Editorial

Environmental Reporting

20.01.2021


Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on Friday said its proposed format for business responsibility and sustainability reporting (BRSR) for listed companies will bring in greater transparency through disclosure of environmental, social, governance (ESG) related information. Under the proposal, the new BRSR format covering ESG perspective would be applicable for the top 1,000 listed entities by market capitalisation.

To bring in a reporting format for Sustainability Reporting is definitely a welcome step. The current sustainability reporting has many gaps. Steel majors come out with a very impressive and data based sustainability report. But it does not address hazardous wastes properly, fails to incorporate data of e-wastes, plastic wastes, construction and demolition wastes, battery wastes and yadda yadda yadda.

In the editorial section of 2nd December 2020, while discussing Coca-Cola India’s Sustainability Report, Enviro Annotations opined “It is therefore important to deliberate on whether India should have a reporting standard based on its national targets, which are ultimately linked to SGDs and even much ahead as in case of the renewable energy sector. There is much work to be done to better understand and implement the SDGs.”

At the same time, it is notable that way back in 1993, the Government of India has already created a format in the name Environmental Statement, which primarily covers the environmental section with a specific link to business responsibility as in investment plans and actual status of the previous year. The scheduled date for submission of the report is also 30th September of a calendar year, so that a company can submit the audited financial data. It has a wide significance in terms of business responsibility and sustainability. However, with growing regulatory framework in the country for the safeguard of environment, the format needs an amendment. It has to include sections for reporting of solid waste management, e-waste management, bio-medical waste management, plastic waste management, construction and demolition waste management, renewable and non-renewable energy data, battery waste data, besides the existing requirements. Though, in its current form also many industry majors do not submit factual and relevant data. Monitoring of such documents is also a concern, which ultimately reduces the standard of reporting. However, amendment of the format of Environmental Statement pertains to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, which should get on the stick. It’s the need of the hour.

SEBI’s proposed format for BRSR should incorporate quantity of water and it is sourced in a legally approved manner. It should also deliberate on the aspects of wastewater generation, treatment of wastewater, characteristics, recycling, reuse, and disposal of wastewater and costing in terms of business and also impact on the environment. The proposed BRSR should also depict generation, characteristics, recycling, reuse, disposal method and costing in terms of business as well as impact on the environment with respect to the hazardous wastes, solid wastes, e-wastes, bio-medical wastes, plastic wastes, construction and demolition wastes, battery wastes. Air pollution load and its link with renewable and non-renewable energy consumption, and fuel consumption.

The report should also offer details of greenbelt areas, number of trees and tree species with survival rate. This can further be certified carbon sink with auditable figures.

From the word go, SEBI should look into certain vital aspects of reporting. The data and reports should have traceability. Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog in his recent article “Data can be an asset for governance, growth and public welfare”, in Hindustan Times, has described data as a critical component for measurable and actionable governance and policy perspectives, as well as for triggering innovation and growth. Environmental data has higher importance in judicial process too. Organizations must take the onus of their reported data. Most importantly, these reports should mandatorily be prepared by qualified environmental professionals.

Solar Power: New King by 2030

13.01.2021

The world is going through a deep transition from industrial modernity towards a circular economy, which is hoped to lead to a more sustainable global economic system. It is believed that the world needs to cut fossil fuel production from the current level by ~6% per year between 2020 and 2030 to attain a consistent 1.5°C pathway. Though hydropower is still the largest source of renewable energy globally, solar is the main source of growth, followed by onshore and offshore wind. Joseph A. Davis writes in his editorial note “Renewables to flourish further in 2021” the energy transition will continue to be a central environmental story in 2021.

Many nations are rapidly moving away from fossil fuels, but the U.S. has stubbornly pursued policies to prop up the dying coal industry. According to The New York Times, the Trump administration has rolled back nearly 70 environmental regulations that included regulatory relief for coal plants.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in her message in the “Production Gap 2020 Special Report” has mentioned, “Collectively, governments are planning to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels by 2030 than would be compatible with a 1.5°C pathway while channeling billions in public support to fossil fuel production and consumption.” The report is brought out by leading research institutions such as Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and E3G in collaboration with UNEP. She has urged Governments to seize the opportunity to direct their economies and energy systems away from fossil fuels, and build back better towards a more just, sustainable, and resilient future. With the incoming Biden administration that has already declared climate action to be a top priority, the world may expect better US policies. Further, the report cites some examples of unconditional support to fossil fuel production that includes India providing a rebate on revenue payable to the government on coal extraction. However, it has not deliberated on supports extended to the solar and renewable energy sector, nor the proposal of incentivization of Coal Gasification or Liquefication through a rebate in revenue share, which envisages a significant cut in environmental impacts, besides pushing India’s gas-based economy. Further, the Indian coal major, Coal India Ltd. has announced plans to start diversifying from coal mining and set up 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar projects over the next 10 years.

Recently, India achieved 5th global position in solar power deployment by surpassing Italy. Solar power capacity has increased by more than 11 times in the last five years from 2.6 GW in March 2014 to 35.7 GW as of 31st August 2020, while the Indian government had an initial target of 20 GW capacity for 2022, which was achieved four years ahead of schedule. Now, the target is raised to 100 GW of solar capacity including 40 GW from rooftop solar, by 2022. Rooftop solar power accounts for 2.1 GW, of which 70% is industrial or commercial. As cited in Clean Technica 26th July 2020, India is likely to propose to set up a World Solar Bank with an aim to help member countries of the International Solar Alliance to access affordable funding for solar power projects.

International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020 report states that renewables, led by solar power, will become the dominant source of the world’s electricity by 2030. With a calculated solar energy incidence on India's land area of about 5000 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, the solar energy availability in a single year exceeds the possible energy output of all of the fossil fuel energy reserves in India. This shows every possibility of solar power becoming the new king by 2030.

Flashback 2020

30.12.2020

2020 is reckoned as a year of crises: a pandemic, economic turmoil. On retrospection, the year registers some phenomenal issues. Not just that there was comparatively clear water flow in the Yamuna or better air quality causing visibility of the Himalayas from Punjab.

India started 2020 by making 24°C mandatory as default setting from 1st January 2020 for all room air conditioners covered under the ambit of BEE star-labelling program. The default temperature setting doesn’t mean that AC users can’t change the settings and lower the temperature. Default temperature simply means the temperature at which the AC turns on. India is one of the 2°C compliant countries in the world.

Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2019, prohibits issuance of import license for HCFC- 141b with effect from 1st January 2020. Simultaneously, the use of HCFC-141 b by foam manufacturing industry has also been closed as on 1st January, 2020 under the Ozone Depleting Substances (Regulation and Control) Amendment Rules, 2014.

In 2020, 13 wetlands from India were declared as of International importance for Conservation of Biological Diversity under Ramsar Convention. India hosted largest ever historic confluence CMS COP 13, where 2550 people attended, and 10 Migratory Species added to Global Wildlife Agreement including the Asian Elephant, Jaguar and Great Indian Bustard.

India registered stunning growth in leopard population from 7,910 in 2014 to 12,852 in 2018. UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere programme included Panna in India to UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves on 29th October 2020. This was India's 12th entry. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) brought out Action Plan for Vulture Conservation in India 2020-25.

India’s absolute GHG emissions is about 4 times less than that of China, which is No. 1 emitter of the World as stated in the Emissions Gap Report 2020 published by the United Nations Environment Programme. The report also depicts that though it is among the top 6 emitters of absolute GHG emissions, India ranked at no. 7 on the basis of per capita emissions. The air pollution issue in 2020 couldn’t gather steam as it was a year before. However, Government of India also managed it from the front by forming a Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and adjoining Areas to review the air quality scenario in the region, and take actions by involving various agencies to improve the air quality.

India established World’s largest renewable energy park that can save 5000 tons of carbon dioxide. For the first time, India established Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) plants in Tamil Nadu and Delhi under the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) initiative. A pilot scale CBG demo plant was also inaugurated in Pune.

The groundwater regulation got finalized in September 2020. The Central Ground Water Authority under the Ministry of Jal Shakti brought the amended guideline, which was hailed from various sectors; as residential, agricultural users are mostly exempted from the NOC regime. There is also a relief for the MSMEs up to 10 kilo liter per day groundwater extraction.

The MoEF&CC came out with several guidelines including Guidelines for implementing Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 and Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining, in January 2020; Uniform Framework for Extended Producers Responsibility under PWM Rules, 2016 in June 2020.

These milestones will prove to be vital for environmental conservation. Nevertheless, the massive overhauling of EIA Notification, which got stuck due to protests and challenges in Courts, may come out in a refined way considering public view, especially on reporting and compliance, where India has a huge scope to improve upon. Please share your view

Wish you all a green, glorious and gleeful New Year 2021.

Put an end to Plastic Pollution

23.12.2020

Plastic is derived from the Latin word plasticus, or Greek word plastikos, both meaning ‘able to be molded, pertaining to molding’. Term plastic was used during 17th century to relate to something that could be easily molded or shaped. Literatures reveal that the first plastic was developed in 1855 to replace ivory. The first synthetic plastic was invented in 1909 by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian Chemist and was called Bakelite. It gained ground in the 1950s and subsequently, human on the earth became ever dependent on it. It may be because it carries light weight and easy to handle, though not easy to dispose.

