New norms allow companies to expand operations by self-certifying that they won’t pollute

The Centre’s new rules allowing companies to expand operations leaves room for the misuse of compliance norms, reported HT. The environment ministry has allowed some of the most polluting industries, including those involved in coal washing, mineral processing, manufacturers of pesticides, fertilisers, paint, cement and petrochemicals, to expand their operations by simply providing a ”no increase in pollution load certificate”.

Experts said trusting companies to self-certify, especially with a poor monitoring regime, is an open invitation to non-compliance and abuse. The ministry claimed it has received several requests from processing, production and the manufacturing sector for permitting increase in production capacity without having to go through the entire environmental clearance process again. 

Top panel to monitor Delhi-NCR pollution formed again, through ordinance

Drawing flak that it is not serious about tackling air pollution in the Capital, the Centre has reconstituted the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Adjoining Areas. The commission had shut down after the government failed to pass the Bill in the budget session of the Parliament five months after it was announced through ordinance. The newly constituted commission continues to have sweeping powers in controlling air pollution in Delhi-NCR. It has been reconstituted again through ordinance, as the House is not in session. 

MM Kutty, former secretary in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas and former chief secretary of Delhi, remains the chairperson. Ashish Dhawan of the Air Pollution Action Group is the only NGO member, while Ramesh KJ, former secretary, earth sciences, is the only full-time technical member. New panelists include members from farmer bodies, the construction sector and industry. Serving professionals can also become members. Earlier, only retired professionals were included. The Centre dropped the clause of penalising farmers, HT reported. 

‘Policy failure’: Delhi, Kanpur air witnessing spikes in NO2, PM2.5 levels, says UK study

The air in Delhi and Kanpur is witnessing increasing levels of fine particles (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) revealed a study based on satellite data analysed by the University of Birmingham and University College London. Scientists attributed it to the rise in vehicle ownership, industry emissions and weaker compliance and implementation of air pollution control policies. In contrast, the levels of PM2.5 and NO2 showed a declining trend in the city of London, reflecting the success of policies to curb sources emitting these substances, the study said.

PM2.5  from burning natural gas, wood for heat and electricity is killing 46,000 Americans annually: Study

A new Harvard study found that burning natural gas and wood instead of coal for heating and electricity is killing 46,000 Americans annually even though it is better for the climate. The study stated that burning gas in at least 19 states plus Washington DC, kills more people than coal because of exposure to fine particulate matter PM2.5 that damages the lung tissue.

The study found 47,000 to 69,000 premature deaths each year, which could be attributed to emissions from buildings, power generators and industrial boilers. Of that, fumes from gas, wood and biomass were responsible for between 29,000 and 46,000 deaths respectively. The study highlighted the benefits of eliminating coal. In 2008, when coal produced nearly half the nation’s electricity, emissions from the power sector caused between 59,000 and 66,000 premature deaths. By 2017, that fell to 10,000 to 12,000 deaths when more coal was retired. The research revealed the health risks linked not just with replacing coal power plants with gas units, but continuing to burn gas or wood for heating, cooking and industrial purposes.

French court stops deportation of migrant, cites killer air pollution in home country 

A landmark ruling by a French court for the first time cited air pollution in an extradition hearing. The court stopped the deportation of a Bangladeshi man with asthma after his lawyer argued that he risked the possibility of premature death because of the dangerous levels of pollution in his homeland. The appeals court in Bordeaux overturned an expulsion order against the 40-year-old man because he would face “a worsening of his respiratory pathology due to air pollution” in Bangladesh, reported the Guardian.

A 2020 ruling by the United Nations human rights committee stated that it is unlawful for governments to return people to countries where their lives might be threatened by the climate crisis.

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