Down To Earth (June 01-15-2024)


  • Economic growth must take into account needs of energy transition, climate mitigation, with action aligned as per India’s 2030 climate goals.

New Government’s Agenda: Vision 2030 for India

  • As India strides into the third decade of the 21st century, the new government has unveiled its ambitious ‘Vision 2030’—a comprehensive plan aimed at catapulting the nation towards unprecedented growth and development.
  • As India embarks on this ambitious journey, Vision 2030 promises to transform the country into a global powerhouse by fostering growth that is sustainable, inclusive, and forward-looking.

India’s Climate Goals of 2030

  • India has set ambitious climate goals to be achieved by 2030, aligning with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its own Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. These include:
  • Increase Non-Fossil Electricity Generation: India plans to boost its non-fossil electricity generation capacity to 500 GW by 2030.
  • Renewable Energy: The country is working towards meeting 50% of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030.
  • Carbon Emission Reduction: There’s a goal to reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion metric tons from now through 2030.
  • Carbon Intensity Reduction: India aims to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by at least 45% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
  • Net Zero by 2070: While this is a long-term goal, it’s part of India’s roadmap to achieve the target of net zero emissions by 2070.
  • Additional Carbon Sink: India has also committed to creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.
  • Inclusive Growth: At the heart of Vision 2030 lies inclusive growth. The government aims to ensure that economic prosperity reaches every stratum of society.
  • Initiatives to improve healthcare, education, and digital connectivity are expected to bridge the urban-rural divide, empowering citizens with equal opportunities.
  • Sustainable Development: Sustainability is another cornerstone of the agenda. With climate change posing a significant threat, India is set to focus on renewable energy sources, aiming to reduce carbon emissions and promote green technologies.
  • Infrastructure Leap: Infrastructure development is slated for a massive leap. Vision 2030 envisions state-of-the-art transportation networks, smart cities equipped with IoT technologies, and robust logistics frameworks to support India’s growing economy.
  • Technological Advancements: The government also recognizes the role of technology in shaping the future. Plans are underway to foster innovation in AI, robotics, and biotechnology, positioning India as a global hub for cutting-edge research and development.
  • Healthcare for All: A healthy nation is a productive nation. Vision 2030 emphasises universal healthcare access, with initiatives to expand healthcare infrastructure and make medical services more affordable.
  • Education & Skill Development: Education reforms are set to redefine learning outcomes. The focus will be on skill development, aligning education with market needs to create a workforce ready for the challenges of tomorrow.
  • Agricultural Reforms: Agriculture remains a vital sector for India’s economy. Vision 2030 includes plans for modernising agriculture with technology-driven solutions to increase productivity and ensure food security.

Focus Areas

  • Energy Transition: According to the NITI Aayog, India has made great strides in the field of renewable energy, with non-fossil fuels, excluding nuclear power, making up 43.12% of the total installed capacity. Installed capacity of solar power has increased twelvefold in the past eight years.
  • It means India is on course to secure 50% of its power capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030 — a commitment made under the Paris Agreement 2015 on climate change.
  • Currently, despite making up 43.12% of the country’s energy capacity, non-fossil fuel sources only generate 23.4% of the total electricity. While the share of coal is projected to decline in the overall energy mix, integrating greater shares of renewable power into the grid will be key.
  • For this, necessary investments in grid flexibility, transmission and distribution infrastructure and energy storage technologies like pumped hydro and batteries will be crucial.

Action Points

  • Develop detailed emission-reduction plans for all sectors with short- and long-term targets.
  • Improve climate adaptation with standardised framework, methodology to evaluate climate risks, vulnerability, development programmes.
  • Prioritise resource security in the domestic green transformation through policy coherence and clear strategies.
  • Prioritise resource security in the domestic green transformation through policy coherence and clear strategies.
  • Devote an adequate budget to the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change.

Plan for Decarbonisation

  • By 2019, India reduced the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33% of the levels recorded in 2005. It means that the country is on track to achieve its 2030 target to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 45%.
  • At the same time, India aims to grow its economy over eight times its present size by 2047.
  • It means the country needs a formidable sectorwise decarbonisation plan aligned with domestic development imperatives.
  • India submitted a Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) to the UNFCCC in 2022 with guidelines for different sectors, but it needs detailed sectoral emissions reduction plans with short, medium, and long-term targets.
  • India should proactively identify the gaps in implementation of decarbonisation measures, as well as the finance and technologies needed.
  • India submitted a Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) to the UNFCCC in 2022 with guidelines for different sectors, but it needs detailed sectoral emissions reduction plans with short, medium, and long-term targets.
  • Solutions and institutional interventions should ideally be determined at the domestic level and guide global financial and technical support for the country, rather than the other way around.
  • It can harness multiple co-benefits, from alleviating the impacts of air pollution by reducing thermal power dependence to addressing the risk of stranded assets. It will help lower the need for climate adaptation by avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis, and minimise the blow to economic and trade competitiveness in a changing global trade and climate regime.

Build Climate Resilience

  • As per India’s Third National Communication to UNFCCC the country needs US $679 billion until 2030 for climate adaptation. Mechanisms such as the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change are aimed at enabling the states and Union Territories that are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts to meet the cost of adaptation.
  • However, budgetary allocations for the fund have not kept pace with the growing needs—the past two financial years have not seen any budgetary allocation at all.
  • While there have been growing allocations for mitigation mechanisms in recent years, it is important for the government to prioritise adaptation needs of the country.
  • In the Third National Communication, India highlights that most risk assessment studies focus solely on hazards. Improving adaptation research requires a standardised framework and methodology to evaluate climate risks, vulnerability and effectiveness of development programmes through government investment, community impact studies, building the capacity of local administrations and technological interventions to boost resilience, particularly in vulnerable sectors like medium and small enterprises and agriculture.

Address Geopolitical Issues

  • India’s climate ambitions are susceptible to various external pressures, from the geopolitics of energy and industry to the global competition to control the supply chains for critical minerals and green technologies. Resource realism is at the forefront of international politics.
  • According to the IEA, China produces nearly 85% of the world’s rare earth oxides, from which rare earth elements are obtained.
  • Countries are increasingly recognising the significant supply risk posed by such excessive concentration of production and processing, that extends to the supply chains of solar equipment and electric vehicles, the majority of which are concentrated in China.
  • The West is shielding itself from this onslaught through subsidies with which India cannot compete, and also resorting to mechanisms such as the EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), which may hurt India’s trade competitiveness.
  • In light of these challenges, the country’s foreign policy should prioritise resource security in the domestic green transformation. Policy coherence and clear strategies for onshore manufacturing of key technology components, diversification of supply chains for raw materials and appropriate challenging of parochial trade actions masquerading as climate protection will be key.
  • In a climate-risked and conflict-ridden world, India has a unique opportunity to fill the current vacuum in climate leadership by converging its international rhetoric at climate forums with clear and bold domestic action.



  • Clean energy sectors need demand-driven markets and domestic industries that can cater to the entire value chain.


  • India’s renewable energy push has not just helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions from thermal power generation, but also fuelled economic development and improved electricity access and security.
  • Globally, India now ranks fourth in renewable energy capacity, with 145 GW of installed capacity (excluding large hydropower), as per data with the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
  • Government programmes in bioenergy, wind and solar power have driven these advancements.