As of 2018, about 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide each year. From the 1950s up to 2018, an estimated 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced worldwide, of which an estimated 9% has been recycled and another 12% has been incinerated. This implies, how much plastic remains for disposal. Research based findings depict that in current trend, annual emissions from these sources will grow to 1.34 billion tonnes by 2030 and 56 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The problem is that emissions associated with material flows of paper and plastics into cities are not currently counted in the GHG emissions for most urban areas.

Besides, air emissions, plastic has huge impact on groundwater, river and other surface water, oceans, causing disastrous situations due flooding and soil fertility. As per a 2017 study 83% of tap water samples taken around the world contained plastic pollutants. US was found to be the worst affected, followed by Lebanon and India at 3rd place. European countries had the lowest contamination rate, though still as high as 72%, which shows the grave situation in the worst three. This also means that people may be ingesting between 3,000 and 4,000 microparticles of plastic from tap water per year.

One of the main sources of microplastics is our clothing. Minuscule fibres of acrylic, nylon, spandex, and polyester are shed each time we wash our clothes and are carried off to wastewater treatment plants or discharged to the open environment. A recent study by Water World shows more than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibres haply released into the environment during each cycle of a washing machine. There is no study on handwashing, which is more common in developing counties. But the effects could be significant there as well.

The situation is akin to dependence to drowning. The situation becomes even serious due to COVID impact. Though India has set a deadline to go single-use plastic free by 2022, there will be further addition of single-use plastic in the form of vaccine bottles, syringes for disposal. An article by Leslie Kaufman cites that the volume of plastic waste cut by ~80% is attainable through actions to reduce the growth of virgin plastic production, improve waste collection systems across the globe, and invest in the creation of plastic materials that are easier to recycle.

India has robust regulatory mechanism to handle the plastic menace. The first regulation brought in India to handle plastic wastes dates back to 2009, which was a draft notification, finalized in 2011. The judiciary has been addressing this area with due attention. The National Green Tribunal has issued 29 orders to various States and Union Territories in India during January 2019 to July 2020. This shows seriousness of judiciary to ensure appropriate management of plastic waste. It has served.

It is high time to ensure strict compliance available legal frameworks. Each & every Indian should be aware of regulations, and impacts due to ignorant plastic disposal. India should also study to create accurate data across the country and the impacts of current disposal practices. Please share your view

Zero Emission: Cut the Clutters

16.12.2020

Last week, the world reviewed where it stands after 5 years of Paris Agreement. Setting goals for zero emissions; governments, researchers and corporates have been working in different ways to find solutions. Energy, mobility and industry sectors are on the target. There are plausible options. Wind and solar power could be backed up by batteries, some existing nuclear reactors and a large fleet of natural-gas plants that run only occasionally or have been modified to burn clean hydrogen. India is building a staggering amount of new energy infrastructure. India is also focused on a viable energy mix. Corporate, and institutions play a pivotal role in exploring new avenues for sustainable progress of a country. Shell Eco-marathon is one of the world’s leading student engineering competitions. Over the past 35 years, the programme has consistently brought to life Shell’s mission of powering progress together by providing more and cleaner energy solutions.

In India, introduction of E-mobility, inclusion of Compressed Biogas (CBG), and infusion of BS-VI standard fuels as well as BS-VI variant automobiles are fast changing the transport sector. Green Hydrogen is also an option being weighed in Ladakh to make it a zero emission place. Now, some long distance buses are also proposed to run with such fuel.

A Tata Chemicals finding is another encouraging news. Tata Chemicals has been ranked amongst the top 25 most innovative Indian companies in 2020 by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and felicitated with one of the most coveted “CII Industrial Innovation Awards 2020”. The Tata Company’s green patented technology for manufacturing Highly Dispersible Silica (HDS), born at their Innovation Centre, delivers long term sustainable advantages. HDS, a critical component in tyres is gaining significant attention as a functional filler in energy efficient green tyres to improve mileage of automotive vehicles. Considering, 25-30% of fuel consumption in automobiles is due to the tyre itself, the demand for high performance tyre and environmentally sustainable solutions are the focus of tyre manufacturing companies. Addressing these issues, the HDS by Tata Chemicals facilitates low rolling resistance, thereby reducing the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. It also finds application in high-performance tires as low-heat build-up functional reinforcement filler. Undoubtedly, such type of innovations fueled with daring policy decisions have made India amongst very few 2°C compliant nations.

Conversely, an interesting finding has been reported in an article in Nature Communications. It states that rise in sea levels might counteract climate change. Scientists also say, Moon plays a key role in how much of the gas gets released.

Scientists found that the presence of methane gas, which is nearly 30 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat, over a period of 100 years, close to the seafloor rises and falls with the tides. And tides are important contributing factor when it comes to methane release. It is deliberated that low tide means less of such hydrostatic pressure and higher intensity of methane release. High tide equals high pressure and lower intensity of the release. Methane leaks in Oceans have occurred for thousands of years, caused by factors such as seismic and volcanic activity.

According to the study, Moon causes tidal forces, the tides generate pressure changes, and bottom currents that in turn shape the seafloor and impact submarine methane emissions. The study also raises the possibility that rises in sea levels might counteract the release of methane from the oceans, as the greater water pressure keeps the gas trapped for longer.

It is essential to take this seriously to cut the clutter and establish facts, besides impacts with the local factors. Indian researchers and government needs to ensure whether the scientific findings holds good in Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. Please share your view

Soil pollution needs attention

09.12.2020

December first week brings two important days for India. 2nd December is observed as National Pollution Control Day, in commemoration of the disastrous 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. And, 5th December is observed as World Soil Day all over the world. India also celebrates. The International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS), in 2002, adopted a resolution proposing the 5th of December as World Soil Day to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human wellbeing.

Soil is a finite natural resource and it is non-renewable. It plays a very essential role in human livelihoods. Soil holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere and can help us meet the challenges of a changing climate. Soils have a great potential to filter and buffer contaminants, degrading and attenuating the negative effects of pollutants, but this capacity is finite. Thus, it is important to preserve top soil from soil pollution, which is caused by construction materials and equipment during construction.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) "95% of the food we eat comes from our soils, which depends on Soil Biodiversity to be healthy and fertile. We need to protect the ground beneath our feet."

India has implemented Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme through the Department of Agriculture of all the State and Union Territory Governments. It gives farmers soil nutrient status of their holdings and advise them on the dosage of fertilizers and also the needed soil amendments to maintain soil health in the long run. In Cycle-I the scheme collected and tested 25,349,546 samples, while 27,367,448 samples have tested in Cycle-II.

Soil pollution is one of the virtually invisible human impacts but has a significant impact on human health and its environment, everywhere. According to United Nations "Every 5 seconds, the equivalent of one soccer field is lost due to soil erosion, which is a major threat to food security. Soil is a living resource, home to more than 25% of our planet's biodiversity. Protecting it is key to maintaining the health of people, animals & the environment."

One third of our global soil quality has degraded due to inappropriate management practices, population pressure driving unsustainable intensification and inadequate governance over this essential resource. Most of the pollutants originate from human activities, such as unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices.

Soil health is imbalanced due to disposal of untreated sewage, industrial effluent, improper disposal of plastic, hazardous wastes, biomedical wastes, garbage, construction and demolition wastes, mining activities and earth excavation related works.

Therefore, it is important that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the National Accreditation Board for Education and Training (NABET) should relook into the EIA Study and reporting, which mostly ignores a detailed deliberation of soil environment.

An Order dated 24th May 2019 issued by National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the matter of O.A. No. 348/2017, states that no industry can be permitted to dispose of treated effluents on land for irrigation, plantation or horticulture/gardening by prescribing standards applicable without assessment of adequate availability of land and impacts of such disposal on agricultural / crops / plants and the recipient groundwater. Impact of precipitation levels also need consideration while granting approvals. The State Pollution Control Boards and Union Territory Pollution Control Committees should ensure the compliance.

Moreover, there is no appropriate soil quality standard available in terms of soil pollution limits, which needs to be developed with utmost importance. #blog

Coca-Cola India’s Sustainability Update: Silent, Blank

1 liter of Coca-Cola consumes 1.74 liters of water?

02.12.2020

Before going to Sustainability Report, let’s understand what are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? The SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. There are 17 SDGs, all are integrated, so that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

It is worth noting that in the year 2000, the United Nations adopted eight objectives to meet the main needs of the poorest, the Millennium Development Goals, which included eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; primary education; reduce child mortality; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; environmental sustainability etc.

There has been a growing concern that current levels of economic development are not sustainable. A key focus is the impact economic growth has had on the environment - in particular human activity that has caused an uptick in greenhouse gases such as methane or CO2, which in turn have caused the atmosphere to retain heat. Therefore, 15 years later, 193 countries adopted the 2030 Agenda that sets out the SDGs, a new horizon with the most pressing challenges for human beings in the coming years.

The rising global middle class, which is predicted to increase from 1.8 billion people in 2009 to 4.9 billion by 2030, mostly in Asia has a huge significance. As the composition of the population changes, it is envisaged that farming pattern will get impact, so is industrialization and natural resource consumption. Each of these changes are interlinked and will come at a momentous environmental cost.

