Sunday, December 6, 2015

[Editorial # 6] Happy green year

Happy green year

Delhi’s government has been under pressure for presiding over a building public health crisis due to the deteriorating air quality in the capital. The Delhi High Court has observed that life in the city is akin to “living in a gas chamber”, and the National Green Tribunal criticised the government’s approach to the problem. Yet, the Kejriwal government’s announcements on Friday — with new curbs to be imposed on vehicular movement from January 1 as their centrepiece — must be applauded as a brave move in its own right. Having won a large mandate, the AAP is now leveraging it to attempt an ambitious break from pollution as usual. This move could have a wider resonance. Delhi may be a small stage, but the constant spotlight on it makes it one of the most important staging grounds for the new project and initiative. The Kejriwal government’s package — ranging from the shutdown of a coal-fired plant in Badarpur, to a promise to make an early switch to Euro VI emission norms — could become a bold new template for governance in the city.

Having taken this step, the government cannot afford to stop there. If the odd-even switcheroo — cars with odd and even licence plates will be allowed on the roads every alternate day — is to be a success, public transport systems, especially last-mile connectivity, must see quick and dramatic improvements. Similar road space rationing has been implemented in several other cities in the world to mitigate air pollution, including Bogota, Mexico City and Beijing. Many of these cities offer reliable, safe and
efficient mass transportation options, but even they have seen citizens circumvent the restrictions in a variety of ways. In Mexico City, for instance, after residents began buying second cars to get around the ban, carbon monoxide levels rose by 13 per cent.

To ensure that there are concrete gains from this licence-plate driving ban, the Delhi government must concentrate on beefing up bus services and devising cheap, clean ways for people to get from metro stations to their homes or places of work. Strict enforcement will also be necessary — the ban will do no good if it is consistently flouted the way other traffic rules are.

The experience of other cities also suggests that measures such as the creation of low-emission zones — areas that older, more polluting vehicles cannot enter — and congestion pricing encourage drivers to upgrade to cleaner cars and shift to public transport. At the same time, other sources of pollution must also be looked at. Vehicles belch toxic gases and particles, but so do industrial plants, and garbage disposal remains a problem. Delhi’s last attempt to clean its air at the turn of the century, by mandating that all public vehicles shift to CNG, worked. But a failure to build on it meant the gains were frittered away. That mustn’t happen again.


1. What is National Green Tribunal? What is its composition? Where does it operate from? Who heads it currently?

2. What is EURO VI ? What equivalent system do we follow in India? What is the norm in your native city?

3. What are the sources of air pollution? 

4. What are common air pollutants? 

5. How do we measure air quality?

6. What are the possible health hazards of air pollution?

7. What are the reasons behind Delhi's air pollution?

8. How can we, as citizens, control air pollution?

9. Do you think allowing odd-even number plates on alternate days would be a good solution to combat air pollution in Delhi?

10. What steps should be taken by the government to curb air pollution? Give some practical solutions.


  1. 1) National green tribunal is an organisation that was established by the NGT act of 2010 for giving judgments on cases related to environment protection, forest conservation, climate change, to enforce any legal right relating to the environment and to provide compensation and relief. Another main intention of this organisation is to reduce the burden on the high courts of the various states and provide the judgment within 6 months of the case being filed by the concerned party.
    NGT is guided by the principle of natural justice and shall not be bound by the producers laid down by the code of civil procedure 1908 (An Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the procedure of the Courts of Civil Judicature).
    Currently chaired by Justice Swatanter Kumar, New Delhi is the head office of the NGT and for increased accessibility Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai would also have the tribunal sittings.

