World Environment Day: Plastic, Air Pollution Play Havoc; Cities Sit On Tonnes Of Waste

World Environment Day: Plastic, Air Pollution Play Havoc; Cities Sit On Tonnes Of Waste

World Environment Day: Plastic, Air Pollution Play Havoc; Cities Sit On Tonnes Of Waste

This year, the theme for World Environment Day is “beat plastic pollution”. Data suggest that India produces 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste everyday and the national capital is notorious for contributing 690 tonnes daily. Other Indian cities that have been raising our eyebrows are Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai. Plastic ban is one issue, the next being pollution. A study said that 13 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India and among them is Delhi. Air pollution in Delhi reached notorious levels as authorities and even the judiciary strategised ways to nip it in the bud.

The Supreme Court recently urged that steps be in place before the government’s health programmes "completely go haywire".  The problem is so severe that as reports dub it – there is no non-smoker in Delhi. At a recent media workshop, Dr Arvind Kumar, Chairman, Centre for Chest Surgery, and Director, Institute of Robotic Surgery at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said that any person in the National Capital Region is ‘smoking’ not less than 16 cigarettes a day, that is what the impact air pollution has on our health.

Meanwhile, plastic bans have been affecting everyone alike. A recent NGT order had directed that non-biodegradable plastic bags that less than 50 microns in thickness should be banned but the effect of this ban is yet to be seen. Why is plastic pollution such a menace? Despite multiple bans, penalties, its use could not be checked. The fines imposed which were initially huge and did act as a deterrent started dropping encouraging a sort of unsaid lift on the ban. Today, estimates show 90 per cent of the waste is not being recycled because households are not encouraged to segregate.

So what is the national capital doing?

Rigorous research and action

Amid many measures, the Indian Institutes of Technology-Kanpur may be undertaking a fresh air quality assessment study. Besides, Delhi’s Lt Governor Anil Baijal said that there should be more environment marshals who would take up the cause of pollution in Delhi. Their performance would, however, be assessed before the position is conferred. The environment secretary said that 83 home guards have been deployed as environment marshals in the municipal wards. They are connected with sanitation inspectors of respective MCDs and supervisors of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) through a WhatsApp group.

No luxury of time anymore

Solid Waste Management (SWM) would need to be taken up seriously. Baijal indicated that the municipal corporations would need to undertake it within a shortened, specified timeline. 

Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal has also said that the Delhi government will make “massive investment” to improve the condition of roads, drainage across the state. There are about 1,600 unauthorised colonies in Delhi and drainage and sewerage in such areas remain a point of concern, therefore, funds allocated would be put to use in such areas as well. 

Working in tandem

Both the environment and transport departments have chalked out the work done by the respective departments. After February 15, Delhi can also expect a notification on approved fuel. All industrial units would need to switch to piped natural gas as against fossil fuels.

Vehicles pulled up

If you drive, make sure you have enough proof of the health of your vehicle. Recently, 35,000 commercial vehicles were challaned for being unable to provide fitness certificates.

New initiatives such as e-challan, scrapping of rules for old vehicles 2018, Parking Rules 2017, fitness test centres, depots for e-buses – were taken to fight air pollution.

Strengthening public transport

If things go in a planned way, 2,000 new disabled-friendly, low-floor buses would make its way into the city. The Supreme Court had let the High Court decide on the issue of procurement of these buses. The issue is now pending in the HC.

Vehicle pollution test centres 

The Supreme Court has said it is yet to decide whether to make on-board diagnostic (OBD) scanners compulsory for cities such as Delhi. The hearing is scheduled for February 16. The OBD is used for vehicle so that they can self-diagnose while the OBD-II is designed to inform a vehicle owner in case of any malfunction such as that in the brakes or emission control system of the vehicle. 

Emission standards notified

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has informed that pollution emission standards for several categories of industries in the National Capital Region (NCR) have been notified. Representing the ministry, Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni told a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that standards for five categories of industries would be finalised by March 31. 

Non-motorised transport

According to the suggestions from the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority, there may be provisions to encourage non-motorised transport like cycles and battery-operated vehicles and the ASG would be looking into it.

Finance minister’s scheme

In the Union Budget 2018, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley did talk about air pollution. He announced the rolling out of a special scheme meant to support Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the NCR. Machinery that could manage crop residue would also be provided at economical rates. This is important given that in this belt, some 34 million tonnes (mt) of paddy straw is burnt every season, of which some 23 mt is from combine-harvested fields and burnt within less than a month’s span between mid-October and around November 10. This has been one of the prime reasons Delhi is covered with smog. 

Given that the authorities are planning on various relief programmes and measures, let’s hope for a better Delhi in days to come.  

With inputs from Housing News

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