Since not all growth is sustainable, countries and organizations should consider the economic consequences of growth targets and balance these against environmental and social considerations.

In this context, Coca-Cola India’s Sustainability Update 2019-20, which is claimed to be in line with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards, missed many points. Coca-Cola India has a significance with respect to SDG-6, that requires to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, SDG-8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all SDG-12 Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

The company’s report shows that Water Use Ratio has come down from 2.89 liters of water used per liter of beverage in 2009 to 1.74 liters used in 2019. In other words this may be 1 liter of Coca-Cola consumes 1.74 liters of water, even in 2019. The report does not quantify volume of wastewater, reuse and recycle of treated wastewater, water pollution load. It has mentioned a generic statement that it ensures compliance with all regulatory requirements for treatment and disposal of wastewater from its operations. Neither has it detailed any data on energy consumption, CO2 emissions, air pollution load, hazardous wastes, e-wastes, plastic waste data, and so on; nor does it talk about any deployed technology, and technological innovations in true sense. Generally, Sustainability Reports prepared on the line of GRI Standards mention all such information, which is commonly shared by companies even in India.

It is therefore important to deliberate on whether India should have a reporting standard based on its national targets, which are ultimately linked to SGDs and even much ahead as in case of renewable energy sector. There is much work to be done to better understand and implement the SDGs but for now, the message is clear: business as usual is not an option. Please share your view

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Sustainable Innovation Drives

GII 2020 shows poor Environmental Performance as India ranks 124 out of 131

25.11.2020

It is said that if we don’t innovate, we perish. Innovation is one of the most bandied about terms in today’s globe, but exactly what it means can be nebulous. Innovation may be combination of activities to uncover new ways to do things.

The Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020, which ranks world economies according to their innovation capabilities has placed India at 48th position amongst 131 nations. India was ranked 57 in 2018, 52 in 2019 and now, 48 in 2020. India’s Human capital & research shows strengths in three important indicators – Graduates in science & engineering, Global R&D companies, and Quality of Universities. The report also shows poor Environmental Performance with 124th rank out of 131. Earlier, according to the 12th edition of the Environment Performance Index (EPI 2020), released by Yale University —India stood at 168 out of the 180 countries analysed. The report depicted India’s position behind all South Asian nations, except Afghanistan. The report stated that India needs to redouble its sustainability efforts.

As described by Dr. Brene Brown vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. The ongoing pandemic has brought an opportunity for many. Nevertheless, in a country like India with gigantic population such occasions are frequent. Rapid urbanization in the country is putting incessant pressure on environment. In India, there are some burning examples in water management field – Heware Bazar model, Jakhni model, Dewas model and so on. Though, these models are not highly technical, they are populist and have resulted paradigm shift.

Increasing demand for natural resources and providing basic amenities to billions of people also needs tremendous innovative ideas. The Government of India is widening prospects for innovation and excellence. The Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) has shown high degree of interest for the infusion and deployment of innovative technological solutions to realize its ambitious objective of the Jal Jeevan Mission to provide Functional Household Tap Connection to every rural home by 2024. Government of India is keen to adopt innovative technologies to deliver drinking water services to rural communities of adequate quantity and prescribed quality. MoJS is considering innovative solutions like solar energy based water treatment plant based on ultrafiltration, electric vehicle based on GPS location to enable delivery of safe water to the doorstep of households, non-electricity dependent online chlorinator for disinfection of water for removal of bacterial contamination.

Recently, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has invited most efficient and cost-effective solutions to address high pollutant levels often observed in urban spaces. Improvement of air quality in high emission zones also termed as hotspots is the ultimate objective of the Board. CPCB expects participants to provide technology solutions that address the problems by augmenting already available technologies in the market, and propose robust business models for collection, and suppression of dust generated, management of dust collected in high dust emission zones in a cost-effective manner in Indian cities.

However, this effort of CPCB seems to be more oriented towards tail of pipe treatment concept. It is important to combat the challenges posed by industrial emissions. One has to explore the yet untapped huge scope in the field of industrial air emission control, and its traceable measurement. There is also a need to deal with process automation with state-of-art technologies that could reduce waste and emissions. This not only requires innovative technology, but also creative financing ideas like emission trading, green funding for supply chain, introduction of insurance coverage and efficient handling of bank guarantee and performance securities. Besides, it is of utmost priority to imbibe efficient and cost-effective technological solutions in road sweeping and road dust elimination at source. Deployment of such technologies with able policy measures would bring much valuable sustainable solutions. Please share your view

IAQ even important than AAQ

18.11.2020

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) monitoring in India is fast becoming a serious issue. The poor ambient air quality (AAQ) has impacts on the air quality within the enclosed environments - residential, commercial, school buildings or health care units. The worsened Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) with high concentrations of air pollutants results degrades health and productivity. Given the alarming health impacts associated with the Indoor Air Pollution (IAP) exposure, the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated this as one of the four most critical global environmental problems in developing countries.

IAPs originate from multiple sources, such indoor smoking, use of cleaning agents, pesticides and insecticides, building materials etc. The IAP caused by air pollutants, namely, respirable particulate matters, gases, biological aerosols, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or any mass or energy stressor that can affect the health and comfort of occupants within the buildings.

Some of the key factors affecting the IAQ include: (i) penetration of outdoor air pollutants in to the indoor environments, (ii) building materials such as asbestos, cement, wood preservatives, and VOCs released from cleaning agents, glues, paints, perfumes, polishing materials, spray propellants, varnishes, and resins, (iii) building characteristics such as the air tightness and ventilation, (iv) building occupancy and living space, (v) equipment used within the buildings, such as – heaters, photocopiers, printers, (vi) the customs, and tradition of the residents, and (vii) socio-economic status of occupants.

In India, the study of IAQ gained momentum in the last couple of years with reverberating chaos on poor outdoor air quality, and readily available AQI data. Select hospitals, offices, schools, and residences initiated individual studies on short-term basis. However, it has lost the enthusiasm, may be due to; (1) non-availability of a national level standard, (2) inadequate monitoring and laboratory infrastructure and (3) appropriate awareness amidst mass.

India has not institutionalized a national level standard, so far. There is one standard pertaining to work place and occupational safety that specifies exposure limits with respect to working hours. India has also not developed adequate monitoring equipment, and mostly rely either on the same measuring equipment used for ambient air quality or imported ones, without any calibration facilities. This also reduces confidence of data validation as the equipment are not of similar traceability level. The standards and reference materials are also not so easily available at a reasonable price. Further, due to lack of appropriate knowledge and awareness, organizations have failed to establish a proper monitoring programme including site specific parameters for measurement, number of samples to be carried out based on area or occupants and measurement frequency. Most of the studies are primarily based on either guidelines of WHO, United States Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) or American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHAE). But it is important to note that every indoor environment may have its unique IAQ related issues and concerns. So, India needs to establish its own guidelines, methodologies, standard test methods, and exposure limits. A baseline survey may be conducted to develop the status report on IAQ in different buildings such as hospitals, offices, schools, shopping complexes and malls; based on certain parameters, like building design and location; occupancy, CO2, lighting and ventilation; and air pollutants like PM2.5, CO, CO2, VOCs and Bio aerosols; health complaints from occupants etc.

Environmental laboratories, Proficiency Test providers, Calibration facilities, equipment manufacturers, and accreditation bodies should gear up to deliver tangible value addition. Corporate, industries, institutions and end users must understand their exact requirements and pricing before hiring IAQ measurement services. Health has been a concern of late due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Being mindful of sustainability goals is being mindful of the health of our environment and ourselves. Please share your view

Why CGWA Accreditation Policy skips Water Auditors?

11.11.2020

Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), under the Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti has come out with an Accreditation Policy for the Ground Water Professionals. It is stated that as per new Notified Guidelines of CGWA, all projects extracting or proposing to extract ground water in excess of 100 kiloliter per day (KLD) in Over-exploited, Critical and Semi-critical areas and mining projects shall have to submit mandatorily the impact assessment report of existing and proposed ground water withdrawal on the ground water regime and also the report on the socio-economic impacts prepared by accredited consultants.

Earlier, on 24th September 2020 vide S.O. 3289(E), CGWA has notified new guidelines. In view of this, CGWA has formulated the policy for Accreditation of the Consultants and Institutions whose report will be accepted by the Authority for processing the Applications and issuance of No Objection Certificate (NOC) for ground water withdrawal. The CGWA expects certain level of accuracy and meaningful conclusions of the report submitted by an accredited and competent Ground Water Professional. At the same time, the accredited individual agrees to uphold the quality of standards, ethics and public responsibility set by the Accrediting Organization.

Definitely a welcome step. However, the major challenge in case of CGWA is to identify whether the application is processed for an existing bore well or new bore well, and actual number of bore wells. Industries, certainly won’t become transparent and declare the actual water consumption, sourced through bore wells. There are many reasons to it, most importantly it could increase recurring expenditures. At the first, most of the industries don’t have data on exact water consumption in different heads. If they dare to declare exact quantum of water used in processes, and that varies from the Consent obtained under the provisions of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; they need to reprocess their Consent application, based on water pollution load. In some cases, it may also need a change in the Environmental Clearance (EC). And, both processes demand remarkable costing, time besides hassles. Subsequently, more process water means more wastes, may be hazardous wastes; which is going to increase the disposal cost. Considering this, CGWA will continue to face this challenge, unless there are technologies deployed to assess number of bore wells in a particular premises.

