CSE presents charter of environmental demands on World Environment Day
Calls for a ‘green’ stimulus package to help us retain our blue skies and clean lungs
During the pandemic-induced lockdown period, PM 2.5 levels across six major Indian cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru – dropped a phenomenal 45-88 per cent. The drop in Delhi-NCR was of about 66-79 per cent. However, with the nation opening up in lockdown 4, pollution has started registering a comeback. In the six cities, there was a two-six times increase in PM 2.5 levels during lockdown 4; Delhi-NCR saw has seen a more significant rise of four-eight times.
“What this tells us is that the nation needed an intervention at such a massive scale – where movement across the country was completely restricted, and all industry stopped functioning – to make our skies blue and our air and lungs clean. It tells us that there should be no question, therefore, on the key sources of air pollution in our country: emissions from vehicles and industry. And it tells us that we need to set down an agenda for action which will help us retain this lockdown advantage of blue skies and clean lungs,” said Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), at a webinar here today.
Titled ‘An Environmental Agenda for the Future’, the webinar was organised by CSE to mark the World Environment Day. On this occasion, CSE presented a charter of environmental demands to ensure a better, cleaner and more sustainable environment, life and air quality after the lockdown is lifted.
Speaking of CSE’s ongoing analysis of air quality during the lockdown period, Anumita Roychowdhury, the Centre’s executive director-research and advocacy, says: “During the lockdown period, overall mean speed on the roads of Delhi-NCR increased by 15 km/hour. Farm fires did not create the same kind of havoc that they do every year. Daily peak levels of nitrogen dioxide remained flat. We must move immediately to ensure that pollution and congestion levels do not go back to ‘normal’ – what they were before the lockdown.”
What is CSE demanding?
- Do not delay in implementing the BS VI norms for vehicles. Trucks and heavy-duty vehicles, which are one of the major contributors to pollution, need to be moved to BS VI – use financial stimulus to scrap BS IV-run vehicles and shift them to BS VI.
- Introduce cleaner battery-powered para-transit and public transport – provide financial support for the shift, starting with autorickshaws and taxis in regions where CNG is not available.
- Re-start public transport. Implement the global best practices for ensuring safety and hygiene.
- Use financial stimulus to augment public transport in cities at scale and with speed.
- Cycling and walking must become part of the ‘new normal’ – introduce measures to encourage and incentivize cycling and walking.
- Bring natural gas under GST to reduce the tax burden and incentivize cleaner fuel.
- Remove coal from OGL so that imports can be regulated and use can be monitored.
- Ensure power plants across the country meet the 2015 emission norms – introduce a policy that will ensure that only those plants which are clean can sell electricity.
Says Narain: “The COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdown that has followed have disrupted our lives and lifestyles at an unbelievable scale and speed. We need to implement our action agenda at a similar scale and pace – only then will be able to breathe easy.”
By Ms. Pratyusha Mukherjee, an active Journalist working for BBC and other media outlets, also a special contributor to IBG News & IBG NEWS BANGLA. In her illustrated career she has covered many major events.