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Inside the blast radius: The Supreme Court this week once again took state and central governments to task over their ineffectiveness in curbing stubble burning and improving air quality in the NCR | Photo: IndiaTVNews

Top court rebukes Centre, states over polluted air: Better to bomb ‘all in one go’

India’s top court has said governments must compensate people if they fail to provide them with clean air and drinking water. The Supreme Court issued notices to all state governments and UTs asking why citizens should not be compensated. The bench said governments of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and UP should compensate people living in Delhi. The court asked the chief secretaries of all four states to draw up a long-term plan to deal with air pollution. 

The court said Delhi has become “worse than hell (narak).” The judges were unsparing in their criticism as they said, “Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers? It is better to kill them all in one go, get explosives in 15 bags at one go.” 

Amongst G20 countries, air pollution deaths maximum in India: Over 1 million every year

Of the G20 countries, maximum number of air pollution deaths take place in India: over 10 lakh people every year. The report titled Brown to Green, by  Climate Transparency Partnership, based on World Health Organisation (WHO) data, said that G20 countries will have to significantly scale up their 2030 emission targets, and those of climate adaptation and finance in order to meet the Paris agreement 1.5 Degree Celsius goal. The report pointed out that India will have to cut emissions to below 4.5 Gigatonne of equivalent CO2 (GtCO2e) by 2030 and to below 3.2 GtCO2e by 2050 to be compatible with global 1.5°C IPCC scenarios. But since India currently produces 73% of power from coal, its 2030 nationally determined contributions (NDC) would only limit its emissions to 6 – 6.3 GtCO2e, the report said.

Environment ministry seeks Rs1.69 lakh crore to fix air pollution

India’s environment ministry has sought Rs 1.69 lakh crore from 15th Finance Commission to curb pollution across India, with 60% weightage to be given to north India (Indo-Gangetic plains). The ministry proposed to spend the money on “pollution abatement measures: which include controlling crop stubble burning, transition to electric vehicles and procuring e-buses and related infrastructure. the ministry said its current financial resources are less than what they need. The ministry also asked for Rs62,438 crore for catchment area treatment and forest restoration grants and another Rs1.35 lakh crore for improving degraded land and the ground water levels in states.

Green court orders states to set up air pollution monitors, raps pollution watchdogs over letting off polluters, gives Feb 15 deadline

Orders from India’s green court, National Green Tribunal (NGT), are falling on deaf ears it seems. The NGT has yet again ordered state pollution control boards across the country to install air pollution monitoring stations within a year and start submitting quarterly reports to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The court came down heavily on the states for failing to recover fines from polluters in the 100 industrial clusters across the country over the past 5 years. The court gave CPCB less than three months to complete the task of collecting penalties by February 15, 2020. The CPCB threatened “coercive action” against top officials of state boards if they fail to collect the fines. The NGT had ordered to collect Rs1 crore fine from big polluters, Rs50 lakh fine from medium-scale industries and Rs25 lakh from small-scale industries. Ten polluting industrial clusters are in Gujarat alone. The green court also directed the CPCB to revise and review its mechanism to set up new industries in polluted areas.

7,000 brick kilns closed till Dec 15, Green court says raise fine on bursting firecrackers in Delhi

The green court (National Green Tribunal) said the fine of just Rs 1000 on bursting firecrackers in Delhi is inadequate and is not acting as a deterrent. The court ordered Delhi government to increase the fine according to the class of violators and the frequency of violations. The NGT has also ordered to close over 7,000 brick kilns in the National Capital Region till December 15 and has sought report of their impact on Delhi’s air quality. The court disallowed kilns using cleaner zig zag technology from functioning as well. 

Punjab, Haryana to pay cash incentives to farmers to stop stubble burning

Punjab and haryana governments will pay farmers Rs 25,00 cash incentive per acre to stop them from burning crop residue. Following top court order, the governments decided to offer incentives by calculating the amount on average 25 quintal of crop per acre. Haryana will pay Rs 1000 more if farmers hire technology to hire straw baler units. Farmers want the incentives to be permanent feature and to be offered before the harvest. Haryana produces 50-55 lakh tonne of stubble annually. The state plans to set up Compressed Biogas Plant with Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. to dispose off its stubble. Haryana’s power minister said 24 firms have proposed 38 projects to set up a CBG plant of 234 tonnes per day capacity in Haryana.

Niti Aayog to install tech to decompose crop stubble in situ

Government of India’s policy think tank Niti Aayog plans to install technology to decompose crop stubble in the fields within a year. It has asked the Indian Agriculture Research Institute to conduct field trials as concerns over rising air pollution from stubble burning refuse to leave national headlines. The Aayog will work out a budget for quick adoption of the technology from next year after the field trials. Currently the technology to decompose the stubble in-situ is available only in labs. The technology will involve using decomposers either in form of liquid, or capsules that would decompose the stubble in a couple of weeks. In the first week of November air pollution in Delhi reached 500 mark.

Fine companies, individuals for non-compliance of clean air norms: CII-Niti Aayog report

Individuals, companies and power utilities who own or service any property should be fined 5-10 percent of the project cost if they fail to comply with ambient air quality standards, recommends CII-Niti Aayog report. Air pollution monitoring should be strengthened and those not complying with air quality standards should be punished suggests CII-Niti Aayog report. The report recommends random checks by local bodies and real-time monitoring by state pollution.

Nanoparticles from burning diesel cause brain cancer: Study

For the first time, the ultra fine particles (UFP) produced by burning fuels have been linked to brain cancer in the latest research. The nanoparticles particularly released from diesel vehicles in higher concentrations significantly increases chances of brain cancer, the research said. The research calculats the cancer risk roughly equivalent to moving from quiet street to a busy street that could result in one extra cancer case every 100,000 people exposed. Scientists say that since everyone is exposed to air pollution, the number of cases become a lot. The study offers strong evidence as it analysed the medical records and pollution exposure of 1.9 million adult Canadians from 1991 to 2016. The presence of toxic nanoparticles from air pollution in human brains was made in 2016. Earlier in 2019 research established that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body.

Ola-Microsoft to collect street-level air quality data in Delhi-NCR

Ola cabs will collect real time data on air pollution from Delhi streets through sensors attached on the cabs. This will be done in collaboration with Microsoft research. The data will be made public to help researchers. Ola researchers said unlike their system, most other air-quality sensors do not reflect the street-level pollution. They said that PM 2.5 data along with traffic and speed data can provide information on bad air-quality hotspots in Delhi and the project can be replicated across other cities to support the implementation of National Clean Air Programme.