Protecting the polluter? The environment ministry has stirred fresh controversy with a new SOP which paves the way for “amnesty” towards some polluting industries | Photo: MoEF&CC

‘Polluters pay’ vs ‘pay and pollute’: New norms regularise illegal projects?

An office memorandum issued by India’s environment ministry on 7 July lays out a new standard operating procedure for infrastructure and industrial projects that have violated environment clearance norms. According to the memo, violators will have to pay a penalty and projects that were never eligible for environmental clearance because of their environmental footprint to be demolished. The memo, however, also includes provisions for “amnesty” for violating infrastructure and industry projects, reported HT.

According to the new provisions, projects that violate norms, but are “permissible”, will have to submit a bank guarantee to the central or state pollution control boards. Also, projects that don’t have prior environmental clearance (EC) would be appraised afresh. Experts call it a move to regularise industry, irrespective of size, scale or impact. Report points out that a similar “amnesty scheme” for the violators had also figured in the draft environment impact assessment notification 2020, which drew widespread public criticism last year for “post-facto” clearances.

The Centre has responded to criticisms by saying that the new scheme follows a National Green Tribunal order which said that “for past violations”, the authorities were free to act in accordance with polluter pays principle. Experts argue that this will be the largest regularisation scheme for illegal projects.

Off the hook: Delhi govt withdraws SC plea seeking to shut down polluting coal plants 

Delhi may continue to choke by the deadly coal plant emissions. The state government withdrew a plea in the Supreme Court to shut down 10 thermal power plants in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana over failure to install Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) technology.

Delhi had sought that the Supreme Court quash orders by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which allowed extension of the deadline for installing FGD and also set aside the Centre’s notification that extended timelines for compliance. DTE reported that Delhi’s plea said despite many orders passed by the apex court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT), hardly any progress has been observed in controlling air pollution.

Delhi Cabinet approves “one of its kind” real-time source apportionment study for the NCR

The Delhi government’s Cabinet approved a real-time source apportionment study to curb air pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR). The study, to be jointly conducted by researchers from IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Delhi, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and IISER-Mohali, will provide real-time diurnal source apportionment and suggest short-term daily and weekly actions to systematically prevent air quality deterioration in the long-term.

According to the government, the real-time source apportionment of pollution has not been implemented in any other city in the country. Scientists involved in the project said the “one of its kind in the world” mobile laboratory will provide apportionment of the sources at multiple locations in the city. 

Crop yield grew 20% in cleaner air, farther away from coal plants: US Study

A new study by scientists at Stanford University concluded that reduction in air pollution between 1999 and 2019 contributed to about 20% of the increase in corn and soybean yields during that period—an amount worth about $5 billion per year. Scientists used satellites to measure very fine scale patterns to assess impact of pollutants such as ozone (emitted from cars exhaust), particulate matter, and coal plant emissions of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.  Scientists found a clear yield increase the farther away the crops were cultivated from the coal plants. According to the analysis, the pollutants accounted for an average loss of about 5% of corn and soybean production over the study period.

Britain to ban new petrol and diesel trucks by 2040

After pledging to ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel heavy goods vehicles from 2040 in one of the moves to achieve net zero emissions.

The British government said it would ban the sale of smaller diesel trucks from 2035 and those weighing more than 26 tonnes from 2040, or earlier if feasible. The country also has a target to create a net zero rail network by 2050 and net zero domestic aviation emissions by 2040.

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