Editorial: Strive from 2020 for a gemütlich environment ahead

Ministry of Agriculture to set up laboratories to test quality of compost produced by local authorities or their authorized agencies

Sanjaya K. Mishra

Editorial Published on 25th December 2019

Year 2019 is quickly running out. The world is ecstatic to welcome the New Year 2020. Looking back, it was an encouraging year. India became one of the first countries in the world to develop and launch a comprehensive Cooling Action Plan, India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP). National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) was launched to tackle the problem of air pollution. NCAP targets 20 to 30% reductioIMG_20191226_013858n of PM10 and PM2.5 concentration by 2024, compared to 2017. 

Water Talk by National Water Mission, Green Good Deeds Campaign, the fight against single-use plastic, increase in tiger population addition in forest cover, and the release of White Paper on National Aviation Policy, to address major environmental challenges of the Indian aviation industry – are incredible. The National Green Tribunal’s Order dated 30th April 2019 pertaining to sewage disposal standards was a remarkable one. Jal Jeevan Mission was launched to ensure piped water supply to every household “Har Ghar Jal”. The formation of the new ministry, the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) was a significant move. The Jal Shakti Abhiyan, the time-bound mission for water conservation to enhance water security, especially in the water-stressed districts, created a huge impact across the nation. It has delivered over 5 Lakh local water conservation infrastructure in 256 districts. An estimated 370 Lakh people participated in the mission making it a people’s movement. About 123 million saplings were planted as afforestation intervention through this mission. 

However, as the river water management, and clean up deals with the treatment of water pollution and wastewater management, a part of the Pollution Control Board could further be considered to be included in the MoJS. The format could be followed in the state as well, where the groundwater regulatory body and water pollution control body could be merged. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change may focus on emission control, air quality, soil quality-related subjects, alongside the environmental and forest clearances. Solid wastes, hazardous wastes, plastic wastes, e-wastes, battery wastes, bio-medical wastes, and construction and demolition (C&D) wastes are going to be major challenges in the forthcoming years. It has been observed by the National Green Tribunal and even the Supreme Court that the efficiency of municipal bodies have remained appalling in the solid waste, plastic waste, and C&D waste fronts. The structure of SPCBs can handle the subject. 

Coming back to 2019, Activism was also phenomenal. From Delhi air pollution to Mumbai Aarey, to PLPA in Haryana and Talabira in Odisha. Also, there were numerous exemplary works in the field of waste management. Especially, some RWAs working towards zero waste and fight against Single-Use Plastic. The year 2020 will be another crucial year for the environment. The deadline to leapfrog from Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) to Bharat Stage-VI (BS-VI) emission norms by 1stApril 2020. This has created tremendous changes in the automotive market. India has embraced for faster adoption of electric vehicles and their manufacturing, with a goal to 30% electric vehicles by 2030. Many new job openings would come out for wastewater professionals to meet the 31st March 2020 deadline given by the NGT.

As time is running out, to attain a better environment, to restore forest, and nature so that people and wildlife can thrive. As it may take time to turn the ship around, we need to start now. Everybody – individuals, citizens, institutions, academicians, governments, judiciary, businesses, activists, NGOs, and media – together, we can step up in 2020 and take urgent action to protect and restore nature, before it’s too late.

 

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Editorial: Who will ensure Quality of Compost from Garbage?

Ministry of Agriculture to set up laboratories to test quality of compost produced by local authorities or their authorized agencies

Sanjaya K. Mishra

Editorial Published on 18th December 2019

Composting as defined in Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 vide S.O. 1357(E) the 8th April 2016, means a controlled process involving the microbial decomposition of organic matter. With growing awareness and compliance with rule 4, many waste generators, Residential Welfare Associations (RWAs), Group Housing Societies, Malls, Hotels, Hospitals, Office Complexes; are now making compost in their premises. Some have adopted garbage converters, others generate compost by aerobic composting or vermicomposting. Some institutions, as required for those with more than 5,000 SQM area, also converting biodegradable waste into compost. At the same time, with growing activism and increasing interruption of Courts and Tribunals, the Municipal Bodies are also working proactively towards solid waste management. Thus, a huge quantity of compost is being generated.

