Let us take Few Steps to Make India Smog-Free

Even this Diwali, India is laden with clouds of dust and smoke. For how long now? It is either now or it will be much late than ever. Smog built capital needs more initiatives than ever. This Diwali let us do it, let us reduce pollution and celebrate LIFE.

Smog Free India

By Apeksha Pandita in Environment Law

Oct. 30, 2018, 1:19 p.m.

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With Diwali around the corner, everyone is in a celebratory mood. 

Diwali, India’s biggest festival denotes so much more than just lighting up firecrackers, having a delicious spread of Indian sweets, spending time with family & friendly get-togethers, getting bonuses in office, etc. 

India decorates itself with such bright joy and so much light that even NASA’s photos from space go viral, as does the news of smog and level of air pollution. Thereby making Diwali, India’s biggest time for poor health and severe air pollution, portraying an environment of steady deterioration. 

Recently when Bryan Adams, the Canadian singer-songwriter had his concert in Gurgaon, he posted a photo on his Instagram in which his silhouette appears to be reflected against the dust in the air.

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The AQI was reported at 366 (i.e. very poor) on 28th October 2018, Sunday, while the overall air quality index in Delhi hit 350 on Saturday, 27th October 2018. The AQI readings for Delhi seem to be touching high numbers like 381 on Sunday morning, while later in the evening, it improved slightly dropping down to 366 (which is still high). 

Pollution & Smog in India, especially in Delhi-NCR happens to be a daily story nowadays. Each day one is brought across a news where air pollution levels are upsettingly high, even hazardous. 

In the last years, pollution levels have climbed 12 times above the recommended limit, making the Indian Medical Association also declare a public health emergency in Delhi-NCR last year.

Each year during Diwali time, wind speeds slow down and the smog worsens. Emerging from crop burning, combined with industrial and vehicular emissions and finally, concluding with the fireworks; the problem gets all-the-more aggravated.

Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal even addressed the city as a “gas chamber” and this October, he went on to warn the city about facing the same fate because of the unrestrained stubble burning.

After the report was released by the State of India’s Environment 2018, where Delhi had only one day of good air quality out of 57 summer days analysed and out of the 61 winter days analysed, there was not even a single good-air-quality day.

The city was hit with more than 50 intense dust storms at regular intervals. Indicating that the stormy season was a result of low pressure over the Indo-Gangetic plains and the intense heating in the west and northwest India. 

So, one can say that there was no healthy breathing day observed in Delhi-NCR

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(courtesy: Downtoearth)

In short, seeing from the above air pollution results, one can even deduce that life expectancy decrements involving high-priority risk factors and threatening diseases are on the rise majorly due to pollution.

In this scenario, one should be convinced to either fall ill or stand tall to strengthen the environmental guidelines in order to ensure good quality air to breathe. 

Understanding the Law for Good-Quality Environment

You might not know but, you as a citizen of India are entitled to healthy, good quality breathable air. As per the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act - 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act - 1986.

The Environment (Protection) Act - 1986 states:

“An Act to provide for the protection and improvement of environment and for matters connected therewith.”

“In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,--

  • "environment" includes water, air and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, and human beings, other living creatures, plants, microorganism, and property;

  • "environmental pollutant" means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be, or tend to be, injurious to the environment;

  • "environmental pollution" means the presence in the environment of any environmental pollutant;

  • "handling", in relation to any substance, means the manufacture, processing, treatment, package, storage, transportation, use, collection, destruction, conversion, offering for sale, transfer or the like of such substance;

  • "hazardous substance" means any substance or preparation which, by reason of its chemical or physicochemical properties or handling, is liable to cause harm to human beings, other living creatures, plant, microorganism, property or the environment;

  • "occupier", in relation to any factory or premises, means a person who has, control over the affairs of the factory or the premises and includes in relation to any substance, the person in possession of the substance;

  • "prescribed" means prescribed by rules made under this Act.

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 The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act - 1981 states:

“An Act to provide for the prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution, for the establishment, with a view to carrying out the aforesaid purposes, of Boards, for conferring on and assigning to such Boards powers and functions relating thereto and for matters connected therewith.”

