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Meet Earthshot Prize Winner Whose Innovation Can Address Air Pollution

Vidyut Mohan from Delhi decided to address the perennial problem of air pollution and his invention won the Earthshot Prize

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Meet Earthshot Prize Winner Whose Innovation Can Address Air Pollution
Climate warrior Vidyut Mohan’s innovation took him to the Climate Summit in Glasgow where he met PM Modi
Highlights
  • Vidyut Mohan’s innovation got ‘Clean Our Air’ award and a million pounds
  • The entrepreneur developed portable equipment to process agricultural waste
  • The innovation converts waste into fuel and fertiliser

New Delhi: 30-year-old Vidyut Mohan from Delhi lives through smoke and pollution and braves it every winter like fellow Delhiites. But what differentiates Mr Mohan is his innovation that could be a potential solution for two problems – reducing air pollution and reusing agricultural waste for creating fuel. Mr Mohan, co-founder and CEO of a social enterprise Takachar has developed a small-scale, low-cost and portable equipment that can process agricultural and forest waste like rice straw, rice husk, coconut shells, into a carbon dense material which can be used to make various bio-products like fuel and fertiliser.

Also Read: In Times Of COVID-19, Health Experts Red Flag The Impact Of Worsening Air Pollution

Earlier this year, Mr Mohan’s innovation ‘Takachar’ won Earthshot Prize, launched in October last year and inspired by the US president John F. Kennedy’s “Moonshot” project in the 1960s to put a man on the moon. Takachar received ‘Clean Our Air’, one of the five awards and a million pounds.

Mr Mohan got the opportunity to present his innovation at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) currently underway in Scotland’s Glasgow and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Climate Summit.

Talking to NDTV about the idea and inspiration behind the novel innovation, Mr Mohan said,

Either I or my grandparents or someone in the family would often fall sick due to the toxic air. When data actually started coming in on what contributes to air pollution, it was quite shocking to see that the burning of agricultural waste contributes quite significantly. Being a biomass technologist, this rings very close to home so that’s what inspired me to work on this.

Also Read: Air Pollution One Of The Biggest Environmental Threats To Human Health, Says WHO, Toughens Guidelines

An Innovation That Can Be A Game Changer For Air Pollution

Farmers often burn crop residue to clear farmland for the next set of crops. Stubble burning in neighboring Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh is one of the major causes of severe levels of air pollution in Delhi-NCR. Mr Mohan’s innovation, low-cost portable equipment, can be deployed on farmland or mounted on tractors to utilise the same agricultural waste. It takes about a day to set up the machine which uses the principle of a coffee roaster. Waste roasted in controlled temperatures can produce fuel, fertilisers, and other products for use in agricultural land.

Elaborating more on the technology, Mr Mohan said,

Our hypothesis is that you need to have decentralised equipment that avoids transportation of agricultural waste over long distances because these are very bulky and voluminous materials and logistically it is very difficult and expensive to transport these. We think if there are small-scale, decentralised solutions that are located closer to these wastes, not only is it more economically viable but also brings the value creation process closer to farmers by incentivising them to not burn waste. The idea is to cut pollution, create livelihood opportunities in rural communities and a circular economy – converting farm waste into fertiliser and selling it to the farmers.

Takachar’s technology claims to eliminate over 95 per cent of smoke compared to open biomass burning or biomass-induced wildfires. It can mitigate 700 million tons/year of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2030 and also increase the net income of rural communities by 40 per cent by creating a market for crop residues.

Also Read: Why Air Quality Has Deteriorated Sharply In India’s Capital

The Future Of Takachar

The endeavour is to put a full stop to stubble burning. For the same, the team has started a pilot project in Haryana where rice straw is being used. Sharing more details, Mr Mohan said,

We will be conducting the pilot over a year and see how we can develop a scalable model in this region to utilise these rice straws productively. We do have a couple of pilots running right now in Northern and Southern India, using different kinds of agricultural waste. The plan now is to lay solid foundations in those pilots so that we are able to develop a replicable model and use that to scale across these regions. Our aim is to scale this solution as soon as possible. It is for that we have won Earthshot Prize. We cannot do this alone and the government can play a big role and private corporations can work with us so that sustainability in the value chain can be brought about.

Mr Mohan said that he wants Takachar to be the go-to company for agricultural residue management. While signing off, Mr Mohan gave the message of working together to solve the problems surrounding us. He said,

Everyone can make an impact.

Also Read: 1 Billion People Could Face Deadly Levels Of Heat Stress With Global Warming At 2 Degree Celsius: Report

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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