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‘Air pollution in rural India: Ignored but not absent’

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    9th Feb, 2021

Air pollution is a transboundary problem, it transcends rural and urban boundaries. But the issue is rarely discussed and action plans are rigid. Rural air pollution has usually been ignored by scientists and policy makers alike for the longest time. 

Context

Air pollution is a transboundary problem, it transcends rural and urban boundaries. But the issue is rarely discussed and action plans are rigid. Rural air pollution has usually been ignored by scientists and policy makers alike for the longest time. 

About

Sources of pollution in rural areas

  • Vehicular pollution: While the extent of vehicular pollution may not be the same in villages as in cities, the same sources richly contribute to pollution in rural areas.
  • Toxic air, effluent discharge due to operation of heavy industries: Most heavy industries now operate beyond city limits — in rural belts — and the local population is the recipient of toxic air and effluent discharge, often due to weak oversight.
  • Stubble burning: Northern India faces seasonal issue of stubble burning, which, despite media attention and Delhi’s annual air apocalypse, has continued unabated.
  • Agricultural pollution: Agriculture is a rich source of reactive nitrogen in India, as only 30 per cent of the nitrogen is taken up by plants. The rest is released into the atmosphere, soil and water.

Weak monitoring network

  • Monitoring stations disproportionately located: India has 804 manual monitoring stations under the National Ambient Monitoring Programme (NAMP) and 274 real-time monitoring stations (CAAQMS). Most of these are disproportionately located in tier-1 cities; a few are in tier-2 cities.
    • A quick analysis shows that real-time monitoring is nearly absent in rural areas.
    • Additionally, even cities in Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Manipur don’t have a single real-time monitoring station.
  • The NAMP network of manual monitors fare only marginally better. It does cover all states and includes even smaller cities and towns, but 96 per cent monitoring stations are within the city boundaries and do not cover surrounding rural hamlets.
  • Out of the 804 stations, only 26 are located in rural villages. Names of villages and their tehsils have been provided in the NAMP list. Two of these stations are in Dadra and Nagar Haveli among the Union territories.

Recent government schemes

  • National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative: In 2009, the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy launched the National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative and installed about 27 lakh units by 2017.
  • Unnat Chulha Abhiyan Programme: Unnat Chulha Abhiyan Programme was launched in 2014, wherein both family and community cookstoves using biomass briquettes were distributed.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY): Launched in 2016, it is a countrywide initiative to increase use of clean cooking fuels among those below the poverty line.
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