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India's Urban Environment: Air/Water Pollution and Pollution Abatement
This article focuses on air and water pollution in India's cities, provides empirical evidence to demonstrate the seriousness of the challenges, discusses the relevant policies of national and local governments that are used to address the challenges, and presents relevant political economy issues related to introducing pollution taxes or other policies aimed at building green cities.
We thank the Asian Development Bank and Guanghua Wan for the opportunity to work on this paper. We gratefully acknowledge comments received at a workshop on Green Urbanisation in Asia which was held in Manila, the Philippines, in April 2012. Support received from Public Affairs Centre and Delhi University for completing this work is acknowledged and appreciated. Any errors remain ours.
Kala Seetharam Sridhar ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) is with the Public Affairs Centre in Bangalore. Surender Kumar ( email@example.com ) is with the Department of Business Economics at the University of Delhi.
Growing urbanisation is posing serious environmental concerns in India in terms of changing land use pattern, increasing carbon emissions, solid waste generation and disposal, air and water pollution, and poor sanitation amenities. In this article we focus on air and water pollution and the pollution abatement policy.
Urban Air and Water Pollution
Carbon emissions have been increasing in India in recent years and they are higher in urban areas. We nd that average per capita carbon emissions are higher in metropolitan cities (being 1.19 tonnes per capita as compared to only 0.90 tonnes per capita in non-metropolitan cities), and the national average is 0.93 tonnes per capita (Table 1, p 23). This is because larger cities have more polluting activity such as emissions from public and private transport. However, it should be noted that municipal corporation level emissions as a percentage of city-level emissions are much higher in non- metropolitan areas than in metropolitan areas. Corporation-level emissions include those emanating from street lighting, water supply and sewage systems, transportation, building and other facilities. This is plausible because smaller city corporations lack adequate technology to minimise carbon emissions while providing various public services such as water supply, sewerage, street lighting and transportation.
The concerns related to local air pollution are serious. Table 2 (p 23) reveals the increasing level of average air and water pollution level in India, beginning 1990. Of the 127 cities/towns monitored under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme, 101 cities report at least one pollutant exceeding the annual average air quality standard (CPCB 2009).
Household borne efuents contribute a substantial proportion of water pollution in India. A 2007 study nds that the discharge of untreated sewage is the single most important cause for pollution of surface and groundwater in India. Nearly 12.47 million (18.5%) households do not have access to a drainage net work, while 26.83 million (39.8%) households are connected to open drains. In respect of underground sewerage, the avail ability is 30% and 15% in notied and nonnotied slums, respectively.
A majority of the government-owned sewage treatment plants remain shut most of the time due to improper design or poor maintenance or lack of reliable electricity supply to operate them, together with absentee employees and poor management. Wastewater generated in these areas normally percolates into the soil or evaporates. Uncollected waste accumulates in the urban areas, cause unhygienic conditions and release pollutants that leach to surface and groundwater (CPCB 2008). Inadequate discharge of untreated domestic/municipal wastewater has resulted in the contamination of 75% of all surface water across India.
City corporations, municipalities and panchayats responsible for water supply and sanitation are supposed to treat efuents as per the national water pollution standards or the Minimum National Standards (MINAS). However, a major portion of efuents, about 70%, goes untreated. Table 3 provides the summary statistics of wastewater generation and treatment in India in 2008. Note that Delhi and Mumbai account for about 69% of the treatment capacity of metropolitan cities.
Municipal authorities need to recognise the problem of pollution of water bodies and pay attention to their liability to set up sewage treatment plants in cities and towns to prevent this pollution. Conditioning intergovernmental scal transfers from state governments to local bodies on the basis of wastewater treated could be an effective instrument for strengthening the nancial position of municipalities (Kumar and Managi 2010; Murty and Kumar 2004). This will not only strengthen the nancial position of local governments but also help address the problem of domestic water pollution.
The Indian government's approach towards prevention and control of pollution has been mostly in the nature of legislation-based command and control measures while natural resource management has been largely carried out through programmes supported by allocations from the central (e g, programmes of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources, Ministry of Agriculture) and state budgets. The use of scal instruments (other than expenditure policy) in environmental policy has been rather limited even though the need to employ economic and scal policy instruments for pollution control and management of natural resources has gained steady recognition during the 1990s (Murty and Kumar 2004; Kumar and Managi 2009).
The Supreme Court of India has played a catalytic role for greening cities in the country. The Court identied critically polluted cities and suggested an action plan to reduce the level of pollution in these cities. In 1996, Delhi was the rst city ordered to develop an action plan while the most recent action plans were mandated in 2003. To date, 17 cities have been given orders to develop action plans. In light of the Supreme Court's reputation as a driver of environmental reform in India as well as the overwhelming approval of Delhi's compressed natural gas (CNG) bus programme as part of its action plan, many believe these policies have made signicant gains in improving air quality. The Court mandated the use of catalytic converters in vehicles, a common means to reduce vehicular pollution across the world due to the low cost of its end-of-the-pipe technology. In 1995, the Court ordered that all new petrol-fuelled cars in the four major metros (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai) were to betted with converters. In 1998, the policy was extended to 45 other cities. It is plausible that this regulation could reduce the air pollution level in cities.
The combustion of oil products, which mainly occurs in the transport sector, is responsible for about 13% of CO2 emissions in the country. Efciency-enhancing measures in the transport sector are leading to dual benets of both local air pollution abatement and reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Emission standards have been prescribed for vehicles. The implantation of vehicle emissions standards results in signicant costs savings in terms of health benets (Table 4). India has taken substantial initiatives to make the transport sector less emission intensive (Economic Survey 2012). The commercial manufacture of battery-operated vehicles has begun in India with a view to promoting low/no carbon emitting vehicles.