Compressed Biogas (CBG)

  • It is a non-fossil fuel produced from feedstock such as agricultural residue and solid waste, is a cleaner alternative to imported Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) (CBG and CNG have similar properties and calorific values).
  • India aims to establish 5,000 CBG projects across the country under the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) Scheme.

Issues with CBG and related Solution

  • Many CBG plants are operating below their designed capacity. Limited CNG infrastructure curbs potential to extend gas pipelines to CBG plants, hampering gas sales.
  • Insufficient feedstock procurement impedes operations. CBG sees erratic biomass supply because of a scarcity in machinery for agro-residue harvesting.
  • people are unaware of Fermented Organic Manure (FOM), a by-product of CBG.
  • The Reserve Bank of India has classified CBG as a priority sector for lending, yet banks show little interest in financing these projects, citing low profit margins and lack of standardisation.
  • Several banks demand high collateral for loans, with interest rates as high as 11.5%.
  • Expanding the gas pipeline around the plants can ensure complete gas offtake. In rural areas, incentivising the conversion of tractors and two-wheelers to use CBG can create a demand for the fuel.
  • Well-directed incentives to promote domestic manufacturing of such machinery can be supported via subsidies.
  • Encouraging farmer-producer organisations to act as feedstock aggregators can help replace third-party entities, while ensuring profit-sharing among farmers.
  • Establishing a government-backed guarantee programme aiming to incentivise financial institutions to offer loans more readily.

Wind Energy

  • Wind contributes 32% or 45 GW of the country’s total renewable energy capacity, second to solar power.
  • India has the potential to generate 700 GW from wind power and the Union government aims to expand wind capacity to 172 GW by 2030 (140 GW from onshore projects and 32 GW from offshore projects).
  • However, India added just 2.2 GW in 2023. At this rate, India will need 57 years to achieve 172 GW.

Issues with Wind Energy and Related Solution

  • Seasonalities: Wind power generation varies across the year as a result of seasonal patterns. Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka say that wind power generation is usually at its peak in May, June and July, and at its lowest in December and January.
  • To ensure that fluctuations in the wind energy supply do not hamper business, the Union Government introduced an annual energy banking system in 1992, where the grid acts as the energy bank.
  • It allowed developers to inject their excess supply into the grid and withdraw during the deficit period.
  • However, in 2019, the government scrapped the system as the variable supply was leading to ‘grid imbalance’. Though a monthly banking system has since been in place, new developers do not find it attractive.
  • It can be improved by extending the scope of the energy bank to a few more months during the lean generation period.
  • Streamline Capacity Expansion: For instance, land acquisition is a significant hurdle for onshore wind projects that can be addressed by simplifying the acquisition process, clarifying land-use policies and ensuring equitable compensation for landowners.
  • In terms of offshore wind energy, India’s vast coastline holds the potential of generating 70 GW of wind power.
  • However, India does not have any offshore wind projects.
  • At the same time, rigorous Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and Mitigation Strategies must be in place to protect marine ecosystems.

Solar Energy

  • The installed capacity from solar has increased from 1.2 GW in financial year 2013-14 to 82 GW in 2023-24.
  • According to data with MNRE, the contribution of solar energy has increased to 6.5% of the total energy mix from less than 0.4% a decade ago.
  • Currently, rooftop solar contributes nearly 13 GW, with only 30% from the residential sector.

Issues with Solar Energy and Related Solution

  • Uneven Regional Concentration: According to MNRE, states such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana contribute nearly 80% of installed wind power capacity.
  • It leads to uneven regional concentration of solar generation in western and southern parts of the country.
  • High Land Footprint: Since installation of solar plants has a huge land footprint, promoting alternative sites for solar energy such as floating solar power plants, producing crops and solar energy from the same land, or using mini and micro grids in areas with social and agricultural challenges will be useful.
  • Efficient transmission of solar power needs to require strengthening the power system interface for enhanced grid stability.
  • Since gestation periods for setting up transmission corridors are higher than solar power plant construction, prior assessments to fast-track deployment can be undertaken.
  • Combining Solar and Wind Energy: India can prioritise projects that combine solar and wind energy in high-potential zones.
  • Such solar-wind hybrid plants can lead to round-the-clock generation of power—from wind in nighttime and from solar in daytime.
  • Renewable power integration in the grid can be seamless when coupled with battery storage devices that boost the domestic battery manufacturing industry that, in turn, would make tariffs cost-competitive.
  • Need to improve adoption rates in rooftop solar that require better operational management of power distribution companies (discoms), such as in billing efficiencies, power procurement practices and in technical aspects like residential metering arrangements (net, gross or virtual).



  • There is a need to reinvent the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to focus on fine particulate matter and trans-boundary pollution.

About the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

  • It was launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) aiming to improve air quality in 131 cities across India. These cities include both non-attainment cities and Million Plus Cities.
  • It emphasises real-time monitoring, data-driven decision-making, and targeted actions to improve air quality.
  • It is a comprehensive, time-bound strategy to prevent, control, and reduce air pollution. It focuses on achieving significant reductions in particulate matter (PM) concentrations.
  • Reduction Targets: The NCAP aims to achieve reductions of up to 40% in PM10 concentrations by 2025-26. Additionally, it sets annual targets for individual cities to improve air quality.
  • Annual Targets: Under the NCAP, 82 cities have been assigned annual targets of 3-15% reduction in PM10 levels.
  • Another 49 cities, supported by the XVth Finance Commission air quality grant, aim for a 15% reduction in annual average PM10 concentrations.
  • Achievements: As of FY 2021-22, several cities have made progress. For instance, Mumbai saw a 34% improvement in PM10 levels compared to the base year (2017-18).

Concerns and Issues and Related Solution

  • Implementation Gap: Despite the program’s objectives, there exists an implementation gap between policy formulation and on-ground execution. Coordinated efforts from various stakeholders, including local bodies, state governments, and central agencies, are crucial for effective implementation.
  • Lack of Stringent Targets: While the NCAP sets reduction targets for PM10 and PM2.5, some experts argue that these targets may not be stringent enough to address severe air pollution. Stricter standards and time-bound goals are necessary.
  • Data Quality and Monitoring: The reliability of air quality data remains a concern. Variability in monitoring equipment, personal biases, and inconsistent reporting can affect the accuracy of measurements. Ensuring high-quality data collection and validation is essential.
  • Regional Disparities: The NCAP focuses on specific cities, leaving out smaller towns and rural areas. Addressing air pollution holistically requires extending the program’s reach to all regions, especially those with emerging pollution hotspots.
  • Sectoral Approach: The NCAP primarily targets urban sources of pollution, such as vehicular emissions and industrial activities. However, addressing rural sources (e.g., biomass burning, construction dust) is equally critical. A comprehensive sectoral approach is needed.
  • Public Awareness and Participation: Public awareness about air quality and individual responsibility remains low. Engaging citizens through awareness campaigns, education, and community participation is essential for sustained improvement.
  • Technological Solutions: While the NCAP emphasises technology-based interventions (e.g., air quality forecasting, emission control measures), integrating nature-based solutions (e.g., urban greenery, green infrastructure) is equally important.
  • Funding and Resources: Adequate financial resources are essential for implementing pollution control measures. Ensuring sustained funding and efficient resource allocation is a challenge.
  • Coordination Among Agencies: Coordinating efforts among multiple agencies (CPCB, state pollution control boards, municipal bodies) is complex. Streamlining communication and decision-making processes is crucial.
  • Long-Term Vision: The NCAP’s success depends on a long-term vision beyond the current target year (2025-26). Continual monitoring, adaptive strategies, and policy updates are necessary.

