Critical mission: A new national mission to use biomass in thermal power plants has been tasked with resolving India’s crop stubble burning problem | Photo: The Weather Channel

Stubble burning: India to set up National Mission for using biomass in coal plants

To fix the issue of air pollution caused by burning of crop stubble India plans to launch a National Mission on use of biomass in coal-based thermal power plants. 

The duration of the proposed National Mission would be a minimum five years. It will address the issue of supply chain of biomass pellets and agro-residue and its transport upto to the power plants. The government plans to increase the level of co-firing from the present 5% to higher levels to have a larger share of carbon neutral power generation from the thermal power plants and to take up take up R&D activity in boiler design to handle the higher amount of silica, alkalis in the biomass pellets. 

The National Mission on biomass will also contribute to the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

Study: Pollution from crop burning and forest fires stunts teen height, girls worst hit

A new study revealed that teenage girls exposed to high levels of biomass burning are shorter in height in the following years. Exposure to pollution from crop burning and forest fires during early years has long term consequences, the study has revealed. Girls from North Indian states are most vulnerable, researchers found. 

The study revealed that exposure during prenatal and postnatal periods is associated with lower height (by 0.7% or 1.07 cm) later in life. The study combined remote sensing data on biomass burning events with a pan-India survey on teenage girls (TAG survey). The scientists analysed regional and temporal variation in data to establish the link between occurrence of extremely high levels of biomass burning during early life and adolescent height for girls in India. 

Rampant coal fly ash pollution in 2020, power firms used lockdown to dump toxic waste? 

While social media users posted pictures of blue skies and view of Himalayas during the first COVID 19 lockdown in 2020 a new study by Healthy Energy Initiative India and Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) revealed heavy coal fly ash pollution based on their analyses of media reports of coal fly ash accidents from 7 states including Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra. 

The study highlighted a hazardous mismanagement of coal ash including routine incidents of coal ash pond collapse, air pollution and discharge of coal fly ash into rivers and other water bodies. Korba in Chhattisgarh, Ennore and Seppakkam in North Chennai reported multiple incidents and accidents related to fly ash mismanagement. Residents from coal hotspots complained that power companies used the COVID-19 lockdown to dump waste indiscriminately in the water bodies, villages and around the highways.

Subsidise conversion kits, convert 300 mn on-road vehicles to LPG to clean air: LPG lobby to govt

In order to tackle air pollution from vehicles sooner, the top LPG lobby in India said the government should adopt a near-term strategy to convert polluting diesel and petrol vehicles on the road by reducing the massive 28% GST being levied on conversion kits and offering subsidies to shift to cleaner LPG and CNG. The kits cost up to Rs25,000. The cost of LPG is 48% lower than petrol, they argued. Auto LPG was found to emit almost 52% less carbon monoxides (CO), 47% less total hydrocarbons (THC) and 50% less non-methane hydrocarbons (NmHC) as compared to petrol, the statement said.

Compared to BS VI fuel norms, the LPG emits 82% lower CO, 70% lower THC, 62% lower NmHC and 81% lower nitrogen oxide (NOx), the statement added. 

The Indian Auto LPG Coalition (IAC) said the government should convert an estimated 300 million vehicles currently running on the roads in India to LPG in order to improve India’s air quality in the near-term rather than wait for a decade for the mass adoption of electric vehicles

EU top court raps Germany over failure to clean up toxic air in cities

EU’s top court, the Court of Justice, pulled up the German government for consistently failing to clean up its dirty air in its cities, thereby endangering the lives of citizens. The court pointed out between 2010 and 2016, the country consistently exceeded the limits set for nitrogen dioxide levels. This is just one more example of how courts are increasingly becoming an important arena for campaigners and environmentalists to keep governments accountable. In April this year, Germany’s top court had pointed out how Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to protect the climate were inadequate.

Biden proposes historic funding boosts to reduce air pollution in the worst hit states, tribes

The Biden administration massively raised the next year’s budget to curb air pollution, after years of stagnation. The 2022 budget request for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spending on state, local and tribal air regulators includes $153 million for EPA air and climate programmes, and $100 million to improve air quality monitoring and provide real time data on air pollution to disadvantaged communities. Science funding on air quality has been raised by $82 million,  $60 million for research into climate change and its impacts. 

Additional $100 million has been provided to fund grants to help states and tribes address greenhouse gas emissions. An amount of $59 million has been allocated  in targeted airshed grants to reduce pollution in communities with the Nation’s most polluted air. The budget also provides $150 million to reduce diesel emissions that can impose crippling pollution burdens on disadvantaged communities near transport corridors and facilities.

Study links asthma in infants to in-utero exposure to air pollution

According to a new American study, babies whose mothers were exposed to ultra-fine particles (UFPs) in the air during pregnancy are more likely to develop asthma. The UFPs are not regulated by the government, and they are more toxic than the larger particles that are routinely monitored and have also been linked to asthma, the Guardian reported.

The sources of UFPs include vehicles and wood burners and scientists said tens of thousands of particles can be found in each sugar-cube-sized volume of city air. The study assessed impacts on almost 400 mothers and their children through pregnancy and afterwards in Boston, US. The level of UFPs, smaller than 0.1 micrometre, ranged from about 10,000 to 40,000 per cubic centimetre of air, the study revealed. Scientists found that infants whose mothers had been exposed to levels of 30,000/cm3 during pregnancy were approximately four times more likely to develop asthma than those whose mothers had been exposed to levels of 15,000/cm3.

NOx pollution: Global nitrogen meet for the first time focuses on sustainable development goals

For the first time, the main focus of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI) was the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The triennial global conference was hosted virtually by Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA) from May 31 to June 3, 2021. 

Experts said reactive nitrogen compounds like NOx, ammonia and the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide impact air, water and soil quality, biodiversity and climate change. The sources of pollution are fertilisers, manures and sewage as well as vehicular pollution. To manage them sustainably is key to achieve the UN SDGs targeted for 2030. The conference will release the Berlin Declaration. 

Experts pointed out that nitrous oxide has upto 300 times higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide and the UK government is highlighting it in the run up to the UNFCC COP26 to be held at Glasgow in November this year, DTE reported.

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