TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
- Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management
Air Pollution Control – Challenges and Measures
The Crisis – Facts
- As per World Health Organisation (WHO), Delhi’s annual average PM 2.5 concentration was 153 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) in 2015 according to the WHO, whereas 60 ug/m3 is the permissible limit.
- Pollution levels in Delhi surged to alarming highs immediately after Diwali.
- As per data from Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the average PM 2.5 level for certain stations on Sunday evening was 552 ug/m3, a whopping nine times the safe limit.
- Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said that according to the Indian Meteorological Department, this is the worst smog in 17 years.
Reasons for the Crisis
- Crop Burning: Pollution levels in north India (Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) increases in winters due to the burning of crop stubble and residue, for preparing the soil for sowing Rabi crops.
- Construction Activities: Particulate emissions from construction activity / sites. Vehicles from these sites also transport particulate matter to other places.
- Inefficient Waste Management: Dry sweeping of roads and burning municipal waste continues to be prevalent in most Indian cities.
- Old Vehicles: Use of old and poorly maintained vehicles especially diesel vehicles contribute highly.
- Public Transport: Excessive pressure on roads due to lesser use of public transport.
- Short Term Measures:
- Most interventions are usually short term in nature.
- We have ignored politically harder, structural reforms and science-based thinking, policy and action.
- Inadequate Analysis:
- The impact of measures proposed or implemented is not very well understood and lacks adequate and effective analysis.
- Example: Impact of Odd-even scheme remains unclear in terms of reduction in pollution level.
- Comprehensive Policy Measures:
- Minor reductions in pollution do not reduce health risks significantly.
- Significant declines in adverse health outcomes will be realised when our strategies encompass portfolio of policies (across transport, energy, waste and trans-boundary issues).
- Lack of Scientific Analysis:
- Need to ensure sophisticated tools for air quality modelling and analyses.
- Very few reports from the CPCB/SPCBs provide this kind of analysis. Most studies stop at a source-apportionment analysis and lack a scientific touch.
- Capacity building at CPCB/SPCB:
- Pollution monitoring and control are complex, technical issues and require trained manpower. CPCBs and SPCBs often lack resources, technical expertise and manpower to provide scientific inputs.
- Lack of technical capacity precludes SPCBs from setting more stringent emissions standards.
- Manpower shortages prevent enforcing existing standards.
- Inadequate use of Technology:
- Rarely do we leverage technology for innovative solutions.
- Policies do not consider developing business models by which farmers can secure revenue from waste-to-energy projects or providing pollution control technologies to industrial clusters of small and medium enterprises.
- SPCBs are lacking in resources and in financial assistance to make the best use of technology.
- Skill development of existing staff knowledge and coordination between the CPCB and SPCBs without which they will remain toothless watchdogs.
- Financial assistance from the Air Ambience Fund. There could be a use of public funds as viability gap funding or as loan guarantees to reduce the cost of debt financing.
- Encourage waste-to-energy projects and provide pollution control technologies to check pollution due to stubble burning and industrial emissions.
- Also ensure effective ban on the burning of waste.
- Strict implementation and enforcement of ban on entry of trucks into the capital and imposition of environment compensation cess on trucks entering the city.
- Ban on registration of diesel vehicles with higher capacity engines
- Campaigns should involve not just governments and regulatory bodies but civil societies and people.
- Improve the public transport network and encourage the use of clean energy transport.
- Discourage the use of private transport and promote car pooling to enjoy long-term benefits.
- Farm subsidies need to be provided for sustainable agriculture and to prevent burning of crop residues instead of free or highly subsidised power.
- Composting crop residues can reduce the incidence of burning.
- Farmers in the Punjab-Haryana belt need to be encouraged to move away from growing water-intensive crops such as paddy and take up other crops to reduce burning of straw.
- Usage of fire-crackers should be effectively curbed.
- Use of cloud seeding to create artificial rain in highly critical regions.
The impact of such serious level of pollution is manifold and highly critical. This is impacting both the human resource as well as economic resource in the country. The same can be understood by the representation below for the 50 years period from 2010-2060.
It is time that the government shows political willingness and gives this issue due and urgent importance. Regulatory bodies such as CPCB, SPCB, National Green Tribunal need to be empowered and complied with as well. At a personal level, we all need to contribute in whatever ways we all can. We should not wait for the others to act and step in but take all possible steps such as
- Using metros and mass public transport
- Avoid using radio cabs (Uber/Ola)
- Resort to car pooling
- Ensuring proper maintenance of our personal vehicles
- Spread awareness among people around us.
Connecting the dots
- Critically analyse the air pollution control measures taken by the government in recent past. Suggest necessary changes that need to be introduced in government’s policies for pollution control.
