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.

(You may also like to watch a video)

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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Deliberating Conservation of Soil Properties

Soil pollution is one of the virtually invisible human impacts but affects everyone and everywhere.


Sunita Mishra

A Gold Medalist in Masters of Agricultural Statistics, Soil Laboratory Professional & Columnist

Soil is an integral part of the environmental components. It has huge significance for the wellbeing of human and other lives on the earth, Soil degradation is a severe problem in countries like India with high demographic pressure. For preventing and restoring soil degradation, the main issues will be controlling soil erosion and sedimentation with the associated risks of eutrophication of surface water and contamination of groundwater, combating desertification and enhancing soil carbon sequestration to improve soil quality/productivity and mitigate the greenhouse effect.

For sustaining better soil quality under intensive systems of agriculture, the emphasis should be on developing of workable soil quality indicators and methods to assess and monitor soil quality, assessment of soil quality under different land use management systems and to identify the effect of management practices aggrading/ degrading/ sustaining soil quality. Also, strategies need to be formulated to decide the amount of organic matter to be in the form of organic manures/organic waste/residue each year to maintain or build up the soil organic matter (SOM) level in various soil types.

Topsoil consists of organic carbon that helps in soil aggregation and also improves water holding capacity of the soil that in turn helps in slowing down the flow of water through the soil. An adequate amount of basic inorganic nutrients present in the soil is required for the healthy growth of vegetation. Thus, it is important to preserve topsoil from soil pollution, which is caused by construction materials and equipment during construction. Topsoil from a depth of about 6″-9″, from which the samples could be collected for testing of physical, chemical and biological properties.

Physical properties of the soil include water holding capacity, aeration, plasticity, texture, structure, density, and colour, etc. Chemical properties refer to the mineralogical composition and the content of the type of minerals such as Kaolinite, illite and montmorillonite, base saturation, humus, and organic matter content. The biological property refers to the content of extent and types of microbes in the soil which includes bacteria, fungi, worms, and insects.

Soil Testing is well recognized as a sound scientific tool to assess the inherent power of soil to supply plant nutrients. The benefits of soil testing have been established through scientific research, extensive field demonstrations, and on the basis of actual fertilizer use by the farmers on soil test based fertilizer use recommendations.

Soil pollution is one of the virtually invisible human impacts but affects everyone and everywhere. One-third of our global soil quality has degraded due to inappropriate management practices, population pressure driving unsustainable intensification and inadequate governance over this essential resource. Most of the pollutants originate from human activities, such as unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices.

Soil testing should be made obligatory for all activities, where there is a disturbance to the soil environment. This could be excavation to waste and other material disposals on the earth. In order to make it effective, there is a need to establish appropriate soil quality standards, in terms of soil pollution limits.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), the erstwhile Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), delineates conditions in its environmental clearance letters to test the incremental pollution load in the soil environment. Such conditions are not uniformly mentioned in all project clearances, including those accorded by the MoEF&CC. A huge quantity of soil is excavated in major Construction projects, which obviously disturbs the soil microbes. Most of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports don’t address this part. Many times, EIA reports also contain generic statements like all the excavated earth shall be used in backfilling purposes, and the Construction and Demolition (C&D) Wastes shall be used for flooring and backfilling in roads, etc. to the maximum extent possible. Alike, water balancing, scientific material balancing of soil – e.g. excavated earth quantity versus the quantity of backfilling material required, C&D wastes versus the number of materials required for its reuse, could establish the veracity of claims. And, this could also support to bring desired results, which may be vital to control soil pollution and resource conservation.

It is an ongoing practice, which is also documented in various reports that dry sludge generated from the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is used as manure in green areas of a project. Some EIA reports have deliberated that the unused sludge shall be given to farmers or nursery. At a time, when the Government of India is concerned about Faecal Coliform in water, whether, such practices meet the norms? Should the government allow this practice without the characterization of sludge? According to a research article “Regrowth of faecal coliforms and salmonellae in stored biosolids and soil amended with biosolids” by R.A. Gibbs, C. J. Hu and others “results suggest that faecal coliforms and salmonellae were at undetectable concentrations through the summer period but were able to grow when provided with favourable conditions. From this limited trial, it was concluded that soil amended with biosolids could not be considered free from pathogens for at least one year following amendment.” Furthermore, the EC, recently accorded to the project, states that “Sludge from the onsite sewage treatment, including septic tanks, shall be collected, conveyed and disposed as per the Ministry of Urban Development, Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organization (CPHEEO) Manual on Sewerage and Sewage Treatment Systems, 2013.”

Although projects cleared by environmental impact assessment committees are not directly related to agriculture but have a greater significance in terms of soil pollution. Therefore, the government, as well as the Think-Tanks in the nation, may seriously consider this important area. In order to assess the impact of liquid effluent and solid as well as hazardous waste disposal, the State Pollution Control Boards and Committees should also delineate conditions in their consent to establish and consent to operate. Nevertheless, the Bureau of Indian Standards also reviews its standard test methods to make those simpler with the latest inputs. These acts could result in substantial preservation of the soil environment from unnatural contaminations.

The International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS), in 2002, adopted a resolution proposing the 5th of December as World Soil Day to celebrate the importance of soil as a critical component of the natural system and as a vital contributor to human wellbeing. The day is also celebrated in India, though it is not so well known as World Environment Day or Earth Day or World Water Day. The Central and State Pollution Control Boards may infuse more knowledge on soil preservation amongst the projects and industrial establishments as well as the general public on the forthcoming World Soil Day.

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3 Things important to know about Sewage Disposal

With the latest legal happenings with regard to STPs two things are significant two remember. One, the NGT order dated 30th April 2019 concluded that “the report of the Expert Committee with the modification that the standards recommended for Mega and Metropolitan Cities will also apply to rest of the country. We also direct that the standards will apply not only for new STPs but also for existing/under construction STPs without any delay and giving of seven years time stands disapproved. The NGT bench also said that “the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) may issue an appropriate Notification in the matter  within one month from today i.e. 30th April 2019.”

Therefore, irrespective of the notification dated 13-10-2017, the effluent discharge standards for STPs, will change as follows:

STP Test Parameters.jpg

Hence, compliance monitoring of STP should be based on the above test parameters.

Secondly, STPs require to install online continuous environmental monitoring systems. pH, TSS, BOD, and COD are the minimum parameters required to be monitored through this system. However, the traditional method of measurement shall be required to establish the validation of online data.

The third important thing to be noted is to install CCTVs in STP areas where the project is based on Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD). ZLD means 100% of treated sewage is reused/recycle by the project/industry.

This was covered in the 24th issue of our newspaper Enviro Annotations. A copy of the print is given below:

STP Standards

Following is a video, based on 2017 notification.