  2. India is the third country after Australia and New Zealand to have such a system of NGT in place.

  3. The National Green Tribunal is a tribunal established by an Act of the Indian Parliament, namely the National Green Tribunal Act. The primary aim of this body is to arbitrate and decide cases pertaining to environmental issue in an expedited manner. It was enacted under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution ( Right to Life and Liberty), in the form of a right to a healthy environment. Since December 2012, the Tribunal has been chaired by Justice Swatantar Kumar. The tribunal aims to expedite environmental litigation , as well as to ensure speedy environmental justice. The speed of arbitration is particularly pertinent in order to avoid cramming the higher courts with increased litigation. This tribunal is not required to follow the procedure outline in the Civil Procedure Code, rather it is guided by the principles of natural justice. Delhi is the seat or the Principal Place of Sitting of the tribunal while Chennai, Kolkata, Pune and Bhopal are also the subsidiary seats of the tribunal. The membership of the tribunal consists of 10 expert members and 10 judicial members i.e. a total of twenty. The Chairman is required to be a retired or serving Chief Justice of a High Court or a serving judge of the Supreme Court. The rest of the members are appointed by a selection committee headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India. The judicial members of the tribunal are to selected from a list of serving or retired judges of the High Courts and the expert members are to be selected from serving or retired bureaucrats or civil servants not below the rank of Additional Secretary to GOI or Principal Secretary to the state government.

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  5. 2) EURO 6 is the most recent standard which came into force in 2014 among the other existing EURO standards relating to the acceptable limits of exhaust emissions from the new vehicles sold in the EU union market. Under EURO 6 emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), total hydrocarbon (THC), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) are regulated from most of the vehicles those are sold but the EURO 6 does not take checks the pollution from the boats, ships and aeroplanes.
    EURO 6 emission test has to be passed by the light passenger and commercial vehicles in order to get permission to roll out into the market. but the EURO 6 test does not apply on the vehicles that are already on the roads.
    In India we follow Bharat stage emission standards, which are emissions standards enforced by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change. Currently Bharat Stage 4 norms is being followed in the major cities of India and there is a proposed plan of implementing Bharat Stage 5 by 2017 through out the country.
    In karnataka as of now the Bharat Stage 4 norm is in place from 2004.

  6. Euro VI is the sixth stage of norms imposed by the European Union on vehicular emissions. These are emissions standards set by the European Union which define the acceptable limits on the exhaust emissions of new vehicles sold in the European Union member states. They represent the stages of emissions norms, in which each successive stage becomes increasingly stringent. Cureently the emissions of Nitrous oxides, non-methane hydro-carbons, total hydrocarbons , particulate matter, and carbon monoxide are regulated for all kinds of vehicles including cars, tricks and lorries but excluding aeroplanes and ships, although different standards apply for different kinds of vehicles. The new vehicles sold after the passage of the new norm must comply with the norm, and in case of non-compliance will not be permitted on the roads. However the vehicles sold before the implementation of the norm need not comply. This also includes obligatory labeling of cars with a green symbol. The stages labeled as Euro 1 , Euro 2, Euro 3, etc... apply to Light Duty Vehicles ( light capacity), and Roma Numeral albels such as Euro I , Euro II and Euro VI apply to Heavy Duty Vehicles.

  7. The equivalent of European emission standards in India are the Bharat Stage Emission standards which are standards set to regulate the emission of air pollutants from the internal combustion engines of motor vehicles. The stages of the standards along the timeline for their implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the aegis of the Ministry of Environment , Forests and Climate Change. It has been mandated that the entire country is to comply with Bharat Stage V by April 2017. Kerala is currently following Bharat Stage III norms and intends to upgrade to Bharat Stage VI by April 2016.

  8. 9. The odd-even number plates scheme that is sought to be implemented by Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is a leaf out of China's environmental playbook. China began to implement this system of road space rationing post the 2008 Olympic Games, after an initial experiment was found to be successful. This policy aims to restrict the number of automobiles that utilize road space on a single day, by using the last digits of its number plate. Traffic cameras at signals are utilized to monitor compliance. The cars with the next set (odd or even ) number plates will be permitted to ply the streets. This is to prevent congestion and indiscriminate emissions from the exhaust. During the 2008 Olympics, even number license plates were permitted to ply on one day and the next day the vehicles with odd number license plates were allowed to ply.Although the policy did result in a 40% daily reduction in the vehicle emissions, there are apprehensions that the increasing number of cars being purchased may be used by citizens to circumvent the ban and this could potentially retract from the effectiveness of this policy.