General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.
General Studies 3
- Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security.
Linking food and nutrition security
National Food Security Act, 2013
- It aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
- It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System. It also recognises maternity entitlements.
- Under the provision of the bill, beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System (or, PDS) are entitled to 5 kilograms (11 lb) per person per month of cereals at the following prices:
- Rice at Rs. 3 per kg
- Wheat at Rs. 2 per kg
- Coarse grains (millet) at Rs. 1per kg.
- Intent of NFSA– Food security means availability of sufficient foodgrains to meet the domestic demand as well as access, at the individual level, to adequate quantities of food at affordable prices.
- The National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 is now seen as losing euphoria. The Act was to be fully implemented across India by July 2016.
- But as of now, only five States have fully executed it as per the provisions of the Central Act (Punjab, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan).
- The progress in other States has been tardy. There is partial implementation in Bihar, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.
- The preliminary surveys undertaken in some of these States have revealed positive outcomes in terms of
- Administrative reforms
- Significant increase in the number of households having ration cards
- Improvement in the distribution
- Improvement in consumption of food through fair price shops
- However, if the act is fully implemented, it is likely to benefit 720 million people through availability of 5 kg per capita per month of subsidised foodgrains (rice, wheat and coarse cereals) at a much lower rate than that in the open market.
- Thus there is an assurance of food security and enhanced nutritional status.
Food and nutrition security
- The two concepts are interlinked but nutrition security has a much wider connotation than food security.
- It encompasses a biological approach. It means adequate and safe intake of protein, energy, vitamin and minerals along with proper health and social environment.
- The nutritional aspect of the quantity of grain to be distributed to each person under the Public Distribution System (PDS) is somewhat less researched, though the Act has aimed at attaining this goal.
- Poor quality of food lacking essential micronutrients and no diet diversity, and unhygienic conditions of storage can be a deterrence.
- Other promising features of the Act like free daily meals for children and maternity benefits, including cash for pregnant women, which can combat rampant undernutrition (calorie deficiency) and malnutrition (protein deficiency) across the country have been included.
The Odisha Study
- A primary survey of 385 households was carried out during 2014-15 in three extremely poor districts viz. Koraput, Bolangir (KBK- most backward region) and Nayagarh (non-KBK region) as they had high prevelance of undernutrition and malnutrition.
- While KBK districts follow a universal PDS, non-KBK districts have a targeted one.
- Rice is the key staple food in the surveyed areas and acts as a major source of energy intake. The monthly per capita consumption of rice is estimated to be 11.6 kg, of which 33.7 % is sourced from the PDS by all beneficiaries.
- Since AAY households have higher quota and accessibility under the PDS, the contribution is much more at 73.9 %.
- Better accessibility to food and hence energy intake of poor people, especially those under AAY, has been made possible due to concerted efforts initiated by the government. Major reforms include
- Abolition of private procurement and storage system
- Greater role for public agencies in controlling diversion of foodgrain from the godown to the millers
- Proper recording of procurement, storage and distribution of grains across the departments
- Distribution of food through self-help groups and gram panchayats and its regular monitoring at the block and ward levels.
- These efforts of Odisha state government in ensuring food security should be replicated in States that are yet to fully implement the Act and reform their respective distribution systems.
- An important step of emphasis on dietary diversification to ensure appropriate nutritional intake for large segments of the poor population can be an important step taken up in States where a revamped PDS is making ground, such as in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar.
- NFSA provides for one additional coarse cereal viz. millet along with wheat and rice, which can further enhance the nutritional security of the poor households.
- However, though wheat and rice contribute significantly to energy intake, the time has come to increase the focus on coarse cereals and pulses to improvise adequate intake of protein. Hence, serious discussions are required to make this possible through the PDS, which is going to cater to a sizeable population in the near future.
- As seen above, the AAY households have a greater access to PDS but the problem of undernourishment is more serious among them.
- Hastening of NFSA across the country is imperative to ensure food and nutritional security and for this, the States should now act in a mission mode as availability of foodgrains may not be a problem this year.
- The Ministry of Agriculture has projected a record production of 270 million tonnes owing to good monsoon and an increase in acreage of foodgrains from 101 million hectares to 105 million hectares.
- Thus, the states must now begin to work on adequate logistics for digitisation of ration cards, computerisation of offtake and delivery of foodgrains and effective monitoring of fair price shops.
- This is expected to bring in greater transparency in the system and would go a long way towards raising the nutritional status of Indians.
Connecting the dots:
- Food security and nutritional security go hand in hand to ensure basic health standards of the population. Analyse.
- Nutritional availability is as important as food security for healthy sustenance of the growing population. What are the challenges faced by government to meet this objective and suggest possible way forward.
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