Paris/New Delhi, Dec. 12: Efforts for forging a global agreement on reduction of greenhouse gases notwithstanding, India’s domestic situation has compelled the government to think of measures to control growing pollution from the transport industry and coal-fired power plants though it remains to be seen how swiftly these measures are implemented and how effective they prove.
Given the intensity of pollution in cities like New Delhi and Kolkata, some watchdogs have also started issuing directions to the government while suggesting measures for controlling pollution in cities. During the past few days, National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Supreme Court asked the government to ban diesel vehicles in Delhi and 15 other cities for controlling air pollution.
In Delhi, air pollution has gone to such a level that people from the effluent class have started using air-filters while those who can’t afford, have no option but to breathe the polluted air thus giving rise to the latest form of inequality in India.
According to WHO estimates 6,44,993 people died in India in 2010 alone due to diseases related to air pollution preceded by China with 13, 57, 353 deaths. China has already started taking measures like ordering limits on cars, factories and construction sites through red-alerts. Last week, the Chinese government claimed that it had reduced pollution in Beijing by 30 percent.
“By putting mitigation policies in place, countries like China and India can save those dying because of pollution-related diseases,”, WHO’s Diarmid Campbell said during an event, “Health, Climate and Air Pollution: Why a strong Climate Change Agreement is Critical to Global Public Health” organised by WHO at CoP21 in Paris. The Organisation estimates that more than seven million people die each year globally from air pollution related diseases.
India faces huge challenges for controlling industrial and traffic pollution given its extensive use of traditional sources of energy such as coal and diesel and its heavy dependence on surface transport for the mobility of its 1.25 billion people and carriage of consumption items for them.
If the government implements its own plans and succeeds in implementing the measures suggested by the watchdogs, there might be some respite for the common citizens as well.
One big measure, the government is planning to implement is to enhance waterways transport capacity across India in an effort to cut carbon emissions caused by land cargo transportation which requires the country hundreds of thousands of trucks to ply on its roads apart from the rail freight. Transport is the second big polluter in India after industry.
Another major concern in India is the pollution from coal. India has committed to triple its electricity capacity from coal-fired power plants from the current 160GW of energy to 450 GW by 2030GW. But, its negotiators in Paris kept repeating that India was planning to replace all the old coal-fired plants with critical and super-critical technology plants which according to them would heavily reduce the pollution from these plants.
“By putting mitigation policies in place, countries like China and India can save those dying because of pollution-related diseases,”, says WHO’s Diarmid Campbell.
Some experts also feel that the crises can be averted through some decisions like the ones taken recently. “India has already decided to increase the share of renewable energy to 40 per cent in its energy mix and it is also planning to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants and transport sector through efficient use of energy,” said Mitu Mathur of New Delhi based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) on the side-lines of “Transport Day” organised by TERI in Le Bourget, Paris.
Arun Sharma, Chairman and Managing Director of the Indian Register of Shipping (IRS) said that focus is being steadily shifted towards domestic cargo transportation through coastal shipping and inland waterways giving its huge utility especially in the face of climate change.
“Shipping being the most energy efficient means of transport is viewed as potential mode for domestic cargo,” he said adding that the inland waterways will also be preferred over land transport in the coming years.
By virtue of carrying 90% of the global trade, shipping is a key driver of the world’s economic engine and despite continuing growth, the contribution of international shipping to greenhouse gas emissions has reduced from 2.8 to 2.2% in the past five years with the use of efficient energy sources in some parts of the world.
As compared to the emission of 435 grams of co2 of air freight for carrying per tonne per km and 80 grams of trucks, shipping emits only 12.5 co2 for carrying per tonne per km. Cost-wise also, the water transport is around 90 percent cheaper than the land-transport.
Effective utilisation of 7500 km long Indian coastline having 13 major and 168 minor ports and 6000 km of national waterways will lead to cost effective and environment friendly cargo movement.
Currently, India transports only 0.15% of its domestic cargo by inland water transport as compared to 42% of European Union, 43 % of China and 15% of US. Even in Bangladesh the share of water transport is 32 percent.
Sharma said that Jal Marg Vikas project initiated by government of India will enhance the capacity augmentation of national waterways.
The country plans a number of technical measures for effective and large scale use of shipping and waterways which include emission compliant propulsion and auxiliary engines, use of LNG as fuel (gas fuelled engines), use of renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar and use of air lubrication system to reduce hull resistance caused by friction with water which significantly reduces the power required to propel the vessel.