air pollution

While Delhi suffocated, Centre sat on industrial emission norms drafted in 2014

‘Completely disgusting,’ said the Supreme Court in October, pulling up the environment ministry.

For nearly four years, the Union environment ministry delayed notifying and enforcing standards that could have reduced industrial emissions in Delhi and helped contain the pollution crisis in the National Capital Region.

These standards would have capped the levels of sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide that industrial units are allowed to release in the air. Formed during the combustion of fuels, whether in car engines or industrial smelters, these oxides create smog and acid rain, adversely affecting human health.

India lacked any regulations on industrial emissions of these two hazardous oxides until the Delhi pollution crisis prompted the Central Pollution Control Board to begin drafting standards in 2014 that would be applicable nationally.

Delhi has 37 categories of industries. For two categories – fertiliser units and nitric acid manufacturers – the pollution board finalised the emission standards in February 2014, which were then sent to the environment ministry for approval. But the ministry failed to approve and notify these standards through 2015 and 2016.

By June 2017, the pollution board had drafted emission standards for another 16 categories of industries. The ministry notified the standards for nine of these 16 categories in July, declaring that two categories of industries did not release nitrogen and sulphur oxides in the air and hence did not require any emission standards.

But the ministry failed to act on the standards drafted in February 2014 for fertiliser and nitric acid units until the Supreme Court reprimanded it on October 24. “This is a completely disgusting state of affairs and this is hardly the way in which the ministry ought to function, if it is expected to perform its duties sincerely,” the court observed, while hearing a petition on the burning of low quality fuels in Delhi’s industries.

On October 30, the ministry finally issued a draft notification laying down standards for 24 categories of industries, including fertiliser and nitric acid units. However, it has kept open a two-month window for public comments and suggestions, which means the final notification remains on hold till December 31.

Disappointed with the ministry’s inaction, the Supreme Court has ordered that irrespective of whether the ministry issues a final notification, starting January 1, 2018, industries will have to abide by the emission standards drafted by the pollution board.

Even if industries meet this deadline, by the time the standards come into force, a significant part of the winter – when pollution in Delhi is at its peak – will be over.

Not a new crisis

For over a week now, severe smog has engulfed Delhi, with ten-fold higher levels of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere than what is considered safe for human health. Both nitrogen and sulphur oxides contribute to the formation of fine particles that invade lungs, leading to adverse respiratory reactions such as inflammation and constriction of the airways and symptoms of asthma.

The pollution crisis has sparked a political blame game, with the Delhi government sparring with the governments of Haryana and Punjab over the burning of farm stubble, one of the sources of pollution.

The Delhi government has also sought to control vehicular pollution by introducing the Odd-Even scheme, whereby vehicles with number plates ending on odd numbers can ply on the city roads only on alternate days.

But a large part of Delhi’s pollution emanates from industrial units in and around the national capital. According to a study by the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, industries and thermal power plants account for almost 98% of the sulphur oxide and 60% of the nitrogen oxide emitted in Delhi’s air everyday.

The onus for containing this pollution lies with the Union government, since emission standards for large industrial units are set by the Union environment ministry. The role of the state governments is limited to enforcing them.

As Scroll.in reported earlier, the Union government enjoys blanket legal powers to take emergency and long-term steps to tackle air pollution anywhere in the country. Under the Environment Protection Act of 1986, the Union environment ministry can close, prohibit or regulate any industry, operation or process, including setting the legally enforceable standards for them.

Its failure to notify emissions standards for nitrogen and sulphur oxides, despite worsening levels of air pollution in Delhi, is glaring, say environmentalists. The widespread use of dirty and toxic fuels is fouling up the air, said Anumita Roychowdhury, Executive Director of Centre for Science and Environment. “Any delay will worsen our health costs,” she added.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.