Further, the new guideline of 24th September 2020 requires that industries abstracting ground water in excess of 100 KLD shall be required to undertake annual water audit through Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) or Federation Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) or National Productivity Council (NPC) certified auditors and submit audit reports within three months of completion of the same to CGWA. All such industries shall be required to reduce their ground water use by at least 20% over the next three years through appropriate means. Commercial entities extracting ground water shall also be required to submit online annual water audit report. On the contrary, the Authority has not considered accreditation of Water Auditors. Furthermore, though it has been into operation since 1997, CGWA has failed to create an effective state level network. And the compliances of NOC conditions were very poorly monitored. There are ample cases of industries without renewal of expired NOC, and complete non-compliance. With limiting options of CII, FICCI and NPC, CGWA has again failed to ease compliance fulfilment. It may not be so feasible for industries in many parts of India to comply with. Therefore, CGWA may relook into the accreditation policy so that the implementation of water audit takes place with true letter and spirit. Please share your view

4-Is to Curb Air Pollution

Information, Institutions, Incentives, and Implementation

Air pollution presents an increasingly apparent challenge to the health and development across the globe. More so in low and lower-middle income countries. PM2.5, a small particulate with a diameter of less than 2.5 micron, about one-thirtieth the width of a human hair, pose a major threat amongst the air pollutants. About 8% of all attributable deaths globally in 2017 were thus linked to PM2.5 pollution. This is more than the number of people who died from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Exposure to PM2.5 can cause such deadly illnesses as lung cancer, stroke, and heart disease. The WHO has recommended as a guideline that people should not be exposed to concentrations of PM2.5 pollution higher than 10 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) on average each year, or 25 µg/m3 on average every 24 hours.

According to a 2016 report by The Energy Research Institute, New Delhi, PM2.5 emissions are dominated by the industrial (36%) and residential combustion (39%) sectors. However, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, launched on 1st May 2016 must have addressed PM2.5 emissions from residential sectors to a great extent. Further, the power plants contribute 4% of PM2.5 emissions.

Looking at the Power Plant Emissions Standards in various countries, India has a very liberal standard, more than double that of China for new plants. In the case of existing plants, USA and China has far stringent norms as compared to India.

Reliable data on air pollution concentrations and its health implications, on sources of pollution, on enforcement, etc. are critical for design and implementation of air quality programs. India needs to strive on health impact data. Cost effective local manufacturing of continuous monitoring system, and its calibration facilities is essential. Also, required availability of traditional monitoring equipment based on approved design.

India has a long history of tackling air pollution with supporting legislation. The main legislation that governs air pollution control in India is the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, enacted under Article 253 of the Constitution, further amended in 1987. The Air Act empowers the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, and its subordinate institutions, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs), to perform various functions in order to prevent, and control air pollution in India. CPCB and SPCBs also have powers to prescribe and enforce emission standards for stationary and mobile source of air pollution, in coordination with other government agencies. Further, National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is a national-level strategy for reducing the levels of air pollution at both the regional and urban scales. Target is for reduction of 20-30% of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024. Recently, a Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020 has been promulgated.

The central government on 2nd November 2020, based on the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, has released Rs. 2,200 Crore as the first instalment to 15 states for the improvement of air quality measures in their million-plus cities. The Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the grant will "help the beneficiary states to undertake air quality measures, including capacity-building of the local bodies within their million-plus cities/agglomerations". The funds should be used to support a variety of incentive programs, including subsidies for end-of-pipe controls and boiler retrofits in power plants and factories, rebates for scrapping older vehicles, and payments to households switching out coal-fired heating stoves for gas or electric systems.

Information, institutions, and incentives are the three prongs of an effective air pollution management strategy for any country, which India has to a great extent. It needs a justified implementation and follow-up. Please share your view

Need revolution to curb air pollution

21.10.2020

India recorded the highest annual average PM2.5 concentration exposure in the world last year, according to the State of Global Air 2020 (SOGA 2020) report. Recently, USA President, Donald Trump stated that China, Russia and India are major contributors to global air pollution. In India too, a furore prevails in and around the Capital City, Delhi and adjoining areas, as air pollution has discernible effects in the region. Do the Governments, Corporations, Industries have a strong desire to reduce our impact of air pollution?

This year, in comparison to other years in the span of last 4 years, traffic situation is not that complex. Many people are still working from home, avoiding rush. Traffic movement inside Delhi has reduced as peripheral roads started operating. Therefore, opting Odd-Even again is not convincing. “Red Light On, Gaadi Off” is an incredible message to inculcate a behavioural change. However, it should not be limited to Delhi only. Moreover, growing encroachments of roads and by lanes is a major increasing threat, which is not at all being addressed by government authorities. This leads to traffic blockage and hence, air pollution.

The incidence of a non-compliant construction site in FICCI complex is entirely discouraging. FICCI is one of the few leading industrial associations, a voice of Indian industries and also plays an advisory role. Industrial emissions without treatment are unabated. Construction of highways, and flyovers generate massive quantum of air pollutants in terms of dust. The mechanism adopted are found to be the same old way of deploying trucks and tractors to spray water, which not only fails to sprinkle water uniformly but also causes disturbance in traffic flow and induces transport of dust to other places.

Ban of diesel generators during winters has been ruled over the last 3 years, or so. Industries, and construction projects are again overly active to justify the running of DG sets. On the contrary, more renewables on the grid reduce carbon emissions. India has shown aggression on adopting solar energy. Regrettably, it has no visible sign in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR). Many recent developments demonstrate that Lithium-ion batteries, and hydrogen are great alternatives. Hydrogen is referred as silver bullet. To decarbonize, it’s going to take a confluence of technologies — hydrogen, lithium-ion batteries, solar, wind, biomass; where hydrogen could play a very important part in that toolkit. Hydrogen is very expensive at the moment. 5 - 10 years ago, Solar was so. Now, solar is affordable.

In the 4G communication age, which is soon going to be obsolete, the government, corporations, industry; can no more skip the responsibility. They have to take the onus. Residents of Delhi and NCR, instead of fighting it out in the Courts of law, should enhance live communication, not virtual, with individual leaders of their area and ask for certificate of guarantee to act against air pollution. Courts have given substantial orders, which are not being implemented. Similarly, Delhi and NCR residents should also communicate with the pollution control board officials of their respective areas, and compel them to act against flouting individuals or enterprises. Smog tower like end of pipe treatment is not welcome. Infrastructure for piped natural gas could support elimination of diesel generators. Feasibility of finding a way with fixed water sprinklers for the entire construction phase needs to be initiated. Road side dust must be cleared and transported in an environment friendly manner to designated disposal sites. With massive available legal, and technical resources, air pollution challenge is solvable. A massive revolution with focus on mass benefits is essentially required to curb air pollution. Think, who can lead? Please share your view

Legacy Wastes & NGT’s Intervention

14.10.2020

Humans generated 2.01 billion tons of solid waste in 2016. By 2050 it could rise to 3.4 billion tons, says the World Bank. India is slowly drowning in its own garbage. The rate at which India is currently generating waste, it is estimated that by 2030, the country will need a landfill almost as big as the city of Bengaluru to dump its waste.

Legacy wastes are the wastes that have been collected and kept for years at some barren land or a place dedicated for Landfill, an area to dump solid waste. Legacy wastes not only occupy large space, but also become a breeding ground for pathogens, flies, malodours. Thus, transmitting diseases, causing respiratory infections, and harming animals. It causes generation of leachate, which may lead to water contamination. 280 billion tons of groundwater is being polluted every year. They also contribute to generation of greenhouse gases and pose risk of uncontrollable fire. So far, there is no availability of defined composition of Legacy waste reported in India.

As per Annual Report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) 2016-17 there are a total of 2120 dumpsites reported in various states. Out of these, maximum of 499 dumpsites have been reported in state of Tamil Nadu followed by 381 dumpsites in Madhya Pradesh, 271 in Maharashtra, 207 in Karnataka, 170 in Gujarat, 160 in Punjab and 102 in West Bengal. A total of 55 dumpsites are reported in Urban Agglomerations, cities with more than 10 lakh population as per census 2011, in various states. Achievements in legacy waste management may be assessed in terms of reducing number of dumpsite for reclamation of land used for restoration of environment.

The Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT), during January 2019 to August 2020 identified three major components pertaining to issues of Solid waste management in India which involved 43% of issues of Waste Processing Facility followed by 37% Legacy waste and 20% of Land Fill sites. The journey of legacy waste seems to be unending as a result, these issues remain continued till date. Annual intervention revealed that about 75% of these issues were covered during year 2019 whereas only 25 % could be addressed till August 2020. Record shows maximum perusal of NGT during July 2019 (17%) followed by 11% during August 2019. Issues of legacy waste is not confined to a single state and union territories in India, but the maximum issues of legacy waste, have been raised for disposal, from Haryana (31%) followed by Kerala and Union of India (23%), Uttar Pradesh (15%) and Maharashtra (8%) by the Principal Bench of NGT. NGT has directed respective governments to take coercive measures, including direction for prosecution and stoppage of salary. The performance of these states, is depicted in details with regard to legacy waste management.