According to the SWM Rules 2016, the Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers shall provide market development assistance on city compost, and ensure promotion of co-marketing of compost with chemical fertilizers in the ratio of 3 to 4 bags: 6 to 7 bags by the fertilizer companies to the extent compost is made available for marketing to the companies. Further, the SWM Rules specifies that the Ministry of Agriculture through appropriate mechanisms shall propagate utilization of compost on farmland. It has also given the responsibility to set up laboratories to test the quality of compost produced by local authorities or their authorized agencies. Download SWM Rule 2016 (English)

The above responsibilities by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and the Ministry of Agriculture are not as visible as the enthusiasm of RWAs to make compost out of bio-degradable waste. Compost quality is essential to be analyzed as specified in the Schedule-II of SWM Rules, 2016. And it has a significant meaning as according to the “Fact Sheet on Plastic Waste in India, 2018”, The Energy Research Institute (TERI), plastic contributes to 8% of the total solid waste. A significant amount of toxic heavy metals like copper, zinc, lead, and cadmium recovered from plastic wastes from seashores have an adverse effect on the coastal ecosystems. Lead and Cadmium pigments, commonly used in most of the plastics as additives are hazardous in nature and are known to leach out. And this is only one source of possible contamination in the compost. This clearly indicates there is a substantial possibility of contamination in compost. At the moment, the compost is being utilized in potted plants, terrace gardens, lawns, gardens, greenbelts. There is a risk of using unknown quality of compost in potted plants. Further, contaminations and pollutants in compost may also degrade the soil and groundwater quality in the long term. Therefore, it is high time to establish laboratories and disseminate the information. It is also important for the EIA Consultants and the Compliance Professionals to address the subject as per legal provisions. Heaps of compost are being generated and over the years the quantity will increase. However, it is also time to review the annual reports prepared by the Local Bodies to obtain facts and figures. Proper utilization through the appropriate market, as delineated in the SWM Rule could lead to a win-win-win situation for the waste generator to farmers to government. There should not be any chance left to pile up compost in place of raw garbage.

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Editorial: A Minimalist is a Green Hero

Sanjaya K. Mishra

Editorial Published on 27th November 2019

According to a recent statement laid in the Lok Sabha, during the period 01.04.2014 to 31.03.2019, as much as 69141.32 hectares of forest land was diverted in 3616 cases under Forest Conservation Act, 1980. And, a maximum of 21057.08 hectares of forest land was diverted for mining purposes, followed by 16450.71 hectares for irrigation and 8733.81 hectares for roads. This data has a huge significance in terms of natural resources, and environment of the nation. Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the Earth. Ores recovered by mining include metals, coal, oil shale, gemstones, limestone, gravel, and clay, etc. Mining has a significant impact on the environment, much more than the degradation of forest land. And, further industrial processing of mineral ores has another set of environmental impact.
According to the Ministry of Coal, the all India Production of coal during 2018-19 stood at nearly 730.35 million tonnes (MT). In FY19, India produced 131.57 million tonnes (MT) and 106.56 MT of gross finished steel and crude steel, respectively. And, our target is to produce 300 million tonnes of steel by 2030-31. With 460 million tonnes per year (mtpa) of cement production capacity as of 2018, India is the second-largest cement producer in the world and accounts for over 8 percent of the global installed capacity, as of 2018. The cement production capacity is estimated to touch 550 MT by 2020. In addition to road infrastructure, housing for all needs more cement, building materials like sand, aggregates, etc. The demand for sand resources is rising. Shifting consumption patterns, growing populations, increasing urbanization and infrastructure development have increased multifold demand over the last couple of decades. The global requirement of sand now is above 50 billion tonnes per year, an average of 18 kg per person per day. With further growing demand the quantum of an environmental impact could be envisaged from these data.
The undeniable truth is development needs resources. There is a need to ensure sustainable growth. This could be attained through sustainable resource management, which means both (a) ensuring that consumption does not exceed levels of sustainable supply and (b) ensuring that the earth‘s systems are able to perform their natural functions to ensure the long-term material basis of societies in a way that resource extraction, use, and waste and emissions management do not surpass key thresholds for long-term environmental sustainability and human wellbeing. Sustainable supply refers to the number of resources that can be extracted and used for production and consumption before the threshold of a safe operating space is surpassed. At a global scale, (sustainable) levels of production equal (sustainable) levels of consumption. At a local scale, sustainable supply is aimed at by safe operating practices.
Researching viable options for resource conservation is the crying need of the time.
Some countries already have high aggregate recycling rates because of virgin aggregates costs, e.g. Germany recycles 87% of its waste aggregates. in India, there are cases of used non-toxic municipal waste as a replacement for aggregates in road-building, as well as the use of waste foundry sand used (Siddique et al. 2004, 2015), waste rubber (Gupta et al., 2014), waste tiles (Singha & Singla, 2014) to produce concrete. There is a need to promote more such works.
The Ministry of Steel is proactively working towards the reuse of different types of slags generated from steel plants. Construction and Demolition wastes could play a vital role in supplying the raw materials for housing and road construction projects. Every action at this stage needs to be supported with the lowest carbon footprints. To sum up, the Gandhian principle is the best way to attain green growth. In the contemporary world, a minimalist is a green hero, the real hero.