Action Points

  • Fine particulate matter, PM2.5, is a more relevant health indicator to assess air quality than coarse particulate matter PM10.
  • Use PM2.5 as a benchmark in the NCAP.
  • Identify key sources of PM2.5 and plan measures to mitigate the pollution.
  • Cities that rank high under the NCAP for improved PM10 levels, do not necessarily rank high for policy action.
  • Cities cannot meet their clean air benchmark unless a regional approach is taken to reduce trans-boundary pollution.
  • Polluter pays principle must be followed while designing taxes, cesses, and pricing products for additional revenue, which can be used to create dedicated funds for targeted action.
  • Sector-specific funding strategies need to converge efficiently to accelerate action.



  • There is growing demand to hold polluting industries accountable for public health risks, environmental hazards, climate change; and provide them support for green transition.

About the Environmental Degradation

  • It refers to the deterioration of natural resources, ecosystems, and the overall environment due to human activities.
  • It is invariably linked to poor implementation of environmental norms and standards.
  • It includes:
  • Loss of Biodiversity: Deforestation, habitat destruction, and pollution lead to the loss of plant and animal species. This disrupts ecological balance and reduces biodiversity.
  • Air and Water Pollution: Emissions from industries, vehicles, and improper waste disposal contaminate air and water. Pollutants harm human health and ecosystems.
  • Soil Degradation: Soil erosion, salinization, and chemical contamination reduce soil fertility. Unsustainable agricultural practices exacerbate soil degradation.
  • Climate Change: Greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, affecting weather patterns, sea levels, and ecosystems.
  • Deforestation: Clearing forests for agriculture, urbanisation, and logging disrupts ecosystems, reduces carbon sinks, and impacts climate regulation.
  • Loss of Wetlands and Coastal Areas: Wetland drainage and coastal development lead to loss of critical habitats and exacerbate flooding risks.
  • Resource Depletion: Overexploitation of natural resources (e.g., water, minerals, fossil fuels) depletes finite resources.

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)

  • It is a crucial tool for assessing and mitigating the environmental impact of development projects.
  • Purpose: EIA evaluates the potential environmental consequences of proposed projects before they are approved. It ensures sustainable development by minimising adverse effects.
  • Process: Developers submit an EIA report detailing project specifics, potential impacts, and mitigation measures. Expert committees review the report.

Components of EIA

  • Scoping: Identifying key environmental issues related to the project.
  • Baseline Data Collection: Assessing existing environmental conditions.
  • Impact Prediction: Impact Prediction: Evaluating potential impacts on air, water, soil, biodiversity, and communities.
  • Mitigation Measures: Recommending steps to minimise adverse effects.
  • Public Consultation: Involving stakeholders in decision-making.
  • Legal Framework: India’s EIA process is governed by the EIA Notification, 2006, which outlines procedures for various project categories.


  • Inadequate Implementation: Enforcement gaps hinder effective EIA.
  • Lack of Public Participation: Meaningful engagement with affected communities is essential.
  • Cumulative Impact Assessment: Considering combined effects of multiple projects.
  • Recent Amendments: The EIA Notification has undergone amendments to address concerns and streamline the process.
  • According to the MoEFCC, some 110 changes have been introduced in the EIA notification simply through office memoranda in the past five years,, which do not involve public consultation. Some of these changes have been challenged in the National Green Tribunal.
  • Currently, project developers submit a six-monthly compliance report, which is uploaded on the Ministry's website or on the state portals. However, this information is hardly available in the public domain. The quality of these reports is also questionable and they are often incomplete.



  • Rising issue of air pollution has increasingly been becoming a serious concern, particularly in metro cities. Industries are always under scanner for air pollution.

Air Pollution

  • India faces significant challenges related to air pollution. Major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata consistently rank among the most polluted in the world. Factors contributing to air pollution include vehicular emissions, industrial activities, construction dust, and crop residue burning.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) plays a crucial role in monitoring and regulating air quality across the nation.

Water Pollution

  • It is another critical concern. Rivers like the Ganga and Yamuna face contamination due to industrial effluents, sewage discharge, and agricultural runoff.
  • The CPCB monitors water quality and enforces regulations to prevent further degradation.

Noise Pollution

  • Urban areas grapple with noise pollution from traffic, construction, and industrial activities.
  • Noise levels often exceed permissible limits, affecting human health and well-being.

Stack-Based Emissions

  • These emissions result from the combustion of fuels in industrial processes.
  • Strategies to combat stack emissions:
  • Switching to cleaner fuels.
  • Adopting cleaner and more efficient technologies.
  • Installing and maintaining pollution-control devices.
  • Setting technology-based standards for small- and medium-scale industries.
  • Exploring common combustion facilities (e.g., shared boilers) to reduce compliance burden.

Fugitive Emissions

  • These emissions do not originate from a single point source (like a chimney).
  • Major sources include stone crushers, mineral grinding, and brick kilns.
  • Addressing fugitive emissions
  • Develop detailed sectoral process-wise guidelines for pollution abatement.
  • Strictly implement these guidelines on the ground.
  • Address weaknesses in existing guidelines and improve implementation.

Other Emissions

  • Certain sectors (e.g., chemical and refinery) emit volatile organic compounds etc.

Legal Framework and Regulatory Bodies

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), established under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, plays a pivotal role.
  • The CPCB monitors air quality, sets emission standards, and formulates policies to combat pollution. Additionally, State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) operate at the regional level.
  • Air quality regulation and actions for abatement of air pollution is undertaken under various provisions of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 which prescribes the mechanism and authorities for handling the issue.

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

  • It performs functions as laid down under ‘The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974’ and ‘The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981’.
  • It has been playing a vital role in abatement and control of pollution in the country by generating environmental quality data, providing scientific information, formulating national policies and programmes, training and promoting awareness.

