Deny MSP to stubble burners: NGT

Stating that State governments had failed to curb stubble burning, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday summoned the Chief Secretaries of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. Officers have been directed to draw up a plan to provide economic incentives and disincentives to farmers.

Stubble burning is adversely affecting the environment and public health. The problem has not been fully tackled and the adverse impacts on the air quality and consequent impacts on the citizens’ health and lives are undisputed.

The problem is required to be resolved by taking all such measures as are possible in the interest of public health and environment protection.

Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.

The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.

Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has also been directed to be present to “find a lasting solution.”

The Central government should convene a meeting with the States.

About the National Green Tribunal (NGT):

NGT has been established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

The tribunal deals with matters relating to the enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.

currently, 10 expert members and 10 judicial members (although the act allows for up to 20 of each).

is the administrative head of the tribunal, also serves as a judicial member and is required to be a serving or retired Chief Justice of a High Court or a judge of the Supreme Court of India.

Members are chosen by a selection committee (headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India) that reviews their applications and conducts interviews. The Judicial members are chosen from applicants who are serving or retired judges of High Courts.

Expert members are chosen from applicants who are either serving or retired bureaucrats, not below the rank of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India (not below the rank of Principal Secretary if serving under a state government) with a minimum administrative experience of five years in dealing with environmental matters. Or, the expert members must have a doctorate in a related field.

The Tribunal is not bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.

The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.

The Tribunal is mandated to make an endeavor for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of the filing of the same.

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SC bans sale of BS-IV vehicles from 2020

The Supreme Court on Wednesday banned the sale and registration of motor vehicles conforming to the emission standard Bharat Stage-IV in the entire country from April 1, 2020.

It said pollution has reached an “alarming and critical” level all over India

The BS — or Bharat Stage — emission standards are norms instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. India has been following the European (Euro) emission norms, though with a time lag of five years.

Difference between BS-IV and the new BS-VI:

The major difference in standards between the existing BS-IV and the new BS-VI auto fuel norms is the presence of sulphur. The newly introduced fuel is estimated to reduce the amount of sulphur released by 80 per cent, from 50 parts per million to 10 ppm. As per the analysts, the emission of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars is also expected to reduce by nearly 70 per cent and 25 per cent from cars with petrol engines.

Upgrading to stricter fuel standards helps tackle air pollution. Global automakers are betting big on India as vehicle penetration is still low here when compared to developed countries. At the same time, cities such as Delhi are already being listed among those with the poorest air quality in the world. The national capital’s recent odd-even car experiment and judicial activism against the registration of big diesel cars show that governments can no longer afford to relax on this front.

With other developing countries such as China have already upgraded to the equivalent of Euro V emission norms a while ago, India has been lagging behind. The experience of countries such as China and Malaysia shows that poor air quality can be bad for business. Therefore, these reforms can put India ahead in the race for investments too.

First, there are questions about the ability of oil marketing companies to quickly upgrade fuel quality from BS-III and BS-IV standards to BS-VI, which is likely to cost upwards of Rs 40,000 crore.

Second, and more challenging, is the task of getting auto firms to make the leap. Automakers have clearly said that going to BS-VI directly would leave them with not enough time to design changes in their vehicles, considering that two critical components — diesel particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction module — would have to be adapted to India’s peculiar conditions, where running speeds are much lower than in Europe or the US.

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SC order on use and sale of firecrackers: All you need to know

The Supreme Court Tuesday ordered a partial ban on the sale and use of firecrackers, ahead of Diwali next month. Hearing a bunch of petitions seeking a blanket ban on firecrackers to help curb air pollution, the bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and AK Sikri allowed the use of “safer” firecrackers for a limited time period during festivals.

Refusing a complete ban, the top court has permitted the use and sale of “greener” firecrackers which have a low emission. Firecrackers with permissible decibel sound limits will be allowed to be sold in the market.

Firecrackers will be allowed to be burnt for 2 hours, 8 pm to 10 pm on Diwali. For New Year and Christmas, the time allotted is 11.45 pm to 12.30 am.

The Supreme Court has restrained E-commerce websites like Flipkart and Amazon from selling firecrackers which are beyond the permissible limit. Websites will attract contempt of court charges if they don’t adhere to the court’s direction.

Station house officers of police stations concerned will be held liable if banned firecrackers are sold in their areas.

The Court has also directed the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) to review the clinical composition of fireworks, particularly reducing Aluminium content.