In Original Application No. 606/2018 pertaining to Haryana, the NGT declared that the mandatory provision of the Rules and directions should be implemented in a time bound manner. Among Key Parameters Systems for the treatment of legacy waste to be established. The CPCB was to prepare Standard Operating Procedure for dealing with the legacy waste.

With intervention of the Principal Bench of NGT, several action plans were devised and revised. It is expected that the weight of dumped legacy wastes could be reduced by 40% after proper stabilisation and bio-remediation and the reduced weight will be processed through bio-mining. Bio-mining method has been proposed by the CPCB for the effective disposal of legacy wastes. Bio mining is the process of using microorganisms to extract metals of economic interest from rock ores or mine waste. Please share your view

A possibility to regulate groundwater in agricultural sector

07.10.2020

In the revised guidelines to regulate and control groundwater extraction in the country, the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), Government of India has exempted individual domestic consumers in both rural and urban areas for drinking water and domestic uses of groundwater, from the requirement of No Objection Certificate (NOC). The exemption is also allowed to rural drinking water supply schemes, Armed Forces Establishments and Central Armed Police Forces establishments in both rural, and urban areas. Further it is extended to micro and small enterprises drawing ground water less than 10 cubic meter per day. Industry experts welcome this idea as most of these enterprises either fail to comply with the regulations or get hunted by some unethical professionals in the field.

However, when the country is aware of a huge mismanagement of water resources in the agricultural sector that consumes around 85% - 90% of total water consumption; offering an exemption to the agricultural sector was not anticipated. Some data reveals that over 4 crore people must have drilled bore wells in India, due to various reasons. Though installing a bore well costs money, and the farmer bears the cost with a profit motive; coming under a regulatory frame may be opposed, as the agricultural sector is politically highly sensitive. Therefore, the government has taken a prudent step. Irrespective of type, size and scale of agricultural production, farmers in India, even in the information age of the 21st century, are not so educated to even understand the requirements of NOC and fulfil the documentary procedure for the NOC. Obviously, it could have resulted in maximum or cent percent non-compliance.

According to the Report of the Standing Sub-Committee on Assessment of availability of water and requirement for diverse uses in the country – August, 2000; by 2050, the percentage of water consumption by the agricultural sector could fall down and remain around 75%, which is still a huge volume of water. In the last 30 - 40 years, India has exhausted more than 75% of its groundwater resources. And the extraction rate is not showing a down trend. This could force the governments to regulate water consumption in various ways. Whatever be the way, the political leaders have to brace up the challenge to communicate to farmers that water or its replacement in the form of treated wastewater is ostensibly going to be a paid commodity.

Coincidently, in recent years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been connecting with the Sarpanches of the Gram Panchayats in the country. It was also visibly clear that in the pandemic year the Sarpanches have played a greater role. Now, time is ripe to further strengthen this communication and establish a new mechanism of groundwater regulation through Prepaid Smart Meter Systems for agricultural use. The system will be primarily to charge water consumption. Further, the pricing could be on the basis of volume of water consumption. For less consumption, there could be subsidies. India’s neighbouring country China, has achieved outstanding results for metering all the agricultural groundwater production in large irrigation areas. The procedure solved many difficulties and is at the head of developing countries. The goal of the implementation is to accelerate water savings and charge groundwater fees in the early stage to accurately control and manage the subsequent quota. Nevertheless, infusion of technology such as cloud techniques and GPS could further be tested for greater results.

Moreover, city nurseries should be barred from this exemption and must be taken to feasible locations where treated sewage from industrial estates or ULBs are available. Please share your view

Uber, Ola, Amazon, Flipkart should lead Decarbonization in Transport

30.09.2020

In early September 2020, Amazon and Uber remained in news for zero-emission deliberation in Europe. Amazon announced it is adding more than 1,800 electric vehicles from Mercedes-Benz Vans to its delivery fleet in Europe this year. Amazon’s Delivery Service Partners will have access to the new fleet of zero-emission vehicles to make deliveries to customers in Europe this year, helping to save thousands of metric tons of carbon. Amazon is also committed to powering its growing electric fleet with clean energy. Amazon has committed to run on 100% renewable energy by 2025. This announcement came on the heels of news that Amazon’s businesses had emitted 15% more carbon dioxide in 2019 than they had in 2018. Amazon’s total carbon footprint for 2019 was 51.17 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMT CO2e) compared to 44.4 MMT CO2e in 2018.

Uber is committing to become a fully zero-emission platform by 2040, with 100% of rides taking place in zero-emission vehicles, on public transit, or with micromobility. The company is also setting a goal to have 100% of rides take place in electric vehicles (EVs) in US, Canadian, and European cities by 2030. Uber is also committing to reaching net-zero emissions from corporate operations by 2030.

In 2017, in India, Uber had 450000 drivers and there were over 5.79 billion kilometres, roughly 3.6 billion miles, travelling took place. However, Uber didn’t share any visible information on carbon footprint in India. Considering emissions to be 32 g CO2e/km, based on a manufacturing footprint of 8 t CO2e per vehicle and lifetime of 250,000 km; the total emission may be accounted to be 185.28 billion 32 g CO2e in 2017, only from Uber. And, this must have increased in 2018 and 2019. Addition of emission from Ola Cabs India, Amazon India and Flipkart India could be gigantic.

2016 World Bank data shows that Fossil CO2 emissions in India were 2,533,638,100 tons, which was an increase by 4.71% over the previous year. The CO2 emissions per capita in India was equivalent to 1.91 tons per person based on a population of 1,324,517,249 in 2016.

These days most cars display mileage on the dash board that tells distance covered per kilometer, besides the lifetime distance travelled. Many also come with a carbon emissions rating. This rating tells us the emissions generated per kilometre or mile of driving a car, and helps us to compare the climate impact of different cars. As India is pursuing decarbonization in transport sector it would be a great idea to label all vehicles with star rating on the basis of carbon emission and resource consumption. Fuel economy has played a major role in vehicle sales in many places including Japan, India, South America and parts of Africa. Now, it should be carbon footprints.

Besides, these companies should also come forward to invest in renewable energy projects throughout India. Rooftop solar could be a major attraction, as this can involve the entire society. Globally, Amazon has 91 renewable energy projects that have the capacity to generate over 2,900 MW and deliver more than 7.5 million MWh of energy annually. These projects include 31 utility-scale wind and solar renewable energy projects and 60 solar rooftops on fulfillment centers and sort centers around the globe.

Akin to all other businesses, the ultimate success of transport business will rest on these company’s ability to transition its platform to clean energy in partnership with drivers, industry innovators, and governments; besides being transparent and accountable to the public along the way. Thus, companies like Uber India, Ola Cabs India, Amazon India and Flipkart India must show their responsible attitude towards the society. Nevertheless, Indian Consumers should also exert a demand for this. Please share Your View

Water Talk Connects to Thousands

23.09.2020

Water is indispensable to almost all domestic and economic activities, including agriculture, power, industry and mining. In a country like India, water management is crucial for sustainable human health, eco system, and economic progress. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in his 73rd Independence Day speech uttered the term Water for 22 times, which shows the focus of the Government on water. Oftentimes, the Prime Minister deliberates on water issues.

Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (DoWRRD&GR), Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS), Government of India initiated a remarkable programme, “Water Talk” on the eve of World Water Day 2019. A monthly seminar series on water, a vital subject, is being organized by the National Water Mission (NWM), every month, on the 3rd Friday since 22nd March 2019.

Water Talk has become a platform of knowledge transfer and problem solving. It has successfully attracted many vibrant people of various age groups from different walks of life to participate in the event and actively share various ideas towards sustainable water management in India. In the pre-COVID time, the programme was attended by nearly 150 participants. During COVID-19 phase, the seminar series has got a new way to reach mass through digital mode. As per the proceedings of the 16th Water Talk the event has reached over 70,000 views.

Urban water supply and management, village success stories, Ground water management, irrigation systems of water stressed areas, groundwater governance, agricultural water management, technology upgradation in irrigation, hydel power, flood control, water budgeting, construction of artificial Glacier are the topics deliberated by various ground heroes and real achievers. Water Talk propagated Reduce wastage, Reuse water at least once, Recharge ground water, Recycle waste water, and Respect for water. And, such an event is attended by phenomenal number of students from schools, universities, engineering colleges, and research institutions. In the 17th Water Talk, which was focused on Bengaluru water management, a school child of 8th standard from Jammu & Kashmir raised concern about misuse of stream water, and appealed the government for befitting action. This is a clear evidence of the right connection of the government and the future heroes.

Such events are not as entertaining as the famous TV serials like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. But, has no less importance too. And NWM has definitely chose a challenge, which within a span of one year has been converted into a grand success. The speakers have a massive role. The presentation from their enormous experience and the topics are so pragmatic that viewers feel a bonding. Above all, the commitment from the top officials of the Ministry has been a major driving force in disguise. U. P. Singh, Secretary, DoWRRD&GR, MoJS; G Asok Kumar, Additional Secretary and Mission Director, National Water Mission have not only ensured to be present in every programme, but also listened, discussed and created an atmosphere that one feels to be a part of the group.