Initiatives on Air Pollution Mitigation

  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards envisaging 12 pollutants have been notified under EPA, 1986 and 115 emission/effluent standards for 104 different sectors of industries, besides 32 general standards for ambient air have also been notified.
  • The National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP), a nation-wide programme of ambient air quality monitoring, consists of Six hundred and Ninety-One (691) manual operating stations covering Three Hundred and three (303) cities/towns in twenty-nine (29) states and four (6) Union Territories of the country.
  • In addition, there are 86 real-time Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring stations (CAAQMS) in 57 cities. Delhi has 10 Manual Stations and 18 CAAQMS. 20 additional CAAQMS are at various stages of installation in Delhi.
  • The National Air Quality Index (AQI): There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe. Each of these categories is decided based on ambient concentration values of air pollutants and their likely health impacts (known as health breakpoints).
  • AQ sub-index and health breakpoints are evolved for eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hours) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.
  • Scheme of Assistance for Abatement of Pollution: It was conceptualised in 1992 during the 7th Five-Year Plan with the objective inter alia to strengthen the CPCB and SPCBs/PCCs for enforcing statutory provisions for pollution abatement.
  • It is a part of a centrally sponsored umbrella scheme of ‘Pollution Abatement’. The scheme of assistance for pollution abatement comprise of sub-components are Grants-in-Aid-General; Grants for creation of Capital Assets; Environment Health Cell (EHC) & Trade and Environment including North Eastern Region Grants-in-Aid-General and North Eastern Region Grants for creation of Capital Assets.
  • National Water Quality Monitoring Programme: The CPCB in association with SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) has established a water quality monitoring network. The network presently comprises 3000 stations in 29 states and 6 union Territories. 2101 locations are monitored on monthly basis whereas 893 locations on half yearly basis and 6 locations on yearly basis.
  • Interstate River Boundary Monitoring: Water Quality Monitoring of Rivers at the Interstate Borders is carried out at 86 locations on 42 rivers on quarterly basis though few river locations are monitored once in a year.
  • Waste Management: Improper waste disposal contributes to pollution. The CPCB emphasises proper waste management practices, including recycling and waste segregation.
  • There is a need to reinvent the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to focus on fine particulate matter and trans-boundary pollution.

Conclusion and Way Forward

  • Addressing pollution in India requires concerted efforts from government bodies, industries, and citizens. By implementing effective policies and fostering environmental consciousness, we can mitigate the impact of pollution on our lives and the planet.
  • India needs to adopt sustainable practices to combat pollution, including promoting cleaner fuels, enhancing public transportation, and enforcing stricter emission norms. Public awareness campaigns and community participation are essential for a cleaner, healthier environment.



  • Recent Third National Communication by MoEFCC to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), showed that the industrial sector through its energy and process-based emissions had contributed around 22% of the country’s total emissions.

About the Decarbonisation

  • It refers to the process of reducing carbon dioxide emissions (or their equivalents) to achieve lower greenhouse gas output. It is crucial for meeting global temperature standards, as outlined in the Paris Agreement. The primary focus areas for decarbonisation include:
  • Increasing Renewable Energy Capacity: India has set ambitious targets for renewable energy. By 2030, it aims to achieve 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity and derive 50% of its energy from renewables.
  • Decarbonising Emission-Intensive Sectors: Sectors such as transportation, power generation, building/infrastructure, cement, and construction contribute significantly to emissions. Efforts to reduce their carbon footprint are essential.
  • Creating More Carbon Sinks: Enhancing natural processes (such as afforestation and reforestation) that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

India’s Current Efforts and Statistics

  • India is the fourth-largest emitter of CO2 globally, accounting for around 2% of total emissions in 2015.
  • However, it has made significant strides in reducing emissions through various initiatives.
  • Renewable Energy Sector: India is implementing one of the largest renewable energy expansion programs. Its goal is to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and eventually scale up to 450 GW.
  • Solar energy capacity has increased more than 14 times since 2014.
  • Green Hydrogen: Green hydrogen, produced through electrolysis of water using renewable energy, will play a crucial role in decarbonising harder-to-abate sectors like fertilisers, refining, and iron & steel.
  • Citizen-Centric Approach: India’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) emphasises lifestyle changes and citizen participation in combating climate change.

Opportunities for Decarbonisation

  • Transportation: Promoting electric vehicles (EVs), improving public transport, and investing in EV charging infrastructure.
  • Power Generation: Expanding renewable energy capacity (solar, wind, hydro, and biomass).
  • Agriculture: Implementing sustainable practices to reduce methane emissions.
  • Industry: Adopting cleaner technologies and circular economy principles.
  • Sectors like steel, cement and aluminium are major contributors to this load of industrial emissions.


  • India’s commitment to decarbonisation is critical for a sustainable future. By leveraging renewable energy, green technologies, and citizen engagement, we can create a cleaner, greener energy landscape.



  • India needs continued emphasis on flagship programmes, aligned to long-term planning that focuses on water security and circular economy in a climate-risked era.


  • Water security is a pressing global concern, affecting ecosystems, human health, and economic stability. Simultaneously, the circular economy paradigm aims to minimise waste and maximise resource efficiency.

Circular Economy and Water

  • The circular economy emphasises reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling.
  • Closed-Loop Systems: Industries can adopt closed-loop water systems, where water is continuously recycled within processes.
  • Product Design: Design products with water efficiency in mind, considering their entire lifecycle.
  • Wastewater Recovery: Extract valuable resources (like nutrients) from wastewater.
  • Integrated Approaches: Link water management with other resource cycles (energy, materials).

Water Security: Challenges and Strategies

  • Water scarcity, pollution, and uneven distribution pose significant challenges.
  • Efficient Water Use: Implementing water-saving technologies in agriculture, industry, and households.
  • Water Reuse: Treating wastewater for reuse in non-potable applications.
  • Rainwater Harvesting: Capturing rainwater for local use.
  • Ecosystem-Based Approaches: Protecting and restoring natural water sources (wetlands, rivers, and aquifers).

Case Studies

  • Singapore: A global leader in water reuse, Singapore treats wastewater to produce ‘NEWater’ for industrial and potable use.
  • Netherlands: The Dutch manage water through integrated spatial planning, flood control, and circular agriculture.
  • Circular Cities: Urban areas can adopt circular water practices, such as green roofs, permeable pavements, and decentralised treatment.

Policy and Governance

  • Legislation: Governments must enact policies promoting water efficiency and circular practices.
  • Collaboration: Public-private partnerships can drive innovation and investment.
  • Awareness: Educating citizens about water conservation and circular principles.

Infrastructure and Schemes for Water Supply and Sanitation in India

  • India has made significant progress in creating infrastructure for water supply and sanitation over the past decade.
  • Five national schemes and programs are currently being undertaken in mission mode, namely the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM); Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM); Mission Amrit Sarovar; Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT); and National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).
  • Successful implementation of these schemes can help India achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal on safe water and sanitation by 2030.

Overview: Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin (SBM-G)

  • Objective: Achieve universal sanitation coverage, sustain it, and improve cleanliness in villages.
  • Over 114.5 million toilets have been built under SBM-G since its launch in 2014.
  • Dual-pit honeycomb structure promoted for toilet construction:
  • One pit fills at a time, while the other degrades sludge into reusable manure.
  • Greywater Management:
  • Rural households receive 55 litres per capita of water daily, with about 70% converted into greywater.
  • SBM-G prioritises greywater management using techniques like soak pits and kitchen gardens.
  • Challenges: Greywater flowing into open drains and polluting water bodies; new government must ensure on-site or near-source management.

Overview: Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)

  • JJM aims to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections to all rural households by 2024.
  • Since its launch in 2019, 76% of rural households (193 million) have been connected to taps.
  • The government must ensure JJM’s success by avoiding the fate of previous failed water supply programs.
  • Focus on Sustainable Water Sources: JJM emphasises protecting or recharging water sources, primarily groundwater.
  • Measures include water conservation, rainwater harvesting, and greywater management.