    1. I think India can learn from this. when people are buying new or second hand automobiles just to nullify the rules. The government could look into their previous automobile plate and issue the same pattern that is if they have odd plate issue odd plate for new purchase also, so that they do not by pass the rule. If not this, it can impose penalty on people having both odd and even number plates. In my opnion this will make the scheme more effective.

    2. Imposing a penalty on ownership of more than two cars, for whatever reason, can only be implemented in an autocratic regime. In a democracy like India, restrictions on the assets a person owns would be considered a violation of their freedom and liberty, even if their actions do circumvent a government policy norm.

    3. I agree with Manaswini. Controlling an otherwise legitimate behaviour of citizens through the mechanism of bans should be the last resort in a democracy. But, having said that, the citizenry of any country should also be responsible enough to play their role in finding a solution to the issue at hand. Hence, Art 51A , Fundamental Duties, becomes significant in such circumstances. If people would be circumventing the rules made to protect them then they would be doing it at the cost of their survival. Moreover, in a welfare state the government is also responsible for those who are lying at the bottom of the pyramid. And issues like pollution impact the poor the most. So it becomes imperative for the government at times to take stern decisions as well.

    4. I agree that in a democracy we cannot enforce or ask people to buy more than two cars(including any automobiles). In my opinion the Government should impose penalty on people who have automobiles of both number plates. And when I say penalty i mean pecuniary liability and not criminal liability. If i could put it in this way, all I am supporting is polluter pays principle. Agreeing to the point that tushar sir mentioned in a welfare society we need to take care of the peopIe who are poor and are not responsible for such pollution. letting the polluters create some inventive method to avoid laid rules should attract liability. Irrespective of whether its an autocratic regime or a democratic, any way or methods adopted to dilute the fundamental purpose of rule should attract liability.

  9. The National Green Tribunal as the name itself suggests is a Tribunal. It was established under Section 3 of the National Green Tribunal Act 2010. The National Green Tribunal Act was passed in the furtherance of Article 253 of the Constitution of India. As provided under Article 253 of the Constitution of India, the Parliament has got the power to make laws for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention which was made at any international conference.
    It is laid in the Preamble of the Act that the origin of the National Green Tribunal Act is in furtherance of the decision taken at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in 1972. The Stockholm Conference called upon the members to take appropriate measure to improve human environment. It is also further provided in the Preamble, that the Act is also being enacted in furtherance of the decision taken at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro to take measures to have administrative and judicial proceedings including redress and remedy for the victims of the pollution. Dehradun Quarrying Case was the first case wherein the Supreme Court of India held that Right to healthy environment is an essential part of Article 21.
    The objective of the National Green Tribunal as provided in the Preamble of the Act is threefold. Firstly effective and expeditious disposal of cases which are related to Environment. Secondly enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and lastly providing relief and compensation for damages as connected with environment.

  10. 1  NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL is a separate tribunal or agency to deal with multifarious day to day environmental issues in an efficient and specialized manner. The act was passes in 2010 under the principle of providing healthy “right to life” regarding Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The proposals of the tribunal are not enforcing but based on natural justice. The jurisdiction pillar seems to be very rigid since it is directed to perform actively and speedily towards all the pending and stalled environmental appeals and applications. The main objective of the tribunal is deal with effective and expeditious disposal of cases regarding protection and conservation of environment, forest, biodiversity, wildlife of the country.
    The tribunal is composed of very complex and rigid officials.
    • One Chairperson – the chairperson has the power to appoint any one or more than one (as per his/her convenience) as the expert member who is supposed to be specialized in technical to deal with the purpose of the tribunal and to assist the Chairperson in any case.
    • Judicial members (minimum 10; maximum 20 at a time)
    • Expert Member – appointed by the central government
    • Both Judicial and Expert appointees will be selective as per the government convenience.
    • The central government can interfere in the system regarding any rules and regulations or any programme or scheme, but the Chairperson should be taken into consideration mandatorily.
    The principle bench is located at New Delhi and also has active branches at Chennai, Bhopal, Pune and Kolkata in order to operate more widely and effectively.
    Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar is the present Chairperson of the Tribunal.