Water Talk, with its growing popularity, is definitely the new talk of the time. It seems, with such knowledge imparting programmes, days are not far that India would forget the scary reports of being water starving nation. Rather, we may create many more water heroes like Arun Krishnamurthy and Ramveer Tanwar to probably prove the old saying of Gil Scott-Heron “Man is a complex being: he makes deserts bloom - and lakes die.”

Please share Your View

Ozone today, Oxygen tomorrow

16.09.2020

Earth without ozone is like a house without a roof. Ozone is not just a layer but a protector. The ozone layer acts as Earth's sunscreen by absorbing harmful ultraviolet radiation from incoming sunlight that can cause skin cancer and damage plants, among other harmful effects to life on Earth. Researchers at the University of Southampton have shown that an extinction event 360 million years ago, that killed much of the Earth’s plant and freshwater aquatic life, was caused by a brief breakdown of the ozone layer that shields the Earth from damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The ozone collapse occurred as the climate rapidly warmed following an intense ice age.

Science has established that ozone depletion causes global warming, and climate change. In early 2020, Dr. Kevin Rose, a researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA stated that “What we’re seeing is that ozone changes have shifted temperature and precipitation patterns in the southern hemisphere, and that’s altering where the algae in the ocean are, which is altering where the fish are, and where the walruses and seals are, so we’re seeing many changes in the food web.”

Each year, ozone-depleting compounds in the upper atmosphere destroy the protective ozone layer, and in particular above Antarctica. Chemicals once used widely in refrigeration, spray cans and solvents can eat away at Earth’s ozone layer. After scientists discovered the stratospheric “ozone hole” in the 1980s, nations around the world signed the international Montreal Protocol agreement to protect the ozone layer, limiting the emission of ozone-depleting chemicals. Year 2020 marks 35 years since the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol, which united the world to cut out gases creating a hole in the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol, an international agreement signed in 1987 to stop chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroying the ozone layer, now appears to be the first international treaty to successfully slow the rate of global warming. In the course of 35 years, the world has shifted from CFCs to Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) to Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) and eliminated use of several compounds.

In a first-ever study using ozone data collected by commercial aircraft by researchers from Cooperative Institute For Research In Environmental Sciences (CIRES) it was found that levels of the pollutant in most parts of Earth’s atmosphere have increased across the Northern Hemisphere over the past 20 years. That’s even as tighter controls on emissions of ozone precursors have lowered ground-level ozone in some places, including North America and Europe.

Nevertheless, with the above encouraging finding of healing up of ozone layer and some challenges are also found. Another new research deliberates quantifying small levels of iodine in Earth’s stratosphere could help explain why some of the planet’s protective ozone layer isn’t healing as fast as expected. The paper posits a set of connections that link air pollution near Earth’s surface to ozone destruction much higher in the atmosphere. Due to unique events in geological history, iodine is found in higher concentrations in mineral deposits in underground brines and in caliche ore. It is from these deposits that iodine is extracted for production. The global demand for iodine is on the rise and in 2016 data shows it to be above 33000 metric tons per year. Most current commercial production of iodine comes from deep well brines, sometimes associated with gas wells.

World Ozone Day is an event to create awareness related to climate change and ozone depletion. Amidst swiftly changing lifestyle among in the world, where people are opting for artificial air conditioning as well as fast and frozen foods, it is indispensable to look for ozone-friendly, HCFC free, energy-efficient appliances to minimize impacts on the Ozone layer. Your Response

NHAI’s Bharat Mala Extension Roads, Delhi: Missing Points in EIA

09.09.2020

Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has displayed a draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on its website, which pertains to road stretches selected of Bharat Mala Scheme. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) appointed as Consultants have hired one EIA Consultant accredited by National Accreditation Board of Education and Trainers (NABET) to carry out to prepare the EIA report including Environmental Management Plan (EMP). The total length of the project has been reported as 75.211km that includes Road-2 (NH-344M) from design chainage Km 0.000 to Km 38.111 in the state of NCT of Delhi, Development of link toad (new NH-344P) (Km 0.000 to Km 29.600) between Bawana Industrial Area, Delhi (from Km 7.750 of UER-2) till bypass of NH-352A at Village Barwasni, Sonipat, Haryana in the state of NCT of Delhi/Haryana and Development of link road (new NH-344N) (Km 0.000 to Km 7.500), between Dichaon Kalan till Bahadurgarh Bypass/NH-10 in the state of NCT of Delhi/Haryana.

The report has informed that NHAI road project could have some impacts on several water bodies, though without changing any course. The EIA report does not deliberate on details like size and names of the water bodies. It has just highlighted that the road may pass over the water bodies, and possible impacts are only at the time of construction, for which EMP has given certain measures.

Another important aspect of the project is cutting of 17,000 trees. The EMP has deliberated 10 trees for each tree to be cut will be planted as a part of compensatory afforestation. The consultants hired by NHAI to prepare a project feasibility have failed to propose any details regarding site selection for tree plantation. Greenbelt development along proposed highway.

Delhi ranks fourth among the forty one cities of the world monitored for air pollution. 64% of pollution is by automobiles. As referred in Table 5-4 the air pollution modeling has been based on Emission Factors related to Bharat Stage – IV Vehicle, while India has entered into Bharat Stage – VI. Further, it has missed quantification of air pollution during construction phase, which may emanate from vehicles transporting the construction materials, construction and demolition, Hot Mix Plants (HMPs), diesel generator sets and so on.

A major aspect is water requirement. The expected total water requirement for 30 months of construction period of the project is nearly 2.2 billion liters. The EIA report states that majority would be sourced from Delhi Jal Board (DJB), and silent on the remaining. It also implies that DJB has not given any permission. Taking available reports into account, Delhi needs around 1,150 million gallons of water per day (MGD) and DJB is able to supply only around 900 MGD on an average. Hence, the statement cited in EIA report seems to be not factual.

It is high time that NABET ensures the EIA reports are data based. For instance, if the project fails to get water supply from DJB, the report does not specify any available alternatives. The EIA report should also deliberate on the both positive and negative impacts on competing users. The air pollution modeling is based on obsolete emission factors and incomplete as it misses HMP and DG emissions. Further, tree cutting is a grave matter as the city has thin tree population. Hence, the EIA report should offer details with expected time for tree growth, list of species for scientific development of greenbelt, propose ideal plantation sites and urban forest to curb air pollution, maintain water cycle and also soil pollution. A clear composition of greenbelt development along the proposed highway should be suggested because tree felling is envisaged with expansion of highways within a very short span. Moreover, NHAI should hire the EIA consultants for qualitative report. Your View

Plastic Waste Management & Role of NGT

02.09.2020

Currently, roughly 11 million metric tons of plastic make their way into the oceans each year, causing incalculable damage to wildlife habitats and harm to humans and animals. An enlightening article dated 23rd July 2020 by Leslie Kaufman on Bloomberg Green deliberates that if no action is taken, the amount of plastic litter will grow to 29 million metric tons per year by 2040. Although some hydrocarbon-based plastics break down into tiny particles known as microplastics, which are themselves harmful to humans and animals, they don’t biodegrade, meaning that the cumulative amount of plastic in the ocean could reach 600 million tons in 20 years. It is estimated that around 25,940 Tonne of plastic waste per day is generated in India. The range of plastic waste in the municipal solid waste varies from 3.10% in Chandigarh to 12.47% in Surat. The fight against Covid-19 might make the challenge even harder since the pandemic has increased single-use plastic consumption.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been playing a pivotal role to ensure appropriate management of plastic waste. The Principal Bench of NGT has served 29 orders to various States and Union Territories in India during January 2019 to July 2020. 27% of these orders were issued in favour of Union of India identifying the sources of plastic waste such as use of PVC and chlorinated plastics including banners, hoarding and similar materials used for promotion and advertising during election campaign. Unchecked use of packaging materials, single use plastic pens, are among the articles causing growing problems in implementing the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 and the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Plastic waste disposal in NCT of Delhi was reported by 23% of NGT orders issued to plastic recycling units in residential areas, running of a PVC unit in Industrial area, plastic polythene bags being used by certain shopkeepers and burning of plastic. 17% NGT orders for preventing illegal use of polythene begs and burning of Plastics. Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar was reported by 14% of NGT orders issued for implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, implementation of ‘50μm’ thickness norms for carry bags manufacturing and closing of unregistered plastic manufacturing and recycling of plastic carry bags and granules units. Haryana State was reported by issues of Plastic waste disposal to the extent of 7% of NGT intervention whereas 3% of issues on Plastic waste disposal were reported in the state of Maharashtra, which included remedial action against the air pollution on account of melting of plastic in the process of manufacturing recycled plastic granules for use of plastic pipes. PVC is a popular building material and also used in medical devices and equipment but, it emits chemical vapours which can be harmful for health.