Measures for Safe and Sustainable Water Supply

  • Aquifer Mapping: Map recharge and discharge areas at district and sub-district levels.
  • Involve local communities to utilise their knowledge of soil quality and geomorphic features.
  • Dashboard Features: Enhance the JJM dashboard with sustainability information.
  • Display groundwater recharge and rainwater harvesting sites.
  • Provide details on project design and costs.
  • Measure project impact and engage local communities in groundwater monitoring.
  • Surface Water Source Sustainability:
  • Ensure clean surface water sources.
  • Treat greywater for reuse or safe disposal.

Mission Amrit Sarovar

  • Objective: Launched in 2022, Mission Amrit Sarovar aimed to construct or rejuvenate 75 ponds or water bodies in each district by August 15, 2023, to commemorate India’s 75th year of independence.


  • As of May 17, 2024, approximately 109,000 sites have been identified for creation or rejuvenation.
  • Remarkably, 66% of the work has already been completed, surpassing the initial target of 50,000 Amrit Sarovars.
  • Next Steps for Sustainable Water Management

Mapping Progress on the Dashboard

  • Despite overall success, some districts still lack the mandated minimum of 75 water bodies.
  • The mission dashboard should provide detailed information:
  • Project location
  • Technology used
  • Source of funding
  • Impact on groundwater
  • Extended Mission Period:
  • The new government should extend the mission by another year.
  • Focus on the remaining 34% identified sites.
  • Maintenance and Monitoring:
  • Allocate a portion of the project fund for ongoing maintenance.
  • Empower gram panchayats to generate revenue from water bodies for upkeep.



  • Urban floods in India have become a pressing issue, impacting cities across the country these days.

About the Urban Flooding in India

  • Urban flooding differs significantly from rural flooding due to the effects of rapid urbanisation. These floods can cause massive loss of infrastructure, property, and lives, and have a substantial economic impact.
  • These were not always a priority issue for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which remained focused on assessing riverine floods that caused distress in rural areas.
  • Increased Risk: As cities expand, they encroach upon flood-prone areas. Since 1985, human settlements in flood-prone zones have more than doubled. This expansion puts more people at risk during floods.
  • Economic Impact: Urban floods lead to life and livelihood loss, pushing governments into economic crises. For instance, the 2023 North India floods and Cyclone Biparjoy in Gujarat resulted in an estimated economic loss of Rs 10,000-15,000 crore.
  • Global Trends: Worldwide, East Asia has the highest rate of settlement expansion in flood-prone areas. India, while not among the most exposed countries, still faces considerable risk. China and the U.S. lead in global settlements, with India ranking third.

Causes of Urban Flooding

  • Human Intervention: Unplanned urbanisation, encroachment on natural drainage channels, and filling up urban lakes disrupt natural water flow, exacerbating flooding.
  • Urbanisation and Altered Catchments: As cities grow, natural catchments are modified due to construction, roads, and other infrastructure. These changes lead to faster runoff during heavy rainfall, resulting in urban flooding.
  • Developed catchments can increase flood peaks by up to 8 times and flood volumes by up to 6 times compared to rural areas.
  • Heavy Rainfall: While heavy rainfall is a principal cause, urban floods are more visible due to uneven distribution of rainfall and increased impervious surfaces.
  • Inadequate Drainage Systems: Many Indian cities lack efficient stormwater drainage systems. Poorly designed or clogged drains cannot handle heavy rainfall, leading to waterlogging on streets and inundation of low-lying areas.
  • Inadequate maintenance exacerbates the problem.
  • Encroachment on Natural Drainage Channels: Urban expansion often encroaches upon natural drainage channels, such as rivers, lakes, and wetlands. These areas act as natural sponges during heavy rains.
  • When these spaces are filled or built upon, water has nowhere to go, causing floods.
  • Climate Change and Extreme Rainfall Events: Changing weather patterns due to climate change result in more intense and frequent rainfall events.
  • Cloudbursts, characterised by sudden and intense rainfall, contribute significantly to urban flooding.
  • Lack of Green Spaces and Permeable Surfaces: Concrete-dominated landscapes reduce natural infiltration. Green spaces, parks, and permeable surfaces help absorb rainwater.
  • Cities need to prioritise green infrastructure to mitigate flooding.
  • Poor Urban Planning and Zoning Regulations: Unplanned development, especially in flood-prone areas, worsens the situation.
  • Zoning regulations should prevent construction on floodplains and ensure sustainable land use.
  • Silt Accumulation and Riverbed Mining: Silt accumulation in rivers reduces their capacity to carry water. Riverbed mining exacerbates this problem.
  • Upstream activities affect downstream flooding.
  • Infrastructure Failures: Aging infrastructure, including dams, embankments, and drainage systems, can fail during heavy rains.
  • Regular maintenance and upgrades are essential.
  • Lack of Public Awareness and Preparedness: Public awareness about flood risks, early warning systems, and emergency preparedness is crucial.
  • Community participation and government initiatives are necessary to address urban flooding.

Mitigation Measures

  • Water-Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD): Implement bioswales, rooftop gardens, retention ponds, and permeable pavements to reduce runoff.
  • Slow, spread, sink, and store runoff to prevent waterlogged areas.
  • Urban Drainage Systems: Develop stormwater drainage systems that consider long-term planning, catchment areas, and real-time rainfall data.
  • Regular maintenance and special design considerations are crucial.
  • Awareness and Capacity Building: Educate communities about flood risks and preparedness.
  • Conduct mock drills and involve civil society and media in awareness campaigns.
  • Integrated Planning: Consider land use, green spaces, and water bodies in urban planning.
  • Address encroachments and promote rainwater harvesting.
  • Slow, Spread, Sink, and Store: Many cities now adopt this approach to handle high rainfall events. It involves strategies like bioswales, rooftop gardens, and permeable pavements. These techniques reduce runoff and prevent urban surfaces from turning into waterlogged areas.
  • Porous Building Materials: Using water-inclusive design standards and porous building materials can enhance flood management. Improved infrastructure services and policy implementation are also crucial.

In Situ Solutions

  • Conserve rainwater and keep it contamination-free; Enhance stormwater drainage dimensions to mitigate flooding, especially in areas with reduced groundwater recharge potential; Address contamination risks from poor sewage infrastructure; Decentralised Water Supply and Sanitation Systems
  • Nature-Based Revival of Water Bodies; Rejuvenate lakes, water bodies, streams, and rivers using nature-based principles;
  • Develop water bodies as recharge zones, especially in cities with low groundwater recharge; Aquifer Recharge and Monitoring; Map aquifers in cities and monitor their recharge/discharge; Reuse treated sewage through water bodies to recharge aquifers;
  • Infrastructure Improvement; Improve water, sanitation, and stormwater infrastructure to reduce leakages and enhance treatment outcomes; Map surface water drainage for stormwater harvesting and groundwater recharge; Promote decentralised systems at the granular level;
  • Discourage large, centralised water supply and sewage treatment systems where unviable; Prioritise Informal Urban Settlements; Many people in congested, unplanned settlements lack access to centralised water supply and sewerage systems;
  • Implement city-wide decentralised water supply and sanitation systems to improve per capita water supply; Create additional infrastructure for unserved informal settlements.

