In the recent times it has been observed that the National Capital’s pollution index is elevating to toxic levels because of various factors such as increased vehicular emissions, major ongoing construction works, burning of rice straw and agricultural wastage by farmers of Haryana and Punjab, inter alia. The Government of NCT of Delhi has been in action to curb the rising levels of pollution in the National Capital by organizing public awareness campaigns about the health hazards and control measures of vehicular emissions; by deploying mobile enforcement teams on regular basis at road locations for prosecution of polluting vehicles and vehicles not having Pollution Under Control (PUC) Certificates; by banning more than 15 years old commercial/ transport vehicles, autos & taxis driven on conventional fuels and diesel driven city buses; by registering four wheelers petrol driven vehicles which have catalyst converters fitted into their system and which comply with Bharat Stage III/Euro-III emission norms; by registering two and three wheelers which comply with Bharat Stage II/Euro-II emission norms; by banning 50 major construction works ongoing in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR) for a week on 8th November 2016; and by asking National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to find all possible solutions, including generating power from farm waste and converting farm waste into briquettes which can be burnt as fuel to generate electricity in its existing power plants.
According to Mr. Gufran Beig, the Program Director of SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research), Government of India, the proportion of pollutants from crop fires in Delhi’s air has risen dramatically from almost zero on November 1 to a peak of 70% on November 6. SAFAR’s chemistry transport model shows that pollution load from crop fires in Punjab and Haryana rose steadily after November 1. The biomass burning in Punjab and Haryana has contributed to the air pollution levels in Delhi. According to Professor V K Vijay, Centre for Rural Development and Technology (CRDT), IIT-Delhi, burning rice straw biomass adds up to 30kg of particulate matter, 600kg of carbon monoxide, 14.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide along with 20kg of sulphur dioxide emissions that are very harmful to humans as well as the environment. Such farm wastes if used as forage for livestock would reduce the environmental impact but mostly they are burnt by farmers and left on the field to be ploughed down into the soil because they act as a soil improver and this would prepare the fields for the next sowing cycle.
It was reported recently that the States of Punjab and Haryana collectively produce about 15 million tonnes of rice straw which can be used to generate about 1,000 MW of electricity. But for installation of biogas plants hardly any debt funding is received from financial institutions and in case they are installed, they have a high cost of power. As a result very few biogas plants have been installed in India.
On November 15th, a team from IIT Delhi had come forward to offer technical support for Asia’s first biogas-based power plant in Fazilka, Punjab, which will be using the agro biomass for production of bio-fertilizers for farmers as well as for generation of power. This will not only help enrich the soil but will also help in controlling pollution. Also, if the Governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh collectively make efforts to install or co-invest in such plants, the farm wastes would be used in a prudent manner which would result in controlling the rising levels of pollution in these regions.
The Indian Lawyer