  11. 2  EURO 6 is primarily a legislation passed by the European Union in 2015. According to this legislation, every newly purchased car, van, or any other motor vehicle should be confirmed by EURO 6. The main objective of the legislation to is to economize the non replenishable resources like petrol. This will ensure the decrease in acceleration of the pollution level by reducing the emission of CO2.
    The new Euro 6 regulations set different standards for petrol and diesel cars. For diesel cars, they dramatically drop the permitted level of NOx emitted down to a maximum of 80mg/km compared to the 180mg/km level that was required for cars to meet the previous Euro 5 emissions standards. The limit for NOx from petrol cars remains at 60mg/km, the same as for the Euro 5 standard.
    Apparently, Bharat Standard Emission Standard is the equivalent system which is followed by India to regulate the different standards for petrol and diesel in order to curb the CO2 emission. Under this system, the output of air pollution from internal combustion engine equipment will be regulated including motor vehicles. These standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change.
    My native city Ajmer in Rajasthan is following the BS 4 (IV) to halt the vehicular emission.

  12. 3 & 4  Gasoline, smog, automobiles, jet airplanes, wars (use of highly pollutant arms and bombs), industries, trains, ships, roadside burnings, religious cultures ( sacrificial prayers etc.), Diwali crackers (in India). These are the major sources of air pollution to cause global warming and by shifting cultivation (jhum cultivation in backward areas). Main roots of air pollution as follows: -
    • Herbicides
    • Insecticides
    • Dust from fertilizers
    • Radioactive fallout Dust from livestock feedlots
    • Dust from mining operations
    Amidst these, roadside burnings, transportation means are the most common sources of air pollution which can be seen in every country.

  13. There are numerous ways of measuring air quality, highly efficient methods are in developed countries and some are adopted in some of the developing countries. Methods are developed to measure CO2, SO2, PM (2.5, 4, 5), H2S, NO2, O3 etc. air pollution can be directly measured as it is emitted by a source in mass/volume of emission or mass/process parameter. Ambient air monitoring data is due to determine air quality, establish the extant of air pollution problem, assess whether established standards are being met, and characterize the human health risk in an area. Air pollution data and models are used together to examine the controls of strategies for the ambient air
    In India, last year in 2014, Air Quality Index was introduces by the present government which assisted by other organisation namely SAFFAR that also deals with the weather forecast of the city caused by the pollution level.

  14. 6  these are the following health hazards, caused by extreme concentration of air pollution.
    • Asthama
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder COPD
    • Lung Cancer
    • Emphysema
    Several heart diseases are also caused due to it. These are the symptoms:
    • Apathy
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
    • Disorientation
    • Decreased visual acuity
    • Decreased muscular coordination

  15. 7  Reason behind extreme pollution in DELHI.
    Delhi is the highly populated city in India and it has the highest population density in India. Delhi is a small landlocked Union Territory, thus, Delhi has limited avenues for flushing polluted air out of the city. This is the main reason given by UK based study in 2012. The report has also suggested that the vehicular traffic was 4.7 million in 2010, which will further increase by 26 million in 2030. Vehicles used by people are generally very old model purchased in 1980s which obviously consume and release more CO2 in air.
    One more big reason could be that celebration of religious festivals because this Diwali it was noted that – pollution of Delhi was 21% more than the normal pollution level. After coming up of newly established satellite cities around Delhi resulted in more concentration on pollution in the city. Since Delhi is the victim of extreme climate, during winter time the pollution density stalls for longer day, even till late night. Industrialization in the city led to dramatic deforestation since 1970’s could also be considered as the major reason for high air pollution.

  16. 8
    • An individual can decide not to use vehicle (use cycle or public transport) at least one working day of the week and mandatorily on Sundays. If every individual decides to do so, it will defiantly give a massive result.
    • Roadside burning of garbage is the one of the biggest source of air pollution which caused by normal residents. Plastic burning is very common in cities.
    • People should regularly maintain their personal vehicles by giving them for servicing periodically.
    • Try to avoid personal vehicles for small purposes or for small distances.
    • Though individually it is very insignificant but on a bigger scale, smoking also causes air pollution upto some extent.
    • During winter, in extreme climate zones, people should minimize the use of wood-fire in rural areas and chimneys in urban areas.
    These are some of the suggestions to halt air pollution, which an individual can easily follow. Sometimes government also interferes and comes up with very innovative measures but the problem lies when people hesitate in applying them.