Non-Sewered Sanitation Systems: Managing Faecal Matter

  • Septic tanks and dual pit toilets can effectively manage faecal matter in Tier III and Tier IV towns.
  • Less than 10% of India’s 7,900 towns have partial sewerage systems.
  • Increasing water stress makes it challenging for towns to afford and maintain expensive underground sewerage systems.
  • Promoting Circular Economy for Water and Nutrient Replenishment;
  • Bengaluru-based non-profit CDD India estimates that 1,469 sewage treatment plants (STPs) produced 104,210 tonnes of treated faecal sludge daily in 2021.
  • Treated faecal sludge can be used as fertiliser, and greywater from STPs can recharge groundwater.

Wastewater Reuse Targets and Examples

  • Increase wastewater reuse targets beyond the current 20% and 30% under SBM and AMRUT.
  • Chennai and Bengaluru demonstrate substantial reuse of treated water for non-drinking purposes.
  • Bengaluru’s treated wastewater supports lake rejuvenation, groundwater recharge, and agriculture in water-starved districts.

Public Awareness and Swachh Survekshan

  • Raise awareness about climate risks and their impact on water and sanitation.
  • Expand Swachh Survekshan to rank wards, highlighting deficiencies in water supply, sanitation, and stormwater management.

Long-Term Multi Sectoral Interventions

  • Plan, implement, and monitor water, sanitation, stormwater, and treated-water-reuse strategies over 10-20 years.
  • Involve both cities and rural areas in a Centre-led exercise, setting targets with state support and incentives.


  • Urban flooding is a complex challenge, but with sustainable planning, community involvement, and adaptive strategies, cities can mitigate its impact. By prioritising flood management, India can build resilient urban spaces that withstand extreme weather events.



  • Despite numerous efforts, Indian cities still grapple with pollution caused by improper waste disposal, and it’s crucial for the government to revisit waste management strategies and prioritise behavioural change.


  • Indian cities have made significant strides in waste management over the past decade. Initiatives like the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and Swachh Survekshan have aimed to improve sanitation and shift the focus from mere visual cleanliness to turning waste into a valuable resource.

False Promise of Waste-to-Wealth

  • On the surface, the concept of converting waste into wealth appears promising for cities drowning in refuse.
  • Biodegradable materials in municipal solid waste can be harnessed to produce biogas or compost. Yet, India lacks financially viable and environmentally sustainable waste-to-energy plants.
  • One key reason is that cities continue to use mixed waste as feedstock. Unsegregated waste contains inert and hazardous materials, rendering such plants both polluting and economically unfeasible.
  • Similarly, recyclable waste—such as plastic, paper, and metal—loses value when contaminated by organic waste.

Unlocking the True Potential of Waste

  • Invest in Behavioural Change: Waste management is a shared responsibility between Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and citizens. Policies should incentivize segregation at the source and home composting. Monetizing the gains from such investments can drive behavioural shifts.
  • Leverage Municipal By-Laws: The Constitution (74th Amendment) Act empowers ULBs to address local challenges through by-laws. However, enforcement remains a challenge. Adequate infrastructure for waste treatment and processing is essential.

Prioritising Treatment

  • An analysis of the 2021 report by the CPCB reveals that while cities collect 95% of waste, only 50% undergo treatment. The rest ends up in landfills without processing. To address this, the government should:
  • Redesign Concession Agreements: Contractors responsible for waste collection and disposal receive payment based on mixed waste collected. A national policy on sustainable public procurement could reward them for handling segregated or treated waste.
  • Embrace Decentralisation: Currently, transporting mixed waste to landfills consumes a significant portion of municipal budgets. A decentralised approach—treating source-segregated waste locally—would reduce transportation costs and divert waste from landfills. Odisha’s 114 ULBs are already implementing this approach.
  • Hold Bulk Waste Generators Accountable: Housing societies and industries contribute 30% of garbage. Strict enforcement of the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, within their premises can significantly ease the burden on cities.
  • Role of the Informal Sector: It is crucial in waste management. Recognising this, the Pune Municipal Corporation has signed an agreement with 4,500 informal waste-pickers, who formed a cooperative, for door-to-door collection of waste.
  • The corporation does not pay them salary, but allows them to charge households for waste collection and sell the recyclable waste.
  • This approach has guaranteed segregation and brought down the cost of collection by 45%. Such measures must be replicated across India.

Disincentivizing Garbage Dumping

  • Imposing Landfill Tax: India has lost vast tracts of land—approximately 10,000 hectares—to garbage dumps. To prevent fresh waste from inundating existing landfill sites, the key steps include:
  • Transfer Landfills to Private Agencies: Municipal landfills should be taken away from urban local bodies (ULBs) and allocated to private agencies through a competitive bidding process. This ensures efficient management and accountability.
  • Levying a Landfill Tax: A tax should be imposed on the concessionaire or ULB based on the volume of waste brought to the landfill. This approach has proven successful in several countries, reducing the amount of waste dumped and encouraging alternative waste management practices.

Banning Biodegradable and Combustible Waste Dumping

  • The Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, provide guidelines for waste disposal. It decomposes rapidly, emitting greenhouse gases and contributing to pollution. A legal ban on dumping biodegradable waste in landfills is essential.
  • Instead, we should promote composting and other sustainable methods.
  • Combustible Waste: Materials that can catch fire easily fall into this category. Dumping combustible waste in landfills poses safety risks and environmental hazards.
  • Instead, we can explore energy recovery options, such as converting combustible waste into usable energy.


  • By combining a landfill tax with strict regulations against biodegradable and combustible waste dumping, ULBs can be incentivized to prioritise wealth recovery from waste.
  • By rethinking waste management, investing in behaviour change, and prioritising treatment, India can move closer to a cleaner, more sustainable future. Let’s turn our garbage into a valuable asset—one that benefits both our environment and our economy.



  • Disregard for biodiversity conservation over the past two decades needs immediate redressal.

About Biodiversity

  • It refers to the variety of life on Earth, encompassing genetic diversity, species diversity, and ecological diversity. Key components are:
  • Genetic Diversity: Within a single species, genetic diversity exists due to variations in traits, genes, and alleles.
  • India boasts over 50,000 genetically distinct rice strains and around 1,000 mango varieties.
  • Species Diversity: India, despite covering only 2.4% of the world’s land area, hosts an impressive 8.1% of global species diversity.
  • Approximately 45,000 plant species and twice as many animal species have been recorded here.
  • Ecological Diversity: Our diverse ecosystems include deserts, rainforests, mangroves, coral reefs, wetlands, estuaries, and alpine meadows.
  • This rich tapestry of habitats contributes to India’s status as one of the world’s 12 megadiverse countries.

Conservation Efforts

  • Protected Areas: National parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and biosphere reserves safeguard critical habitats. Examples include Kaziranga National Park, Sundarbans, and the Western Ghats.
  • Endangered Species Protection: Initiatives focus on saving endangered species like the Bengal tiger, Indian rhinoceros, and Asiatic lion. Breeding programs and habitat restoration play crucial roles.
  • Community Participation: Involving local communities ensures sustainable conservation. Joint forest management, eco-tourism, and awareness campaigns empower people.
  • Local communities must be empowered to document biodiversity. The world accepts that communities are adept in protecting the environment in the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF), now called the Biodiversity Plan. The communities hold immense knowledge about their local biodiversity and its use. But this knowledge has been disregarded even when government authorities are involved in documentation.
  • Legal Framework: The Wildlife Protection Act (1972) and Forest Conservation Act (1980) provide legal support. These laws regulate hunting, trade, and habitat destruction.
  • India ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1994, and nearly a decade later, it passed the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
  • The Act established a three-tier system, with the National Biodiversity Authority at the Centre, a biodiversity board for each state and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the level of local bodies.
  • Research and Education: Scientists study biodiversity patterns, monitor species, and assess threats. Educational programs raise awareness and foster conservation ethics.

