Major environmental problems facing India

India, the global host of World Environment Day being observed on Tuesday, continues to grapple with several environmental issues like air and water pollution, and those related to plastic and solid waste management, which demand swift action to protect nature.

India’s top environment watchdog National Green Tribunal, which has been a hub of environmental litigations since 2010, is flooded with cases relating to cleaning and rejuvenation of Ganga and Yamuna rivers, air pollution from various sources, burning of agricultural residue in fields, management of solid and plastic waste, cutting of trees and deforestation, groundwater extraction and others.

Ganga rejuvenation

*The green panel has divided the work of cleaning the river into different segments — Gomukh to Haridwar, Haridwar to Kanpur, Kanpur to the border of Uttar Pradesh, the border of UP to the border of Jharkhand and from the border of Jharkhand to the Bay of Bengal.

*A slew of directions to rejuvenate Ganga like declaring 100 metres from the edge of the river ‘No Development Zone’ between Haridwar and Unnao and prohibiting dumping of waste within 500 metres from the river passed.

*Complete prohibition on disposal of municipal solid waste, e-waste or bio-medical waste on the floodplains or into the river.

*After Haridwar and Unnao, the NGT has now shifted focus to clean the next stretch of the river passing through Allahabad and Varanasi.

Yamuna cleaning

*Anyone found polluting the Yamuna by throwing material, including religious items, will face a fine of Rs 5,000 and the fine will rise to Rs 50,000 for those dumping construction waste into the river.

*With regard to industrial pollution, the NGT directed that all industrial units must have a fully operational effluent treatment plant.

*Prohibition on any kind of construction on Yamuna floodplains and agriculture activities.

*Ban on immersion of idols except those made from bio-degradable material.

Air pollution

*Ban on diesel vehicles over 10 years of age and 15-year-old petrol vehicles from plying in Delhi-NCR region.

*Action plan divided into three categories to tackle pollution. The first category starts when PM2.5 and PM10 levels are above 300 and 500 microgrammes per cubic metre. The measures include mechanised sweeping and public awareness campaigns on pollution.

*Category II measures will come into effect when PM2.5 and PM10 cross 500 and 800 microgrammes per cubic metre even as category I measures continue. Category II measures include wetting of fly-ash ponds, ban on DG sets and sprinkling water along with mechanised sweeping of roads.

*Category III measures will kick in when PM2.5 and PM10 cross 600 and 1,000 microgrammes per cubic metre. The measures include ban on entry of trucks into Delhi and putting a stop on civil engineering construction.

Burning of agricultural residue in fields

*NGT directs state governments to take coercive and punitive action against persistent defaulters of crop residue burning including withdrawal of assistance provided to farmers.

*Small land owners having less than two acres of land will have to pay Rs 2,500, medium land owners holding over two acres and less than five acres will have to pay Rs 5,000 and those owning over five acres will have to pay Rs 15,000 per incident of crop burning towards environment compensation.

*State governments to provide machinery free of cost to farmers having less than two acres of land, to farmers with medium land size at a cost of Rs 5,000 and for large land holding farmers at Rs 15,000.

Management of solid and plastic waste

*Delhi produces over 14,000 tonnes of solid-waste daily.

*Identification of additional land for setting up of alternative landfill sites besides Okhla, Bhalswa and Ghazipur.

* Ban on the use of disposable plastic in Delhi and NCR.

*Waste to enrgy plants to “strictly follow” the prescribed norms provided in the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.

*Environment compensation of Rs 10,000 will be imposed on the vegetable vendors and slaughter houses for throwing garbage in public places.

Besides these issues, the green body has also taking a serious view of rampant deforestation, and banned cutting of trees across the country without obtaining environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest or the other authorities concerned.

It has also directed domestic households and industrial units to apply for permission from the Central Ground Water Authority for extracting ground water.