  17. 9 & 10
    The recent step taken by the Delhi government has invited applause from all sides. The decision to alternate the use of various vehicles on odd – even basis will surely help in arresting pollution. But such policy will definitely increase the burden on public transfers and especially in the “Metros”, which will anyway compensate the level of pollution. There might be the introduction of more public vehicles and more use of auto-rickshaws, this fact will again equalize the level of pollution. Another major issue would be that people who do have the required vehicle (even or odd) would look for other alternative means which might be an illegal. This policy will not be a big failure, but the results might disappoint the implementers who are expecting higher results. In Delhi, there are vehicles, which have been in use since 1970s, and 1980s and release high quantity of CO2 (irrespective of the odd – even factor).
    In my point of view, government would have come up with a solution that – all people having old vehicles, can leave those vehicles and government will pay (some decided amount) them in return. By getting that money, people could purchase other less polluting vehicle and government will use that old vehicle in their day to day industrial requirement of steel by melting them or by disintegrating them. The government could introduce vehicle from EURO 6, their vehicles are more efficient and more eco-friendly in nature.
    Although, India is a democratic country (unlike China), government can propose a programme to complete ban of using petrol/diesel vehicles (other than trading vehicles like trucks etc.) on Sundays mandatorily or partially upto some time limit (say, 4 p.m). these measure are very much practical since the democratic country like Singapore has done it successfully.

  18. 10. The COP21 has taken place at an opportune time , when governments around the world should be focused on addressing the various problems of climate change. This conference has brought to light several streamlined approaches t reducing emissions. By building on these proposals , the Indian government can also come up with several innovative ways to curb air pollution in our cities. The foundation, obviously lies in shifting emphasis from fossil fuel based energy to other non-polluting renewable sources, which include solar, wind and tidal energy. This shift depends to a very large extent on technology transfer and funding from developed countries as India is insufficiently equipped to finance such large capacity addition. The creation of additional carbon sinks i.e. increasing forest cover to the greatest possible extent is a novel way of absorbing the excess emissions released into the atmosphere. An innovative way would be to plant trees and other greenery along the main roads and highways which witness immense traffic . Construction of parks is already a widespread practice of the municipal corporation of Bengaluru. Just as the Bharat Stage emission norms, other mandatory regulations may also be imposed, for example compulsory installation of catalytic converters in high-fuel consuming motor vehicles.
    On a larger level, the government can impose restrictions on the amount of air polltuion that any industry can emit. Industries such as steel, heavy chemicals and petroleum industry are the principal emitters of toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons etc.. Placing such restrictions could force companies to invest in research and development to come up with cleaner technology and production processes, end-of-the-line treatment processes , such as scrubbers which remove toxic gases from the smog before its emission into the atmosphere, and also force companies to create more environment friendly products in order to comply with government orders. Some economists believe this may act as a disincentive and industries will continue to pollute to the maximum possible level and not attempt to improve their products or production. An alternative to this would be to create a national market for trade in carbon credits or permits. Firms which pollute less can sell their carbon credits to those firms who wish to pollute more. It acts as an incentive for firms to reduce pollution so that they may earn revenue from the sale of the carbon credits.
    A case in point, that would be worth emulating is the municipal council in Canada that sets aside a fund solely for the purpose of developing an environment friendly initiatives, to which the citizens regularly contribute.
    Taxes, cess or levies along the lines of a Swach Bharat Cess can also be imposed which can constitute the government fund towards financing curbs in air pollution. The Chinese government's odd-even license plate policy is also quite an innovative policy that Delhi can develop upon.

  19. Alternative solutions could be
    1. Improving public transport. This would improve the per capita fuel utilisation and hence reduce the pollution level.
    2. Encouraging alternatives like Electric Vehicles, Fuel Cell based vehicles. This could be done through giving subsidies or duty benefits while importing the components of such vehicles.
    3. Starting the concept of car pooling. IT tools could be used for it.
    4. Having residential areas near to commercial areas to reduce travelling time.
    5. Enforcing the checks on vehicle emission levels and penalising the culprits.