Three children, aged between three and four, were among the petitioners who sought a blanket ban on the sale, use, and transportation of firecrackers citing concerns of air pollution. On October 9 last year, the Supreme Court had suspended the use of firecrackers till November 1 in Delhi-NCR to test whether and how much, firecrackers contribute to the air quality.

The apex court had said there is a need to take into account all aspects, including the fundamental right of livelihood of firecracker manufacturers and the right to health of over 1.3 billion people in the country while considering a plea for the ban.

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Ministry of Environment launches Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali campaign

Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched the Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali campaign aimed to reduce adverse environmental conditions,

MOEFCC has merged this year’s campaign with “Green Good Deed” movement that has been initiated as social mobilization for conservation and protection of the environment.

To reduce adverse environmental conditions especially pollution in the country after post-Diwali celebrations due to the excessive bursting of crackers which contributes significantly to air and noise pollution.

Harit Diwali-Swasth Diwali campaign:

This campaign was initiated in 2017-18 to enlighten children about harmful firecrackers and motivate them to celebrate Diwali in an environment-friendly manner and not to buy firecrackers, instead buy a gift, food items, or sweets for poor and underprivileged children living in their locality.

Under this campaign, the MoEFCC will undertake various activities for creating awareness among various stakeholders and encourage people to participate in combating air pollution. This campaign was extremely successful and the air quality had not deteriorated post-Diwali in 2017 unlike what was experienced in 2016.

Background:    

Air pollution is a serious health issue in the country especially in the northern parts during winter seasons. It is attributed to dust, burning of crops in certain states, burning of garbage construction and prevailing climatic conditions.

This air pollution has serious impacts on the health of children aged people and people suffering from respiratory ailments. Diwali which is a festival of lights falls during the same period. As a matter of practice, people have been celebrating Diwali by bursting crackers.

Crackers contain combustible chemicals that include potassium chlorate powdered aluminum, magnesium, salts of barium, copper, sodium, lithium, strontium etc. and emits smoke on combustion of these chemicals along with the sound. This smoke and sound has health impacts on children, aged people and also animal and birds. Apart from these compounds large amount of waste is also generated after bursting of crackers.

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Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Achieves 5 Crore Mark

Loksabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan today handed over 5 croreth LPG connection under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in the Parliament House. The Government launched Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) on 1st May 2016 and it is implemented by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas through its Oil Marketing Companies i.e., IOC, BPCL and HPCL through their network of distributors across the country.

Through PMUY, initially, 5 crore BPL households were targeted for providing deposit free LPG connections to BPL households by 31st March 2019. In a record time of 28 months for its launch, PMUY achieved the initial target of providing 5 crores LPG connection to BPL households.

In the current year, considering the huge success of the Scheme, the target was revised to 8 crores with a budgetary allocation of Rs 12,800 crore.

About the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana aims to provide LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households.

Under the scheme, an adult woman member of a below poverty line family identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is given a deposit-free LPG connection with a financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre.

Eligible households will be identified in consultation with state governments and Union territories. The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Some of the objectives of the scheme are:

  • Empowering women and protecting their health.
  • Reducing the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel.
  • Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • Preventing young children from the significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning the fossil fuel.

A large section of Indians, especially women and girls, are exposed to severe household air pollution (HAP) from the use of solid fuels such as biomass, dung cakes and coal for cooking. A report from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare places HAP as the second leading risk factor contributing to India’s disease burden.

According to the World Health Organization, solid fuel use is responsible for about 13% of all mortality and morbidity in India (measured as Disability-Adjusted Life Years), and causes about 40% of all pulmonary disorders, nearly 30% of cataract incidences, and over 20% each of ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and lower respiratory infection.

PMUY has been a revolutionary initiative that has transformed the lives of more than 3.57 crore households spanning across the length and breadth of the country. The initiative is in line with Governments aim to eradicate energy poverty, thereby promoting economic empowerment.

The PMUY is a bold and much-needed initiative, but it should be recognized that this is just a first step. The real test of the PMUY and its successor programmes will be in how they translate the provision of connections to sustained use of LPG or other clean fuels such as electricity or biogas. Truly smokeless kitchens can be realized only if the government follows up with measures that go beyond connections to actual usage of LPG. This may require concerted efforts cutting across Ministries beyond petroleum and natural gas and including those of health, rural development and women and child welfare.

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