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“100% Sewage Treatment may be ensured by 31st March 2020”: NGT

NMCG will be the nodal agency for compliance

A copy of the NGT order dated 6th December 2019 is also available with this article. 

7th December 2019, Delhi: The National Green Tribunal in its order published on 6th December 2019 with regard to Original Application No. 673/2018 on the issue Remedial action for 351 polluted river stretches in India has reiterated its order dated 28.08.2019 in O.A. No. 593/2017 “100% treatment of sewage may be ensured as directed by 31.03.2020” at least to the extent of in-situ remediation and before the said date, commencement of setting up of STPs and the work of connecting all the drains and other sources of generation of sewage to the STPs must be ensured. If this is not done, the local bodies and the concerned departments of the States/UTs will be liable to pay compensation as already directed vide order dated 22.08.2019 in the case of river Ganga i.e. Rs. 5 lakhs per month per drain, for default in in-situ remediation and Rs. 5 lakhs per STP for default in the commencement of setting up of the STP.

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It is noteworthy that according to the latest assessment by the CPCB, there are 351 polluted river stretches in India i.e. where the Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) content is more than 3 mg/L. As per laid down standards, river water is considered to be fit for bathing when it meets the criteria of having BOD less than 3.0 mg/L, Dissolved Oxygen more than 5.0 mg/L and Faecal Coliform bacteria to be less than 500 MPN/100 ml.

The Tribunal has also directed that “Timeline for completing all steps of action plans including completion of setting up STPs and their commissioning till 31.03.2021 in terms of order dated 08.04.2019 in the present case will remain as already directed. In default, compensation will be liable to be paid at the scale laid down in the order of this Tribunal dated 22.08.2019 in the case of river Ganga i.e. Rs. 10 lakhs per month per STP.”

It has further directed that an institutional mechanism be evolved for ensuring compliance of the above directions. For this purpose, monitoring may be done by the Chief Secretaries of all the States/UTs at State level and at the National level by the Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti with the assistance of NMCG and CPCB. For the purpose, a meeting at the central level must be held with the Chief Secretaries of all the States/UTs at least once in a month (option of video conferencing facility is open) to take stock of the progress and to plan further action. NMCG will be the nodal agency for compliance who may take the assistance of CPCB and may give its quarterly report to this Tribunal commencing 01.04.2020.

NGT direction also states that the Chief Secretaries may set up an appropriate monitoring mechanism at State level specifying accountability of nodal authorities not below the Secretary level and ensuring appropriate adverse entries in the ACRs of erring officers. Monitoring at the State level must take place on a fortnightly basis and record of progress maintained. The Chief Secretaries may have an accountable person attached to his office for this purpose. A monthly progress report may be furnished by the States/UTs to Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti with a copy to CPCB. Any default must be visited with serious consequences at every level, including initiation of a prosecution, disciplinary action and entries in ACRs of the erring officers.

The NGT has also directed to shorten the procedures for DPRs/tender process and if found viable business model developed at the central/state level. Wherever work is awarded to any contractor, a performance guarantee must be taken in the above terms.

The action plan prepared by the Delhi Government which is to be approved by the CPCB has to follow the action points delineated in the order of this Tribunal dated 11.09.2019 in O.A. No. 06/2012.

The NGT has also directed CPCB to conduct a survey with respect to parameters such as pH, BOD, COD, DO and Faecal Coliform and other recalcitrant toxic pollutants having a tendency of bio-magnification. The survey may be conducted by involving the SPCB/PCCs within three months. 20191206 NGT Order on River Pollution

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