Toxic Air: Satellite data released by NASA found India to be the largest emitter of toxic sulphur dioxide- a prominent by-product of thermal power plants, accounting for 15% of global emissions | Map: Greenpeace

India largest SO2 emitter in the world, show satellite images

India’s toxic air flashed on NASA’s radar recently, highlighting the country as the world’s largest emitter of sulphur dioxide (SO2), a toxic gas mostly emitted from burning of fossil fuels in power plants and other industrial facilities. The latest Greenpeace analysis says over 15% of the global SO2 hotspots detected by the NASA satellite were found in India. China and Russia ranked second and third respectively in the Greenpeace 2018 SO2 emissions report.

India introduced pollution control norms for coal power plants way back in 2015, which, for the first time, included limits for SO2 emissions as well. The initial 2017 deadline to retrofit technology to control SO2 emissions has been postponed by five years through a Supreme Court order.

India adds 20 Indian cities to ‘polluted’ list, green court says increase 2024 target

Widening the scope of cleaning toxic air, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has added 20 more cities to the list of 102 cities that require immediate action to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The new cities include eight from Andhra Pradesh and six from West Bengal, bringing the total to 122 cities.

The country’s green court, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), recently ordered the CPCB to modify the National Clean Air Programme’s (NACP) weak target of cutting air pollution by 30% by 2024. Experts say the cities will remain polluted even if the target of reducing 20-30% of PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations is realised. The NGT, on August 6, issued 15-point directions for different agencies and asked the environment ministry to modify its NCAP target.

After extending deadlines, Centre to dilute air pollution norms for thermal plants?

Has the Indian government overruled its own scientists to allow coal power plants to continue polluting? Business Standard reported that the Centre has decided to dilute air pollution standards for thermal power plants, almost four years after they were notified. In a shocking development, the report says that to dilute norms, the power ministry rejected the pollution data of the much-praised online pollution monitoring system set up by India’s apex pollution control body, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The power ministry rejected the environment ministry’s real-time monitored data of thermal power plants as ‘faulty’, by saying that the existing NOx pollution levels are much higher than what the CPCB has shown on online automated monitoring systems. This is the same monitoring system the Centre showcased as India’s pledge to protect the environment. The new norms have already been postponed by the government by five years, to 2022.

“You are not a kindergarten”: CPCB rapped, gets 3 months to set up 1,500 AQ monitors

India’s green court rapped India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for failing to take action against polluters, while stating that it was a scientific body and ‘not a kindergarten’. The NGT said: “You have prepared an action plan to curb air pollution. You say you need time to bring it into force, but what about those who are causing pollution in this time period. You are a scientific body and not a kindergarten.”

While giving the CPCB three months to install 1,500 air quality monitoring stations across the country, the green court said that no action had been taken by the states to curb vehicles in areas where the pollution level was found to be high. 

Industrial hubs outside city limits directly worsening Mumbai’s air quality: Study

A new satellite study of India’s financial capital has revealed that Mumbai’s toxic air is more than particulate matter (PM) emitted from cars and construction activity. The study by UrbanEmissions says the city’s air is a hazardous mix of emissions from thermal, metal, wire industries, stone quarries, movement of freight trucks and garbage burning across 12 locations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), reported HT.

UrbanEmissions said that activities across the industrial hubs outside the city limits directly impact Mumbai’s air quality, increasing concentration of PM2.5 – fine toxic particles that stay in the air longer and cause serious respiratory ailments.

Sonbhadra mining permissions revoked by NGT

In a small victory for the inhabitants of the highly polluted coal district of Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has cancelled environmental clearance to four mining units — Maihar Stone, Jai Maa Bhandari Stone, Jyoti Stone, Vaishono Stone and Guru Kripa — operating in the region. The stone-crushing units were also asked to prepare an appropriate action plan to restore the damage done to the environment within a month.

Ukraine ArcelorMittal promises investments after pollution charges

Steel giant ArcelorMittal has declared it will invest $1.8 billion over the next five years to curb air pollution by 55% at its plant in Ukraine’s Kryvyi Rih, which is also its President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s hometown. The steel plant was found to be violating green norms. Officials had discovered a source of radiation exceeding safe levels in a new piece of equipment at the plant and had banned the company from using it. The company feared losing $1 million after authorities seized the equipment. The steel giant invested over $9 billion in the country’s biggest steel plant.

Indonesia curbs private cars to stall rising air pollution

The Indonesian government has decided to extend the odd-even traffic rule on private cars to stall spiralling air pollution in its capital Jakarta. Last week, Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan ordered to levy congestion charges for cars from 2020, set an age limit of 10 years on vehicles on the road by 2025, and adopt tough emission tests and crackdown on pollution by industries. Experts said this generic policy will not eventually help reduce pollution because the country needs a strategic plan to cut pollution based on an inventory of emissions. Jakarta lacks monitoring devices to pinpoint the cause of the pollution spikes, experts pointed out.

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