Civil society member urges Govt. to take pro-active steps to counter air pollution

Measures suggested involve realistic monitoring of pollution as well as participation of public in monitoring the industrial effluents

While banning brick kilns, diesel generator sets, heavy vehicles, polluting industries, movement of private cars on roads every alternate day, Tandoors, Parali burning among others, why can’t we find new methods to check air pollution asks Col. Tejandra Pal Tyagi (retd), a proactive member of several civil society groups.

Surprise Inspection of ETPs by Civil Society: Most of the Industries have either not installed the ETPs (Effluent Treatment Plants) or do not run them since running an ETP is equally costly as its installation. Therefore, most of them pump their effluents in to the ground by reverse boring within their premises secretly. The heavy metals like chromium, Zinc, Lead etc carried by the effluents get mixed with the underground water which when taken out through Hand Pumps lead to variety of diseases. If we join the Pollution Control Board to inspect the ETP, it is found running because the information is leaked to the concerned Industry in advance. Similar situation exists with air polluting industries. Let Civil Society be allowed to check running of ETPs by surprise.

Induct 300 CNG city buses in every big city: PM 2.5 in air pollution is created mainly due to vehicular emissions and stubble burning. If we have adequate number of CNG City Busses whose frequency is known and whose destination is compatible to last mile connectivity, people will decrease the use of their personal cars on their own. Consequently the deadly PM 2.5, PM 1 and Benzene will get diminished in the Air.

Install 2,000 CCTV cameras on main roads: All Traffic Police Commissioners cry of shortage of staff. If we increase the number of Traffic Constables, there will be consequent increase in the amount of corruption as well. CCTVs  are the best means to bring  the errant drivers under observation. This practice is followed by most of the foreign countries. The cost of providing CCTVs is not much and even if it is so, “Corporate Social Responsibility”- CSR can be roped in to take care of the cost part.

Enforce Mokshda Pranali at cremation grounds: Imagine an iron  box of about 7 ft by 3 ft by 3 ft, open on two sides and with flaps on other two sides. Let this box be connected with a chimney. When the dead body is burnt inside this box , two third heat is entrapped and the burning takes place in one third wood as compared to open burning of funeral pyre. This saves two third trees. Such arrangements have been made only at very few cremation grounds. Let it be made mandatory. This will eliminate the greedy wood contractors who oppose this arrangement for obvious reasons.

Observe car free days in cities: Let there be a fixed“ car free day” in every city in every month. Let this day be devoted to the maintenance of the cars and let the people learn to use alternative means of commuting. It is difficult to motivate ‘liberty drunk people’ to observe a car free day unless an element of authoritative instruction is issued by the local administration and also a personal example is set by the DM and administrative officers by not using cars one day in a month.  This, practice is followed in all army units once a week as the maintenance and off road day.

Create “Sanitary Landfills” instead of Dumping Grounds: We should do composting. We should recycle the waste. We should segregate the waste in to bio-degradable and non-biodegradable right at the source. These are all evolutionary practices. People will take a very long time to understand them because we had to carry out extensive publicity to teach people that defecation in the open is not good. Therefore, some measures have to be taken immediately. Delhi and Mumbai have burnt their hands by creating dumping grounds which have now become dumping Hills. Because of pressure and temperature, the waste dumps produce METHANE which is inflammable. Hence frequent fire in the waste dumps are becoming unmanageable. Let us create number of “Sanitary Land Fills”- big ditches in the LMC grounds of Urban Civic Bodies ; fill these ditches with waste, cover them with mud on the top and plant grass and trees thereafter once they are saturated. No land is wasted in this exercise. This will reduce air pollution sizably.

Collection centres for e- waste: e-waste rules 2016 lays down that the civic bodies should create e-waste collection centers. Pollution control board is supposed to make a report in this regard to the Central Pollution Control Board on 30th Sep every year. State Governments are supposed to create recycling and dismantling parks for e-waste. Probably, no Urban Civic Body has thought about this till today. We will go for knee jerk reaction when the problem gets compounded. Our today’s problems are the result of lack of yesterday’s foresight. Let us not repeat it now. Let us start managing our e-waste right from today by creating e-waste collection centers in every town and subsequent actions. A mobile is thrown after 5 Years, A fridge is thrown after 15 years and so is the case with inverters, stabilizers, computers etc. By breaking haphazardly one lakh mobiles, about 100 kg silver and 200 grams of gold is retrieved but air pollution produced is tremendous. Example is Ram Ganga of Moradabad. Hence, e waste collection centers are a crying necessity so that electronic goods could be sent to proper dismantling units and then to recycling units.

Vertical Gardening:  A research from Mexico City brings out that creepers covered on the façade of a four story building can absorb 40 tons of toxic gases in a year, neutralize 15 kg of particulate matter in air pollution (the safe limit of PM 2.5 in air is 60 microgram per cubic meter) and reduce noise pollution by 10 decibles. Cannot we start raising creepers on the Pillars of flyovers and Metro rails followed by Govt Buildings and Private Buildings. It neither requires space, nor budget nor amendment in the constitution.

Seal or relocate polluting industries: I give an example from Ghaziabad. A closure notice was issued to a MNC called Continental Carbon India Ltd, by the Pollution Control Board for creating unbearable air pollution after a long and consistent struggle by the RWAs of the City on 17 Aug 2015. It was allowed to operate within 20 days of the closure notice without the MNC making any change in the ETP or increasing height of the Chimney or any allied improvement whatsoever. Corrective action has now been taken by the Pollution Control Board on our regular insistence but it should be implemented in letter and spirit.

Erecting air purifiers at busy terminus: In an emergency, it may be necessary to erect air purifiers, virtual chimneys and mist fountains at busy terminus; they work on the principle of forcing compressed air to leave at high velocity to effect large dispersion. The mist fountain is used to spray water to effect immediate settlement of particulate matter in the air.

Realistic monitoring of particulate matter: PM 2.5 (Particulate Matter of size 2.5 micrometer) is so small that it can not be filtered by the nostril hairs. It goes in to the lungs and gets deposited there. It has a tendency to attract traces of heavy metals from the air and it is carcinogenic. The lung capacity once reduced due to the deposition of PM 2.5, can not be restored. PM 1 is more dangerous. PM 2.5 is monitored, for example in Ghaziabad, at the office of the Pollution Control Board where the Vehicular Traffic is almost nil. Therefore, the readings of PM 2.5 which are displayed here are unrealistic. If PM 2.5 is monitored at Busy Terminus it will be found very many times more than the safe limit of 60 microgram per cubic meter which in itself is three times more than the safe limit in USA.

The aforesaid suggestions are over and above the measures already being taken by the Government like ban on stubble burning, diesel vehicles, furnace oil, petroleum coke and generator sets.

(Col Tejandra Pal Tyagi (retd) is Chairman, RWA Federation Ghaziabad, President, Flat Owners Federation Ghaziabad, Convener, Confederation of RWAs (CoRWA-A National Apex Body of RWAs), Director, Forum for Peoples Collective Efforts (FPCE) and National President, Rashtriya Sainik Sanstha, besides being National Chairman, Society of Vaastu Science)