New Federal Air Quality Guidelines, a Rise in Extreme Weather Events, and New Climate Research Studies in India

New Federal Air Quality Guidelines, a Rise in Extreme Weather Events, and New Climate Research Studies in India

Listed below are some of the notable events that took place in India between July and October 2020, offering glimpses of India’s initiatives and new response measures to better build back the country in a post-COVID-19 period.

New Federal Air Quality Guidelines

India has long been troubled by the practice of stubble burning of agricultural residue by farmers following harvest time. This practice has led to air pollution reaching near- hazardous levels from October to January (this period may well extend depending on the direction of the wind and absence of rain), resulting in serious health issues with schools and communities. People wearing masks in an effort to avoid inhaling polluted air is becoming commonplace. One of the most severely and adversely affected by such pollution are the poor; those living in financially unstable and challenging situations often lack access to health care and social services.

Adopting a holistic remedy method, the federal government finally set up a constitutional body through an ordinance passed by the Indian parliament stipulating a jail term of 5 years and a fine of INR 1 crore (USD $150,000) for those who default the federal guidelines. Such a measure is expected to yield the intended outcomes to keep the air clean to measurable levels and help millions to avoid hard times, including breathing difficulties. The ordinance has gone under consultation and coordination with numerous inter-ministerial offices, but the Environment Ministry will be in charge of enforcing the provisions of the ordinance—some of which are under finalization. Some of the publically discussed provisions of the ordinance include:

  1. All prior laws and provisions will be subsumed under the new ordinance with ministry of environment being the nodal agency;
  2. Punitive actions resulting in financial resources will be ploughed back into further green research and development activities;
  3. Trained scouts will be appointed for monitoring of stubble burning and report back to local committees for further actions, and;
  4. Financially incentivising farmers to encourage them to shit to environment friendly farm waste practices.

(https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/stubble-burning-president-promulgates-ordinance-to-deal-with-air-pollution-in-delhi-ncr-162819).

New Climate Research Studies

Leading Climate Change related studies include works from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI, formerly a Tata Group funded think thank) and the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE, environmental think tank). These two notable organizations—led by professional scientists—have led national and international discussions on climate science with TERI even winning a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and chairing the IPCC from 2002-2015.

The two reports, respectively, outline current state of India’s environmental landscape and forecast data for electricity demand by sector and by sub region, and offer pathways on collective actions and coordinated efforts.

CSE recently released its flagship report (State of India’s Environment Report, 2020) explaining what issues, challenges, and solutions India must consider in order to combat the climate crisis. The report mentions about 19 extreme weather conditions that have claimed the lives of 1400 people and displaced nearly 5 million as rain, cyclones, and draughts persist. The report also breaks down 2011 census data on migrants to highlight internal migration of 45 million people and 2 million migrants moving purely for employment purposes from rural to urban areas.

In its latest publication (Bending the Curve: 2025 Forecasts for Electricity Demand by Sector and the State in the Light of the Covid-19 Epidemic), TERI outlines electricity demand by both state and sector in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also builds on models and projections of electricity demand, providing interesting scenarios and policy recommendations. TERI recommendations sub-regional and federal governments’ improve policy measures and frameworks to deploy their resources and obtain low carbon scenarios.

Weather Events

Since July, India has weathered extreme natural events throughout the country.

Delhi saw torrential rains in the month of September, a period when rains of such magnitude and proportions were unheard of in past years. Sudden rains lasting over 10 hours flooding roads, access points, sewerage and other choke points also damaged houses resulting in the washing away of live stocks causing serious losses of material, economic resources and human lives. (https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/200820/delhi-ncr-region-continues-to-reel-under-massive-floods.html)

Patna, capital of Bihar, experienced heavy rains, submerged crops, homes, railway tracks and the cutting off of the capital’s main road from other parts of the state. Unfortunately this resulted in crop damage and the loss of livestock as well as human lives. (https://www.firstpost.com/india/bihar-floods-no-rain-for-days-but-parts-of-patna-remain-waterlogged-residents-rue-lack-of-infrastructure-drainage-management-7465291.html)

Chennai, capital of Tamil Nadu, experienced large scale flooding, an uncommon phenomenon in the region. This resulted in spread of water born diseases for the poor and the vulnerable, the washing away of houses, and loss of life. (https://weather.com/en-IN/india/news/news/2020-10-30-chennai-floods-as-northeast-monsoon-rains-lash-tamil-nadu-capital)

Mumbai, capital of the state of Maharashtra, has periodically been experiencing sudden torrential rains, high tides and sea level rise. This has resulted in drowning almost half of the city and bringing economic activity to a standstill. (https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/2020-mumbai-floods-who-to-blame_in_5f36334ac5b6959911e26b1a)


Activity rating: *** Right Direction


Key contact details:

Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister of Finance, Government of India, New Delhi, Telephone: +91-11-23793791/2, Email: appointment.fm@gov.in

Mr. Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, New Delhi, Telephone: +91-23384340, Email: mefcc@gov.in

Mr. Arjun Munda, Minister of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi.

Telephone: +91-11-23388482, Email: arjun.munda@gov.in

Ms. Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi Telephone: +91-11-29955778, Email: sunita@cseindia.org

Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi Telephone: +91-11-24682100, Email: ajay.mathur@teriindia.org


This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard India Country Manager Pooran Chandra Pandey

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