With pursuance of the NGT, CPCB has framed Environmental Compensation regime for improper Plastic Waste Management, and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has brought out a guideline document “Uniform Framework for Extended Producers Responsibility” under Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. The document has given details of online registration and record keeping of producers, recyclers and manufacturers and deliberated on various models of Extend Producers Responsibility (EPR), such as; Fee based model, PRO based model and Plastic Credit Model, and audited certification based funding mechanisms.

As India has set a deadline to go single-use plastic free by 2022, it is important to work proactively to strengthen legal frameworks and ensure strict compliance to those. Leslie Kaufman’s article also cites that the volume of plastic waste cut by ~80% is attainable through actions to reduce the growth of virgin plastic production, improve waste collection systems across the globe, and invest in the creation of plastic materials that are easier to recycle. Your View

Choose Right Crop to Save Water

26.08.2020

Water is a critical input for agricultural production and plays an important role in food security. Studies and World Bank report states that irrigated agriculture is, on average, at least twice as productive per unit of land as rainfed agriculture. Irrigated agriculture represents 20% of the total cultivated land and contributes 40% of the total food produced worldwide.

In Indian economy, due to high growth rates of the industrial and services sectors, agriculture’s share has progressively declined to less than 15%. Still agriculture holds an importance in India’s economic and social fabric. India is a global agricultural powerhouse. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses, and spices, and has the world’s largest cattle herd (buffaloes), as well as the largest area under wheat, rice and cotton. It is the second largest producer of rice, wheat, cotton, sugarcane, farmed fish, sheep & goat meat, fruit, vegetables and tea. The country has some 195 million hectare under cultivation of which some 63% are rainfed, while 37% irrigated.

There is also a need to manage the overexploitation of groundwater. In many parts of India, over-pumping of water for agricultural use is leading to falling groundwater levels. Conversely, water-logging is leading to the build-up of salts in the soils of some irrigated areas, which is not good for water and soil quality. In rain-fed areas on the other hand, where the majority of the rural population live, agricultural practices need adapting to reduce soil erosion and increase the absorption of rainfall.

Agriculture is India’s largest user of water. More than 80% of water usage is for agricultural purposes. With growing urban and other demands, less water is likely to be available for irrigation. Hence, any amount of saving of water in the field of agricultural activities may have a significant positive impact in water environment. According to a Financial Express article on 10th May 2016; the water requirement per kg of sugar is around 1,500-2,000 litres, whereas the water required for producing 1kg of rice is 2,500-3,400 litres, and that for groundnut in shell form is 3,100 litres. Similarly, the water required for producing 1kg of cotton is as high as 10,000 litres. This needs radical enhancement in the productivity of irrigation “more crop per drop”. Keeping this in eyes, the Government of India launched a campaign “Sahi Fasal”, which means Right Crop. The campaign was driven by the National Water Mission, Ministry of Jal Shakti to encourage the farmers in the water stressed areas to grow less water intensive crops, and also efficient use of water. The programme targets selection of appropriate low water demanding crops, micro-irrigation, soil moisture conservation, and so on. It also focused to shift farmers choice from water intensive crops like paddy, sugarcane to crops like corn, maize etc., which require less water.

Right implementation of Sahi Fasal campaign with right spirit by promoting befitting crops would be vital for water reserves of the nation. Your View

Carrying Capacity & EIA for Smart Cities

19.08.2020

Raindrops have been talking. Water roaring in some smart cities. Unavoidable havocs over and above the pandemic. In such a situation, it becomes relevant to look into the natural drainage. EIA reports need a case specific study on topography and hydrology of project area. Many Environmental Clearances (EC) specify a condition that the project proponent will not change the natural slope. As very well described in Sidharth Mishra’s article “Gurgaon Flooding: How Dying Rivers of National Capital Region (NCR) Are Having Their Revenge” on news18.com, some people mischievously change natural course for their greed. Gurgaon, now renamed as Gurugram is a glaring example. Akin to other cities, every monsoon, Gurgaon faces flooding situation. This year being inflicted by a pandemic, flooding may worsen the post lockdown situation. City administrative set up had merely shared any plans beforehand, except for some cleaning of drainage and rainwater harvesting structures. The moot point us whether the administration had a flood disaster management plan? If yes, was it implemented and made public? Now, moving forward, is there any quantification and characterization of flood water mixed with biomedical waste (BMW), untreated and treated sewage, solid waste leachate, and contamination due to hazardous wastes bearing waste oil and heavy metals?

Sidharth Mishra has nicely deliberated on the impact of riverine land of Sabi river due to topographical changes. The river originates from Aravalli hills in Alwar, Rajasthan and flowed through Rewari and Gurgaon districts of Haryana, and finally join Yamuna through Nazafgarh canal. One can think about contaminated flood water entering rivers, and underground aquifers. Some experts believe that primary reason of flooding situation is design flaw. No doubt. In addition, there were some age-old bunds destroyed in Gurgaon, those meant for the of holding rainwater.

Development of cities with a short vision and growing pockets in like the NCR and other promising urban areas without taking into account the impacts has been a practice. These places also crave for water, and water budgeting is also myopic. Therefore, first and foremost, it is important to put a stop on irrgularised development and constructions. It is not beyond reach. A dedicated website containing information should also be provided so that no unbeknown buying takes place. At the same time, a befitting drive, on the line of demonetization, must be carried out against encroachments. This will help to remove the blockages in drainage and water flow pattern.

Secondly, the bunds, nalas, and water bodies; as cited in the Geographical Survey of India, must be traced, re-established and rejuvenated.

And, when there is so much of a change in EIA structure proposed, it would be worthy to ponder on removing individual construction projects from the shackles of EIA and EC. It should rather be the city development authorities, like Delhi Development Authority (DDA), GMDA, GDA, etc. which obtain EIA based on Comprehensive Environmental Performance Index (CEPI) and also Comprehensive Water Availability Index (CWAI). The districts, and states have already created an environmental policy. Individual projects can be controlled based on the city’s environmental clearance and planning. This will not cause any difficulty in the ease of doing business. Moreover, local residents and public should be a taken as a part of the decision making process, as there were provisions in the pre-2006 EIA notification. This could bring the era of Ram Rajya in true sense of good governance. Having said so, more EIA is required for cities to make them smart in reality. Environmental Clearance to cities should be accorded only by the Union Government on the basis of carrying capacity. Your response

Indian Fishery & Sustainability

11.08.2020

India is among the top 7 fish producing countries in the world. For centuries, India has had a traditional practice of fish culture in small ponds. Many parts of this culturally and traditionally diverse country depends on fish as a complete main course of food. Fish is rich in lean protein and vitamins, besides being a primary source of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

According to the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Abandoned, 2020 published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The top seven producing countries of global capture fisheries accounted for almost 50% of total captures, with China producing 15% of the total, followed by Indonesia and Peru 7% each, India 6%. In 2018, about 156 million tonnes, which is ~88% of world fish production was utilized for direct human consumption. The remaining 12 % was used for non-food purposes, of which 82% was used to produce fishmeal and fish oil. Globally, the proportion of fish used for direct human consumption has increased significantly from 67 percent in the 1960s.

India is second Inland water capture producers with 1.7 million tonnes live weight. Since 2017, India has become the fourth major exporter, boosted by a steep increase in farmed shrimp production. However, after peaking at USD 7.2 billion in 2017, the value of India’s exports declined by 3% in 2018 and by a further 1% in 2019, driven primarily by a decline in shrimp prices. However, as per the FAO report, the fish production in India is projected to grow by a whopping 42% by 2030, as compared to 2018, and fish trade for human consumption is envisaged to grow by above 95%.

The fisheries and aquaculture sector has much to contribute towards conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. This also includes targets to reduce marine pollution, protect aquatic ecosystems, minimize ocean acidification, develop scientific capacity relevant to fisheries, and improve the implementation of international law pertinent to the sustainable use of oceans.

According to the State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Abandoned, 2020 published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), also called “ghost gear”, constitutes a significant part of marine plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and seas. It threatens marine life – 46 % of the species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species have been impacted by ALDFG, and challenges biodiversity.

The FAO document has prepared a composite map intended to provide a visual and quantifiable indication of the relative levels of threat to the potential of the waterbody to support inland fisheries or aquatic biodiversity within a basin and its sub-basins. The threat map has considered factors of major threat as (1) Population-related, Population density; gross domestic product; road accessibility (2) Loss of connectivity due to dams; barrages, weirs, dykes and other barriers; channelization; dredging (3) Land use in terms of Deforestation, land degradation; mining; sedimentation; nitrogen runoff; phosphorous runoff, agricultural land use (4) Climate variability with respect to temperature variability; precipitation variability; predicted extreme climate events (5) Water use for irrigation, agriculture; industry; urban and human consumption and (6) Pollution emanating from pesticides, other chemical runoff; plastics, pharmaceuticals, other pollution; aquaculture effluents; urban sewage. Most parts of India have gained a high threat score ranging from 8 – 10. This needs attention of government, policy makers, researchers, and entrepreneurs, so that the water and land resources are conserved, and chances of negative health impact on human and aquatic lives is mitigated.

