- In India, over 9 lakh deaths due to air pollution were reported in 2016
- 13 measures suggested by the study can avoid 9 lakh premature deaths
- The study was done by Louisiana State University and Greenpeace
New Delhi: The cities in India dominate the world’s air pollution list – 14 of the 20 most-polluted cities in the world in terms of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 levels are in India, according to World Health Organisation (WHO). 9 out of 10 people in the world are breathing polluted air, putting their health at enormous risk. Outdoor and household air pollution result in about 7 million deaths across the globe annually. While in India, more than 9 lakh deaths due to air pollution were reported in 2016. Environmentalist and health experts state that air pollution is a national health crisis and India needs to do more to tackle it. But what are the effective measures that India should undertake to control air pollution? A new study done by Louisiana State University (LSU) and Greenpeace India, has suggested 13 measures, including reducing emissions from thermal power plants and cutting use of solid fuel in households, which can reduce air pollution levels by almost 40 percent and avoid 9 lakh premature deaths in India every year.
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According to a statement issued by Greenpeace India, the study said the implementation of these measures may also lead to 50-60 per cent reduction of PM2.5 levels across North India, including Delhi during winter, when it spikes.
“Based on our results, the policy measures with the largest potential for air quality improvements are reducing emissions from thermal power plants, instituting strong emissions standards for industries, reducing solid fuel use in households, shifting to zig-zag kilns in brick-making and introducing stronger vehicular emissions standards in an accelerated schedule,” the statement said quoting Professor Hongliang Zhang, the author of report.
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According to the statement, the LSU study has re-emphasised that reducing emissions from thermal power plants and industry by instituting strong emissions standards has the highest potential to reduce air pollution levels.
Incorporating emission targets for thermal power plants was part of the recommendations given by various researchers, civil society organisations, lawyers and activists for strengthening the draft version of National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) put out in public domain by the environment ministry.
“We urge the Environment Ministry to incorporate these measures into the clean air plan at national level and ensure that thermal power plants implement the notification of December 2015 and set stricter standards for highly polluting industries industry to reduce pollution in a time bound manner,” said Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India.
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The policy measures assessed in the report will constitute a major step towards cleaning air in India, it said. “If the environment ministry is serious about public health, then it must ensure a stronger NCAP and with all the recommendations by Clean Air Collectives (CAC) as well as the recommendations from the current LSU study should be incorporated in the final versions to reduce air pollution from its source,” Dahiya said.
“Full implementation requires both setting strict timelines for plant operators to meet the emission limits laid out in the regulation, with no further backpedaling, and a strong monitoring and enforcement system that ensures limits are met and excess emissions lead to punishments,” the study said.
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It said the same emission limits that are applied to existing coal-fired power plants in India can be implemented in all industries.
“This is an ambitious assumption, but in terms of practical implementation and enforcement, controlling stack emission is much easier than distributed sources,” the study said.
According to the 2011 census, 16.6 crore households out of a total of 24.7 crore continued to rely on solid fuels (firewood, crop residue, dung and coal) for cooking and this is the single largest source of air pollution in India, affecting both outdoor air quality and indoor air quality, both being major public health concern.
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“Interpolating from Global Burden of Disease (GB) Maps which assumed a virtual elimination of solid fuels in households by 2050, we model a 50 per cent reduction in use of solid fuels by 2030, even as total population is projected to increase by 20 per cent. We believe this to be an ambitious but realistic target,” the study said. The other measures in the list of 13 also include reduction of stubble burning. It said both “in-situ crop residue management” and creation of infrastructure and market for the use and management of stubble outside of the field (“ex-situ” management) should be used.
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The study said that building and improving proper waste management systems and measures to reduce, reuse and recycle waste can reduce open burning by 80 per cent. In construction activities, it said dust control measures are assumed to reduce dust emissions by 50 per cent as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) “We assume that these measures can be fully implemented at 5 per cent of all construction sites across the country, which will require a major training and enforcement effort,” the study said.
With inputs from PTI