Further, to reduce urban local air pollution in Delhi, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has provided a major boost to public transport, especially in the most congested sections of the city. In a short span of 5-10 years, a citywide network is expected to provide a major mass transport alternative. Similarly, in other cities mass transit systems are in the process of being implemented, e g, the metro-bus project in Bangalore. Some large cities (e g, Bangalore and Chennai) have started to introduce exclusive lanes for buses and Delhi is experimenting with high capacity bus corridors. Several other cities are also planning similar initiatives. Srinivasan (2005) reports that in India CO2 emissions from transportation per passenger kilometre are 16 grams against the 118 and 193 grams in EU-15 and the United States, respectively.
In the Policy Statement for Abatement of Pollution, released in 1992, the MoEF noted the need for a mix of policy instruments in the form of regulations, legislation, agreements and nancial incentives to address environmental concerns. The MoEF constituted task forces in 1995 and 2001 to evaluate the scope for market-based instruments (MBIs) for industrial pollution abatement. The task forces recommended explicit incorporation of MBIs in pollution control laws, greater reliance on economic penalties in the short- and medium-term, and completely replacing criminal penalties by MBIs in the long run.
In order to encourage the shift of polluting industries from congested urban areas, capital gains made in moving from urban to other areas are exempt from taxes if these are used for acquiring land and building production facilities in non-urban areas. Excise and custom duty exemptions or reductions are given for the use of environmentally-friendly raw materials.
The actual use of scal incentives in the country has, however, been rather limited. These take the form of tax concessions for the adoption of pollution control equipment and a somewhat more structured policy for the promotion of renewable energy technologies. Tax incentives are usually specied for identied abatement technologies and activities, not for providing dynamic incentives for technological innovation and diffusion. Also, since most of these are end-of-the-pipe treatment technologies, they do not promote more efcient use of resources. There are some provisions for the use of levies, cess, nes, and penalties for polluters, though their implementation and effectiveness could do with improvement.
In the last few years, the Government of India has expressed the desire to use markets for controlling pollution in the country. India has levied a cess on coal at the rate of Rs 50 (~US$ 1) per tonne, which is applicable to both domestically produced and imported coal. This money goes into a National Clean Energy Fund that is used to fund research, innovative projects in clean energy technologies, and environmental remedial programmes. To control the industrial pollution of mono nitrogen oxide and particulate matters, the government is going to start emission permit markets as pilot projects in three states, viz, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
Similarly, to increase energy efciency in energy-intensive industries in a cost-effective manner, the Bureau of Energy Efciency has launched trading in energy efciency certicates known as the Perform Achieve Trade (PAT) programme. The Electricity Act 2003 together with the National Electricity Policy (NEP) 2005 and the tariff policy (TP) mandate promotion of electricity generation from renewable sources and encourage the use of markets. The initiatives of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) range from determining preferential tariff for renewable energy and creating a facilitative framework of grid connectivity through the Indian Electricity Grid Code to developing market-based instruments like the Renew able Energy Certicate (REC). The REC mechanism is seen as a major initiative towards promoting renewable energy and encouraging competition in this segment since it addresses the twin objectives of harnessing renewable energy sources in areas with high potential and compliance with Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) by resource-decit states. This important framework was formally launched in November 2010, heralding a new era in the development of green energy in India (Economic Survey 2012).
Moreover, the Government of India has recently launched the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat (NMSH) under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The NMSH would also help in greening Indian cities. The mission promotes energy efciency in the residential and commercial sectors by bridging the knowledge gap on designing green infrastructure by ensuring better implementation of government schemes and by offering appropriate nancial incentives. It also asks for developing a comprehensive approach to managing water, solid waste and wastewater that takes into account the potential for recycling, reuse and energy creation. Moreover, the refurbishing of urban transportation to increase usage and energy efciency through a combination of promotional, regulatory and scal measures, including mandatory fuel efciency standards to be notied shortly, would be a step in greening the Indian cities.
Results also show that the emissions intensity of India's gross domestic product (GDP) declined by more than 30% during the period 1994-2007 due to the efforts and policies that India has pro actively put in place.
At the sub-national level several municipal corporations have taken the lead in reducing carbon emissions. Some cities such as Gorakhpur, Surat and Indore have taken up pilot projects for adaptation and mitigation of the impact of climate change in their cities. Indore, which has been affected by climate change in the form of rising temperatures and increasing incidence of non-monsoon drought, has identied potential pilot activities such as underground water storage and a volunteer-based water supply availability tracking system. Various carbon emission-reducing processes are gaining carbon credits in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). Technologies involved in reducing electricity consumption in streetlights, use of light emitting diode (LED) lighting source, Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) mass transit system, green technologies and e-governance are part of this process. AMC has agreements with several companies with a prot-sharing arrangement for carbon credit trade.
Summary and Conclusions
India's carbon emissions are currently not alarming given the low share of manufacturing in its GDP, but are likely to increase with the increasing role of manufacturing, urbanisation, rising incomes and the use of personal vehicles. The Government of India has resorted to a market-based approach to contain pollution. In addition, at the sub-national level, cities are also doing their bit to reduce carbon emissions and increasing green urbanisation by making their buildings more energy efcient.
The more immediate problems of India's cities relate to inadequate solid waste management, poor sanitation and sewerage, which lead to the pollution of groundwater aquifers. While a new National Urban Sanitation Policy has been drafted and innovative methods are being adopted by cities with respect to solid waste management (e g, waste segregation), the challenges that remain to be addressed relate to the nancing of the huge urban infrastructure backlog along with that for future requirements.
References can be viewed at: ( http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/2...nvironment.pdf )
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