Air Pollution | Centre for Science and Environment

Air Pollution


Air Pollution

The Right to Inform

Our government rarely ever looks at the air quality data it spawns. Data demands action. Feigning ignorance relieves such stress. Except that the Indian Judiciary does not allow easy escapes. The Union government was caught off guard in the recent Supreme Court hearing in the on going public interest litigation on air pollution in Delhi. It is the chief justice bench that looked carefully at the latest air quality data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Devil's Engine

"We told you so!…" Facts prove us right and confirm our worst fears. Car registration data in Delhi point to an explosive trend in diesel passenger car sales -- a shattering 106 percent annual incremental growth rate since 1998-99 as against 12 percent for petrol cars. This murky detail is straight out of the computers of the State Transport Authority of Delhi. The city, working hard to douse toxic diesel particulates from its bus fleet with CNG, completely missed to notice the problem shifting around.

Modelling politics

Politics of fine print - yes, that’s what it is. The kind that crawl in without anybody noticing, but they change everything. The version of Auto Fuel Policy that got the Union Cabinet nod in October 2003 is not the same as the original recommendations.

NOXious trail

Over the last few weeks we were inundated with queries from the media. The air quality data produced by the apex air quality monitoring body in the country - the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shows NOx levels in Delhi rising dramatically. Why? We were equally curious - has CPCB explained the reasons? According to media reports, the CPCB is blaming the CNG programme in Delhi for the rise in NOx levels.

Tale of low hanging fruits

The World Bank has finally released its policy guidelines on mobile source pollution for regulators in the developing region. What is significant is the global mobilisation of science that was made to bear upon the views of the Bank on technology leapfrog in developing countries. In its original draft, the Bank had censured the idea of technology leapfrog and declared it as inordinately expensive and an inappropriate model for such countries. It said pushing tighter fuel and vehicle standards without petroleum sector reforms could be inefficient and expensive.

Transit conundrum

We never expected public transport to catch the political imagination in the car maniacal city of Delhi. So we were pleasantly surprised by the recent budget of the Delhi government. The transport sector has hogged the biggest pie of the total budgetary allocation – nearly one-fourth of the total plan outlay. Apparently this is spurred by its commitment to complete all public transport projects in the pipeline – high capacity bus system, and electric trolley bus system within three years.

Fueling Economy

The oil price surge has left the market watchers and media agog. Expert views sparred on price insulation, energy security and our vulnerability. It was fascinating to follow the desperate bid to brag that the global crude price hike will not hurt Indian incomes as much as they did the last time. Oil dependence of Indian income is on the downturn as we are earning more from non-oil based IT sectors. Reportedly, India’s oil consumption to GDP ratio has fallen by 56 per cent since the nineties.

Air quality assessment: More spin than substance

This was announced with great élan and machismo in a public meeting recently -- The ministry of environment and forests will take charge of the controversial pollution inventory study that is being carried out in five cities and billed to four oil companies. The top brass in the ministry are still not willing to confirm this as their final decision. More meetings are planned to help them make up their mind.

Requiem for the state bus

Kill. The ultimate scalpel operation as the final sign of life ebbs away. Let it die, rather than drag a colossal waste. We were probably expecting this to happen. Not just to this state-owned bus transit undertaking in India’s largest state -- Madhya Pradesh -- but to numerous other undertakings that have state governments as their bosses. Bankruptcy at monthly losses totaling Rs 50 million, indignity of unpaid salaries for 11,500 staff members that run only 1500 buses forced this euthanasia in Madhya Pradesh.

MMT: Courting poison

We had no clue this was happening in India. We were suspicious ever since we read the illuminating study on the deadly octane enhancer, MMT (Methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl) from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). Scary. Manganese particles from MMT burning as a petrol additive, is a potent neurotoxin that damages the brain when inhaled. Manganese deposit fouls up vehicle components and emission control systems. As an octane booster, MMT is expected to save fuel. But in reality, as evidence shows, it barely makes any difference.

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