Biofuels, Biofertilizers for India’s self-reliance

22.07.2020

Almost a month back, on 23rd June 2020, a compressed bio-gas (CBG) plant was inaugurated at Namakkal in Tamil Nadu with five CBG stations for automobiles. CBG is produced from bio-mass sources like agricultural residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid & liquid waste, etc., through anaerobic digestion. With calorific value and other properties similar to CNG, CBG can be substituted as a green renewable fuel in transportation, industrial and commercial sectors.

Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Steel said that the total CBG potential in Tamil Nadu from existing waste and biomass sources is estimated to be about 2.4 MMTPA. He also said, "Bio-manure, an important by-product of CBG plants, is in process of being included in the Fertilizer Control Order 1985. This will make it easier to market and provide an opportunity for organic farming across the country as the 5,000 CBG plants envisaged are expected to produce 50 million tonnes of bio-manure per year."

Biofuels not only takes care of energy point of view but also the environment. According to Dr. A. R. Shukla, Former Advisor for Bio-Energy to Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Govt. of India in 2018, National Policy on Bio-fuels was brought out and Bio-CNG was kept in the advance category of bio-fuels. Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 deliberates on mandatory segregation of biomass wastes at source, thereby, making available unmixed biomass waste for biogas and bio-energy plants. Bio-methanation technology could offer 4-in-1 solution as energy generation in the form of biogas, generation of organic fertilizer, carbon dioxide production plant, which is separated while purifying the biogas, and environmental protection through biomass treatment.

There are some challenges to biofuels and bio-energy plants. One is limited supply of biomass, which could be attained by balancing the food, fodder, fertilizer and fuel. Another constraint is the project requires huge land area.

Dr. A. R. Shukla said in a recently concluded webinar that there is a need to establish decentralized “Biomass Waste Resources Banks”. Such banks would be assigned the responsibilities for collection, sizing, and storage of biomass waste to feed bio-methanation, or gasification or combustion based energy and biofertilizer producing plants. He elaborated that inclusion of biogas and bioCNG sector in Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and Swachh Bharat Abhiyanby by providing generation based incentive @ Rs. 20/- per kg would be vital. Also, the government should consider to set up a Biogas Fertilizer Fund.

The Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) as a developmental effort that would benefit both vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs was launched on 1st October 2018. It envisages to target production of 15 million tonnes of CBG per annum from 5,000 plants by the year 2023. India has an estimated potential of 680 million tonnes of bio-fertilizers per year. CBG production from agricultural residues and agricultural industrial and other wastes can reduce greenhouse gas emission and carbon dioxide footprint by 30% that of the fossil fuel. Large scale use of CBG shall enable India not only achieve its climate change goals as per the Paris Agreement of 2015 but also help in achieving self-reliance goal in gaseous energy and organic fertilizers. The initiative is also in alignment with the other schemes of the Government of India like Swachh Bharat, Atmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India. Please share your view

HSPCB Reports for NGT: Imperfect or shows Incompetence?

15 July 2020

A blog on the World Bank site “How to test water quality? Here are some low-cost, low-tech options” shared by Jessica Anne Lawson has expressed reservation on quality of water testing results by different laboratories. It is true that environmental laboratories including many government laboratories issue results that often vary from each other. There are some exceptionally impractical results. Although, various mechanisms are available to deal with such unacceptable variations, for example – inter-laboratory participation (ILC) and Proficiency Test (PT); there is a need to ponder upon. Mostly test reports of environmental laboratories are related to compliance requirement and therefore pass through many legal institutions, and legally empowered authorities. Reporting of results does not improve despite rigorous criticism. On 24th June 2020, there was an article “Nebulous Data supplied to NGT in UP Slaughter House case?” on Enviro Annotations, which was related to a report of a Joint Committee with members from Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, where it was articulated that the report does not seem to be adequately technically, and scientifically justified in the case of O.A. No. 1033/2019.

Another Action Taken Report (ATR) by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) submitted to National Green Tribunal (NGT) with regard to Raj Kumal Singal Versus State of Haryana O.A. No. 722/2019 depicts no different picture. The Test Report No. 2252 dated 26th February 2020 issued by the HSPCB leaves scope for a huge improvement. It misses the common etiquettes of a standard reporting. Test Method adopted has been specified against 5 parameters only, against 13 test parameters. This means, it is not clearly stated that which test parameter was followed. It becomes even relevant because out of those 8 test parameters, 5 parameters were reported to be BDL, which is ostensibly Below Detection Limit. The criticality of the matter could be understood as one of the test parameters is Phenolic Compounds that has a disposal limit, as cited in the said report, is 1 mg/l. In such a case, it is important to specify the Detection Limit, which the HSPCB Board Analyst has failed to provide. Moreover, against the test parameter Hexa-valent Chromium, neither Detection Limit nor the disposal limit is specified.

In the same ATR, the HSPCB has also attached a Boiler emission test report, which is equally incomplete in terms of CPCB requirements. In the method of testing it is stated that relevant part of Indian Standard for measurement of Air Pollution IS: 5182 and Emission Regulation Part-III of CPCB. IS 5182 series relates to ambient air quality monitoring. It is the IS 11255 series that relates to stack emission. The report does not provide any information on the type of fuel and capacity, based on which the applicability of standards could be decided. It also does not states about the location of sampling point, whether it meets the requirements to obtain an iso-kinetic sampling in case of Particulate Matters. There is no standard against the test parameter named as Suspended Particulate Matters. Emission standard specified at serial No. 70 under Schedule – I of Environmental (Protection) Rules, 1986 specifies limits with respect to Particulate Matters. The monitoring methodologies also cite Particulate Matters. Further, the emission standard specified at serial No. 70 under Schedule – I of Environmental (Protection) Rules, 1986 requires the test result to be normalized at 12% CO2, which is not stated in the report. Further, according to GSR 96 (E) dated 29th January 2018, Sulfur Dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen as NO2 should reported at 3% dry O2. The report has failed to provide these requisite data.

It is high time now that the reporting of basic data must be as per the standards established by the Government of India. Otherwise, the entire purpose is being defeated. It is important to quote that recently, the Prime Minister has said that the Government is working towards making our environment, our air, our water also to remain pure. The government machineries must make it happen.

Treated Wastewater Reuse Policy

24th June 2020

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has been working through a structure that attempts to bring all stakeholders on one platform to take a holistic approach towards the task of Ganga cleaning and rejuvenation. Recently, Director General, NMCG, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra was speaking on a programme regarding reuse of treated wastewater in the post CoVID19 era. He said treated wastewater reuse is one of the most instrumental techniques to keep Ganga clean and also reduce intake water from the river. DG NMCG also cited the example of treated wastewater reuse in Mathura Refinery.

The concept of the reuse of treated wastewater is not new in India. It has been a condition in various legal documents such as; Consent-to-Operate, Consent-to-Establish, Approval for groundwater extraction, Environmental Clearances. However, these documents are related to a particular project or industry. Industries, construction projects, hospitals, hotels, and other similar projects have declared reuse of treated wastewater for the watering of greenbelt, flushing system, and also for construction activities. Though, the ground reality may differ from what is declared, this kind of reuse often is misunderstood as Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD). The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in an order dated 24.05.2019 in the matter of O.A. No. 348/2017, Shailesh Singh Vs Al-Dua Food Processing Pvt. Ltd., issued directions to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), stating that ZLD needs to be considered with respect to the use of effluents in the industrial processes not in terms of its disposal on land or farm. The order further states that no industry can be permitted to dispose of treated effluents on land for irrigation, plantation or horticulture/gardening by prescribing standards applicable without assessment of adequate availability of land and impacts of such disposal on agricultural / crops / plants and the recipient groundwater. Impact of precipitation levels also need consideration while granting such approvals.

Subsequently, CPCB brought “Guidelines for Utilisation of Treated Effluent in Irrigation”, which states “ZLD implies that the industries are not discharging any effluent, either on the land or in the water body or at any other place i.e. recycling the same in the process entirely without releasing any effluent.”

The guideline also specifies requirements such as the industry needs to engage an agricultural scientist or take advice from an agricultural university or institute on the utilization or the rate of application of the effluent for irrigation considering the agro-climatic conditions. The industry has to prepare an Irrigation Management Plan (IMP), in consultation with the agricultural scientist or agricultural university or institute and submit to SPCBs/PCCs, which should verify the same while issuing Consent to the industry. Some other requirements stated in the guidelines are, the industry has to make provision of impervious lined storage tank of minimum 15 days capacity for storage of treated effluent during low/no demand, based on the Irrigation Management Plan. It is also required that the treated effluent should be analysed regularly, say after every 15 days. The effluent samples should be taken at the point from where the effluent is discharged for irrigation. Also, the physico-chemical characteristics of the soil under irrigation with treated effluent should be monitored twice in a year to assess conditions in summer and post-monsoon seasons, in order to determine the deterioration of soil quality.

Now, as the NMCG is working on a national level policy on the reuse of treated wastewater; some of the requirements may be relooked. Instead of individual treatment, common wastewater treatment plants could bring better results in terms of quality and quantity of treated wastewater. Developers of industrial areas should carry out study on utilization or the rate of application of the effluent for irrigation considering the agro-climatic conditions in their respective areas, and also prepare the IMPs. Special infrastructure such as pipelines should be laid to industries and end-users with proper metering. This could strengthen the effectiveness of regulations and also ensure Ease of Doing Business.