded this year so far, the first one being on March 28, five days after the lockdown began. According to the CPCB data. 2015 and 2016 did not record any ‘good’ days. The year 2017 recorded two good days on July 30 and 31, with AQI readings of 43 and 47, respectively.

Power minister: Extend coal plants’ emissions deadline by 2 more years  

The power ministry is recommending extending the 2022 deadline to install emission-reducing technology by two more years for 322 units. The coal plants have already got such extensions twice. They were supposed to install the technology in 2017. Power minister RK Singh said the extension is necessary. 

A total of 448 units are supposed to be retrofitted with the anti-emission flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) systems — which remove SO2 from exhaust flue gases. So far, bids have been awarded for 130 units and FGD has been commissioned for four of these units. The industry is not interested in costly FDG because it will increase the tariffs, making it tough to get bank finance.

India’s ageing coal plants are highly polluting. Even new ones are struggling to get customers. The old ones continue to sell costly power because of long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with discoms. Experts say they are indispensable for integrating large-scale RE to back the variable nature of RE generation. According to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) study only 1% of the total coal-fired power plant capacity have installed the mandatory FGD systems. 

Telangana launches live app to report air pollution complaints 

Telangana launched the TSAIR app to receive real-time complaints on air pollution by users, including citizens’ reports about biomass burning, construction sites and pollution from cars and bikes. The app launched by Telangana Pollution Control Board also shares noise pollution data. The app provides data from monitoring stations run by the board and 40 CAAQMS air quality stations run by private enterprises. Additionally, the app will have real-time data from 10 noise metres installed at different locations in the city. 

Exposure to air pollution in infancy damages lung power in adolescents 

A new study revealed that if babies are exposed to air pollution even lower than the EU standards until they are a year old, they suffer from reduced lung function as adolescents. The EU annual average for PM2.5 is 25 µg/m3, compared to the WHO limit of 10 µg/m3. Both the WHO and EU limits for nitrogen dioxide are 40 µg/m3.

Researchers conducted the study on 915 children living in the Munich and Wesel regions of Germany. The children had tests to measure their breathing at the ages of 6, 10 and 15. The study compared the results with estimated levels of pollution in the areas the children had lived until they were a year old, including factors such as  parental smoking.

Another study found that adults who were exposed to even low levels of air pollution were more likely to develop asthma. Conducted on a sample of 23,000 Danish nurses, the researchers found a 29% rise in asthma risk for each increase of 6.3 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) in small particulate matter known as PM2.5. They also found a 16% rise in asthma risk for each 8.2 µg/m3 increase of nitrogen dioxide.