Challenges Ahead

  • Habitat Loss: Urbanisation, deforestation, and infrastructure development threaten ecosystems. Balancing development with conservation is crucial.
  • Invasive Species: Alien species disrupt native ecosystems. Controlling invasive plants and animals is essential.
  • Climate Change: Rising temperatures and altered rainfall patterns impact species distribution. Adaptation strategies are vital.
  • Poaching and Illegal Trade: Wildlife trafficking remains a menace. Strengthening enforcement and awareness is essential.
  • Fragmentation: Isolated habitats hinder species movement. Creating wildlife corridors can mitigate this.
  • Lack of Data and Transparency: India is home to about 8% of the recorded global biodiversity, but most of the work done in the country is marred by a lack of data and transparency.
  • Reduced Budgetary Allocation: However, in India, between 2018 and 2024, budget for four Centrally Sponsored schemes for environmental protection — National Mission for Green India, Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats, Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems, and National River Conservation Programme — saw reduced allocation, as per ‘Envistats —India 2023’ released by the MoSPI.



  • India needs a comprehensive urban agenda that prioritises sustainable mobility solutions, as private vehicles proliferate, energy inefficiency, carbon emissions, and toxic pollution have become entrenched in our transportation infrastructure.


  • Public transport in India plays a crucial role in ensuring mobility for millions of people.
  • National Urban Transportation Policy (NUTP) aims to provide better mobility by focusing on people’s needs rather than just vehicle mobility.
  • As India’s cities are projected to double in population by 2050, there’s an urgent need to prioritise public transportation.

Expenditure Trends

  • Urban vs. Rural: Urban areas spend more on communication services, while rural areas allocate a significant portion of their expenditure to public transport.
  • Bus/Tram Dominance: Over 60% of both rural and urban households rely on buses/trams as their primary mode of public transportation.
  • Railways: Urban India spends around 13% of its transportation budget on railways, while rural India allocates only 4.4%.

Affordability and Accessibility

  • Cost of Public Transport: The existing public transport system can be expensive, leading to alternatives like motorbikes.
  • Limited Routes: Problems in the public transport system often force people to walk or cycle to work, especially among the poor.

Challenge of Transport Emissions

  • Transport emissions, including carbon and other pollutants, pose a formidable challenge. Road transport dominates this hard-to-abate sector, jeopardising our energy and carbon budgets. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a manifold increase in energy use for transport by 2040.
  • Vehicles, particularly in Indian cities, contribute significantly to public health risks, from cardiovascular diseases to cancer.
  • Cars and Congestion: Personal vehicles account for 85-90% of new registrations, while public transport hovers around 25%. Smaller cities, lacking robust public systems, rely even more on private vehicles. Consequently, traffic congestion plagues our roads, with morning and evening peak speeds dropping by up to 37%.
  • Metro Systems Falling Short: While 16 cities boast metro lines, most lack an integrated network. Average ridership hovers at 25-35% of projections. Delhi’s Metro Rail Corporation, the most successful, achieves less than half its estimated ridership. Realising the full benefits of metro systems hinges on boosting actual ridership.


  • Low Carbon Non-Motorized Transport (NMT): As income levels rise, people aspire to shift to private transport due to infrequent and unreliable public transport. Encouraging NMT (like cycling and walking) can help address this.
  • Low-Emission Zones: Designating specific areas as low-emission zones restricts vehicular traffic and encourages walking and cycling. These zones prioritise air quality and public health.
  • Integrated Transport Planning: Coordinated planning across various model agencies (buses, trains, metros, etc.) is essential for efficient urban transport.
  • Transit-Oriented Development (TOD): Integrating public transport systems with the built environment can enhance accessibility.
  • Avoiding ‘One Size Fits All’ Approach: Tailoring transport solutions to the unique needs of Tier-II and Tier-III cities is crucial.
  • Electric Buses, A Promising Solution: Electric buses offer hope for cleaner transport. Their cost-effectiveness—23-27% lower operating costs per kilometre—makes them attractive. Even without subsidies, electric buses outperform diesel or compressed natural gas (CNG) buses.

Way Ahead: Infrastructure for Walking and Cycling

  • Under the programs like the Smart City Mission and the Cycles-4Change Challenge, investments have poured into creating walking and cycling infrastructure. Yet, these efforts remain fragmented. Small, single corridors have sprouted, but comprehensive networks are lacking.
  • Safe Access and Integration: Pedestrians and cyclists need safe pathways that seamlessly connect neighbourhoods, commercial areas, and public transport hubs. Integrated networks ensure that walking and cycling become viable alternatives to cars.
  • Last-Mile Connectivity: The ‘last mile’ problem—bridging the gap between public transport stops and final destinations—is critical. Well-designed walking and cycling paths can solve this challenge, reducing dependence on personal vehicles.
  • Hyper-Local Mobility: Cities should prioritise localised mobility solutions. Short trips within neighbourhoods—whether to schools, markets, or parks—should be convenient and pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Parking Management Area Plans: Implementing well-defined parking management plans can cap and price parking spaces. By discouraging excessive car ownership, we free up road space and reduce traffic.
  • True Cost Recovery: Personal vehicle usage imposes costs—environmental, health-related, and infrastructure-related. Taxing parking and applying pricing mechanisms help recover these costs. Minimal or free parking fees are hidden subsidies that encourage car ownership.
  • Pollution Pricing: Lack of pollution pricing perpetuates car use. By internalising environmental costs, we incentivize cleaner modes of transport.


  • Cities stand at a pivotal moment. Prioritising walking, cycling, and curbing personal vehicle dominance is essential for sustainable urban mobility. By investing in scalable infrastructure and rethinking our approach to cars, we can create healthier, more vibrant cities for all.
  • India must prioritise sustainable, affordable, and accessible public transport to address the mobility needs of its growing population. By integrating modes, focusing on NMT, and tailoring solutions, we can create a more efficient and equitable urban transport system.



  • A new study (published in Journal Environment International) has found that the fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) led to 135 million premature deaths worldwide between 1980 and 2020.

Particulate Matters (PM)

  • It is a term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air that comes in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.
  • Some particles, known as primary particles, are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.
  • Others form in complicated reactions in the atmosphere of chemicals such as sulphur dioxides and nitrogen oxides that are emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.
  • Size of Particulate Matters
  • Particles that are 10 micrometres in diameter or smaller because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs.
  • The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems.
  • PM10: inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometres and smaller.
  • PM2.5: fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometres and smaller.

PM2.5 and Health Impacts

Do You Know ?

