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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

Combating air pollution: Niti Aayog, CII draft plan for clean industry

The plan recommends mandatory funds allocation for air quality management under the Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) in cities with high pollution levels and mandatory contractual obligations for “clean” construction.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2019 09:08 IST
Anisha Dutta
Anisha Dutta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Vehicular traffic seen as heavy smog descends over the city in the morning, in Noida.
Vehicular traffic seen as heavy smog descends over the city in the morning, in Noida.(Sunil Ghosh/ HT Photo)
         

A NITI Aayog and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-led task force on combating air pollution has drafted an action plan for a clean industry, which includes measures for prevention and control of fugitive particulate matter (dust and ash) emissions.The plan recommends mandatory funds allocation for air quality management under the Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) in cities with high pollution levels and mandatory contractual obligations for “clean” construction.

Underlining the need for developing capacity of urban local bodies in the National Capital Region (NCR) to ensure clean constructions, the plan seeks mandatory provisions under the National Building Code for ambient air quality management.

The task force has suggested that for a city figuring as non-compliant in any particular year, 40% of the CER funds may be diverted toward indicative activities as listed above based on the local requirements.

The action plan is a part of the task force’s report, a copy of which HT has reviewed, on clean industry.

The action plan has recommended a comprehensive strategy to address the particulate matter from concerned subsectors. It encompasses prevention and control of fugitive emissions across construction activities at sites, operation of various utilities including waste management within NCR and allied construction industry including brick kilns, concrete batching plants, stone crusher etc.

The task force has also recommended incentives for co-firing biomass in existing coal power units and giving priority status to clean generation and gas-based thermal power generation units.

“Leapfrogging to advanced biomass co-firing [more than 10% biomass] requires a long-term and comprehensive policy for the promotion of biomass co-firing in thermal power plants. Commercial feasibility of enhanced co-firing is still being evaluated at this stage. However, in long term, this could potentially unlock a cost-effective strategy for greening the coal power and simultaneous reduction of emissions from stubble burning in North West region,’’ the report says.

Pollution spikes are common in the first half of November in northern India as farm fires peak in Punjab and Haryana during this time and the resulting smoke settles over the region. Farmers often burn stubble left behind after harvest as a quick and cheap way of clearing their fields for the next round of sowing.

The report says that the GST can provide a level playing field for sustainable building materials. It adds that favourable taxation is recommended for all sustainable building materials.

“As per the inputs from task force members, key barriers for adoption of sustainable building materials [despite clear economic and environmental benefit] arise from sourcing of virgin materials from illegal mining [such as aggregates, sand]. Therefore, fiscal or tax incentives are crucial to promote sustainable bulling materials,” it said.

In the report, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant notes that air pollution is a major threat to a healthy environment. He adds that the government think tank has been working closely with the CII and other stakeholders for controlling air pollution and that four task forces were constituted to recommend suitable interventions for clean fuel, clean transport, clean industry and biomass management.

The task force on biomass management had noted that its intervention in supporting improved crop residue management, covering 16,000 acres of farmland in Punjab’s Ludhiana and Patiala districts, resulted in reducing stubble burning. “Post the intervention, a total of 12,000 acres of farmland [75% of the total area] became free of stubble burning, compared to 3.5% of farmland in the previous season,” the report says.

CII’s deputy director-general Seema Arora said that they undertook a pilot project in 2018 after a report on biomass management. “The report gave recommendations on how to make machines affordable for marginal and small farmers. We worked in 19 villages and demonstrated the use of technology to avoid stubble burning. In 2019, we have adopted 102 villages in Punjab and Haryana where we are demonstrating in situ and ex situ management of straw and working to create a value chain for the use of straw.”