“In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-

  • "air pollutant" means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance 2[(including noise)] present in the atmosphere in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property or environment;
  • "air pollution" means the presence in the atmosphere of any air
  • "approved appliances" means any equipment or gadget used for the bringing of any combustible material or for generating or consuming any fume, gas of particulate matter and approved by the State Board for the purpose of this Act;
  • "approved fuel" means any fuel approved by the State Board for the purposes of this Act;
  • "automobile" means any vehicle powered either by the internal combustion engine or by any method of generating power to drive such vehicle by burning fuel;
  • "Board" means the Central Board or State Board;
  • "Central Board - means the 3[Central Board for the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution] constituted under section 3 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  • "chimney" includes any structure with an opening or outlet from or through which any air pollutant may be emitted,
  • "control equipment" means any apparatus, device, equipment or system to control the quality and manner of emission of any air pollutant and includes any device used for securing the efficient operation of any industrial plant;
  • "emission" means any solid or liquid or gaseous substance coming out of any chimney, duct or flue or any other outlet;
  • "industrial plant" means any plant used for any industrial or trade purposes and emitting any air pollutant into the atmosphere;
  • "member" means a member of the Central Board or a State Board, as the case may be, and includes the Chairman thereof,
  • 4["occupier", in relation to any factory or premises, means the person who has control over the affairs of the factory or the premises, and includes, in relation to any substance, the person in possession of the substance;]
  • "prescribed" means prescribed by rules made under this Act by the Central Government or as the case may be, the State government;
  • "State Board" means -
  1. in relation to a State in which the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, is in force and the State Government has constituted for that State a 5[State Board for the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution] under section 4 of that Act, the said State Board; and
  2. in relation to any other State, the State Board for the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution constituted by the State Government under section 5 of this Act.”

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These Acts have been created for the preservation of natural resources of the Earth, including the preservation of high-quality air and under this act, it’s to be ensured that the level of air pollution is controlled. The main objectives of these Act are:

  1. To provide for the prevention, reduction, and control of air pollution.
  2. To implement the Act by establishing the powers with central and State Boards.
  3. To implement the provisions of the Act and assign functions relating to pollution to the Boards.

You as a citizen need to ensure that you are provided with quality air to breathe assisting the Government Initiatives. If the Government fails to do so or any organisation contributes to polluting the environment then, you can file a petition against the Government demanding for the right of good quality air and better environmental conditions. 

In heavily industrialized and urbanized areas, pollution levels tend to rise beyond certain limits due to various pollutants that are discharged through industrial emission is monitored by the PCBs set up in every state.

Much like the famous M.C. Mehta, who is a public interest attorney in India, known for his continuous fights in Indian courts against pollution-causing industries. He was even was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1996 and received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Asia for Public Service in 1997. Even Government of India awarded him the civilian honor of the Padma Shri in 2016 and as of today, he is a trustee of People for Animals.

Steps that are being taken

After last year's crisis, the Indian government took some measures aiming at curbing the crop fires and offer the farmers a Straw Management System (SMS), which is attached to a harvester and shreds down all the residue. 
With the help of SMS, the shredded material is mulched using another machine and irrigated twice at least, so that it gets decomposed. All this gets done without burning any crops.

According to a report by Hindustan Times published on 28th October 2018, in order to control air pollution, the government authorities have put a ban on the construction activities across Delhi-NCR, also elucidating that if the officials fail to stop such activities, they are bound to face criminal prosecution. 

This action is a part of the latest plan, Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to reduce air pollution, which was implemented on October 15, 2018, as the meteorological experts have forecasted that the air quality will be worse and will reach unhealthy levels from November 1, 2018. And possibly it will hazardous later in the month. 

GRAP is being supervised by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, which was set up by the Supreme Court only to combat and prevent pollution in Delhi-NCR.

GRAP elaborates on the compulsory actions that need to be done depending on the air quality in Delhi-NCR; since Delhi-NCR's current air quality has been compromised and so the following measures are now in effect:

  1. Generation sets have been banned (not in the NCR due to the power situation there)
  2. Mechanised sweeping of roads will be carried out at regular intervals
  3. Garbage burning has been banned
  4. Pollution control measures have kicked in at brick kilns
  5. Extra traffic police officers have been deployed to ensure smooth movement of traffic

Under GRAP, more strict measures may be applied, if the air quality worsens more in Delhi-NCR. These include:

  1. A three or four-fold hike in parking fees
  2. Increase in frequency of Metro and bus services
  3. Increase in frequency of sprinkling of water on the road
  4. A ban on entry of trucks (except those carrying essential goods) into Delhi-NCR
  5. A temporary ban on all construction activity in Delhi-NCR

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Since, on Diwali this year, the Supreme Court has not put a nationwide ban on the sale of firecrackers and only ‘green firecrackers’ (less polluting), which are within permitted decibel limits and emission norms will be allowed to be sold.

The court has also imposed timing restrictions, where people will be allowed to burn firecrackers between 8 PM and 10 PM on Diwali. This year for New Year celebrations and Christmas celebrations as well, people can burn crackers from 11:45 pm to 12:15 am.

The Supreme Court has ordered for people to make communities to promote activities and tasks that can help the environment and bring down the alarming levels of hazardous climates and weather. To know about environmental acts and various other legal topics and laws, you can seek education from MyAdvo Blogs!

Therefore it’s important for you and me, to abide by the orders and realize how troublesome the upcoming days will be, if the pollution levels are not brought in control and for that you and I need to be listening to the woes of the environment or else what world would you want your future to be raised in, if there happens to be one in this chaos?!

It’s still not late, let’s not take more time for a better environment to live in.

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