Little hope for clean air in Delhi as crop burning likely to continue

Denial and lackadaisical attitude in implementing the environment ministry's Graded Response Action Plan to combat air pollution in Delhi puts citizens at risk, say experts.

A recent workshop on air pollution, which saw participation from IIT Delhi and Kanpur, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, World Health Organisation, as well as the Delhi Pollution Control Board and the Central Pollution Control Board, brought to the fore yet again the fact that there are no policy level interventions to stop farmers from burning crop residue.

Experts at the event stated that the state government and the central government need to prepare now for a pollution free winter. However, there seems to be a lackadaisical attitude towards applying existing data into a working and effective policy-level intervention. The implementation of Delhi’s Graded Response Action Plan has seen limited progress since its notification and a case in point is the crop burning issue along with other high emission sources such as coal-fired power plants that led to apocalyptic air quality in the capital last year. The first harvest season of the year is all set to begin this month.

According to Ramanjaneyulu GV, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, It will take more than just imposing fines on farmers to eliminate the crop burning problem. “This is a policy driven crisis, the problem of biomass burning is due to mechanisation and cropping patterns that are adopted which are driven by the policy, collecting the left-over stubbles is clearly financially unviable at this point of time due to low prevailing prices for the grains. Therefore, simply imposing a ban and a fine for not adhering to the ban does not work. it needs a very comprehensive approach and good support systems at the grassroot level to create financially viable solution for the farmers.”

The National Green Tribunal, in response to a plea by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, passed a judgement penalising the farmers by imposing fines capped at 2500 rupees to 15,000 rupees for burning crop in the open.

Delayed action on the issue of crop burning coupled with lack of enforcement of emission control norms for coal-fired power plants are increasing the number of air pollution related deaths in Delhi. Many organisations such as The Health Effects Institute, World Health Organisation as well as Greenpeace, Public Health Foundation of India and IIT-Delhi, have repeatedly highlighted the serious impact of poor air quality can have on human health. However, in the recent parliamentary sessions, the Union Environment Minister, Anil Dave, discredited them by stating that there are no conclusive studies that link human death to air pollution.

“Clean air and access to potable water to every citizen is a necessity for sustainable economic development. When it comes to air quality, experience from across the world tells us that a suite of mitigation measures coupled with modern technology (to minimize emission), strict regulation with proper enforcement as per the local needs, and adequate monitoring network can lead to improved air quality. It is possible to achieve clean air. In addition to that, the advantage of these measures is that they not only give us a clean air to breathe but save the money by avoiding costs which would otherwise go towards human health issues” said Prof Sachchida Nand Tripathi, IIT, Kanpur.

Professor Sagnik Dey of IIT, Delhi in his session on health impacts from air quality responded to the recent parliamentary debates questioning the lack of substantial evidence to act upon air quality and health, “There’s plenty of evidence from studies conducted in the last thirty years stating the short-term impacts of air quality on health, the pollution has been persistent over the years and one has to understand that the short term health impacts are a function of long terms illnesses and needs urgent attention, India does not lack studies, we have ample evidence suggesting that we are in a crisis and what we might want to work on is to develop a frame work to study long term health impacts but that’s no excuse to not take the present crisis seriously”.

Also participating in the workshop was Ray Sudweeks, First Secretary for Energy Affairs, US Embassy. Sudweeks highlighted that the challenge for India is to pioneer a new path to sustainable development. Comparing regulations in the US, he said, “For more than 45 years, the clean air act has cut pollution as the US economy has grown. The US experience with the clean air act shows that protecting public health and building the economy can go hand in hand. Since 1970, the aggregate national emissions of six pollutants alone dropped by 70%, while the nations GDP grew by 246%”.

(The information in this article has been provided by the Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC) and has been published with minimal edits under the Press Note section meant for nonprofits and public interest messages.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

Smothered by smog: Struggle of vegetable vendors in Delhi’s Keshopur Mandi

Delhi's air pollution affects every resident, but for the urban poor, like vegetable vendors of Keshopur Mandi, it is much worse.

Halfway through our interview, vegetable vendor Rekha asked me point blank, “Isse kya hoga,” and at that moment, I could not think of an answer. She was right and had every reason to be hopeless. Much has been written about air pollution and much energy has been spent on expert committees and political debates and yet nothing has changed.  “Hum toh garib log hai, hum kisko jakar bole, hamari sunvai nahin hoti” (We are poor people, to whom do we go, nobody listens to us),” says Rekha Devi, who sells vegetables in the Keshopur Mandi. Keshopur is a large retail…

Similar Story

Study shows TNPCB ill-equipped to monitor the environmental impact of pollution

The scientific team of TNPCB is working at half its strength, affecting the Board's ability to carry out inspections in Chennai and other parts of the State.

The Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards are the primary custodians for preventing and controlling all forms of pollution in our country. Despite their significant role in environmental protection, the public is mostly unaware of the functions of these regulatory bodies, due to insufficient research. Therefore, we at Citizen consumer & civic Action Group (CAG) have attempted to understand the functions of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), through a study titled ‘The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in Retrospect: An Examination of Selected Parameters from 2017 to 2022.’ Read more: Fisherfolk lament as environmental…