  • According to the WHO, almost 3.7 million premature deaths annually are attributed to outdoor air pollution.
  • About 80% of those deaths are due to heart disease and stroke, while another 20% are from respiratory illnesses and cancers related to exposure to PM2.5.
  • When inhaled, Particulate Matters can cause a wide range of respiratory disorders. Continuous exposure to these can cause asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and any type of bronchitis.
  • Particulate matter can penetrate deep inside the lungs and damage it.
  • Any bacteria or virus can now attack the lungs and this could even lead to serious life-threatening infections.
  • Particulate Matter can also cause chest tightening, watery eyes, sneezing, and running nose.

Breakdown of Premature Deaths

  • From 1980 to 2020, a third of premature deaths were associated with stroke (33.3%), another third with ischemic heart disease (32.7%) and the remaining deaths were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infections and lung cancer.

Geographical Disparity in Air Pollution-Related Deaths

  • Asia is the most affected region, with an estimated 98.1 million premature deaths attributed to PM2.5 pollution between 1980 and 2020.
  • China and India led with 49 million and 26.1 million deaths, respectively.
  • Other South Asian nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Japan also suffered significant losses due to PM2.5 exposure.

Indian Scenario

  • India, with 18% of the world’s population, has a disproportionately high 26% of the global premature deaths and disease burden due to air pollution.
  • More than 23 lakh people died prematurely due to pollution in India in 2019.
  • Of them, 73% of deaths occurred due to air pollution, the largest number of such deaths globally.
  • In Delhi, the national capital, the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5 was 106 out of 1,00,000 people in 2019, above the global median 58 per 1,00,000 people.

Role of Climate Variability Phenomena

  • The research highlighted the role of climate variability phenomena like El Nino-Southern Oscillation, Indian Ocean Dipole and North Atlantic Oscillation in exacerbating PM2.5 pollution levels, and collectively caused approximately 7,000 additional premature deaths annually.
  • The Indian Ocean Dipole had the largest impact on the number of deaths, followed by the North Atlantic Oscillation and then El Nino.

Effects of Climate Change on Human Health

  • Changes in climate patterns can make air pollution worse.
  • The effects of climate change and the environment on human health are not lesser than those of genomics and lifestyle patterns and they have been increasing over the past decades.

Related Efforts By India

  • National Clean Air Programme (NCAP): Launched in 2019 with targets to achieve 20% to 30% reduction in concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 by the year 2024, keeping 2017 as the base year for comparison of concentration.
  • Decarbonisation Efforts: A report suggests that decarbonising faster can save India 200,000 deaths from particulate matters.
  • The report analysed health impacts stemming from exposure to particulate matter under various policy pathways to meet Paris Agreement 2015 targets.
  • Green Infrastructure: Cities are reimagining cityscapes with verdant green corridors and tree-lined boulevards, weaving greenery seamlessly into the urban fabric.
  • Planting certain species can create a natural air-purifying barrier, absorbing harmful substances such as hydrocarbons and aromatic compounds.
  • Vehicle Scrappage Policy: It aims to replace old vehicles with modern and new vehicles on Indian roads, and is expected to reduce pollution, create job opportunities and boost demand for new vehicles.
  • Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid) and Electric Vehicles (FAME) Scheme: It aims to reduce pollution caused by diesel and petrol-operated vehicles and to promote electric and hybrid vehicles in India.
  • The FAME phase II scheme has been extended for two years to drive greater adoption of the scheme.



  • Hong Kong, Singapore, and Nepal banned certain Indian spices due to the presence of ethylene oxide, a carcinogenic pesticide.

Ethylene Oxide

  • It is a chemical commonly used as a fumigating agent for spices. However, it has raised health concerns due to its carcinogenic properties.
  • It is generally used as a disinfectant, sterilising agent, as well as an insecticide to reduce microbial contamination in spices.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies ethylene oxide as carcinogenic to humans. Exposure to this chemical increases the risk of lymphoid cancer and, for females, breast cancer.

Spices Industry in India

  • India is the world’s largest spice producer and It is also the largest consumer and exporter of spices.
  • Production in 2022-23 stood at 11.14 million tonnes compared to 11.12 million tonnes in 2021-22. During 2022-23, the export of spices from India stood at US$ 3.73 billion from US$ 3.46 billion in 2021-22.
  • Most produced and exported spices: Pepper, cardamom, chilli, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, celery, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, nutmeg & mace, curry powder, spice oils and oleoresins. Out of these spices, chilli, cumin, turmeric, ginger and coriander makeup about 76% of the total production.
  • Largest spice-producing states in India: Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Assam, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
  • Export: In 2023-24, India’s spice exports totalled $4.25 billion, accounting for a 12% share of the global spice exports.
  • India exported spices and spice products to 159 destinations worldwide as of 2023-24 (until February 2024).
  • The top destinations among them were China, the USA, Bangladesh, the UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the UK, and Sri Lanka. These nine destinations comprised more than 70% of the total export earnings in 2023-24 (until February 2024).

Government’s Initiatives

  • Spices Board of India: It is the flagship organisation for the development and worldwide promotion of Indian spices. It was established by the Spices Board Act, 1986.
  • It acts as a link between Indian exporters and importers abroad.
  • Export Development and Promotion of Spices: It aims to support the exporter to adopt high-tech processing technologies and upgrade the existing level of technology for the development of industry and to meet the changing food safety standards of the importing countries.

Food Safety in India

  • Role of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI): Established under the Food Safety and Standards Act (2006) as a ‘Statutory Body’.
  • It is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that is responsible for promoting and protecting public health through various regulations and supervisions of food safety.
  • It is an Act to consolidate the laws relating to food and to establish the FSSAI for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

State Food Safety Index

  • Evaluation: Developed by FSSAI, the State Food Safety Index evaluates Indian states and union territories based on several parameters:
  • Human resources and institutional data;
  • Compliance;
  • Food testing infrastructure and surveillance;
  • Training and capacity building; and,
  • Consumer empowerment.

Recent Developments

  • Single Certification: The government has approved amendments to food safety regulations. Under these changes, only one certification from FSSAI will be required for food products. Certifications from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and AGMARK will no longer be necessary if these amendments are finalised.
  • It aims to streamline business processes and promote the concept of 'One Nation, One Commodity, One Regulator’.
  • Comprehensive Manual of Methods: FSSAI has also approved a comprehensive manual of analysis methods to ensure regulatory compliance for food products.


  1. What are the key challenges faced by India in transitioning to a cleaner and more sustainable energy system?
  2. What challenges might arise when conducting an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), and how can these be addressed to ensure effective decision-making and sustainable development?
  3. What are some innovative policies and strategies that India can adopt to achieve its ambitious goal of decarbonizing its energy sectors? How can India balance sustainability, reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and promote long-term growth?
  4. How can the principles of the circular economy be effectively applied to enhance water security in arid and semi-arid regions?
  5. What are some of the major factors contributing to the increasing frequency and severity of urban floods in Indian cities?


Q1. With reference to the Compressed Biogas (CBG), consider the following statements:

1. It is a non-fossil fuel produced from agricultural feedstock.

2. It is a cleaner alternative in comparison to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Q2. With reference to the ‘National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)’, consider the following:

1. It emphasises real-time monitoring and targeted actions to improve air quality.

2. It sets annual targets for individual cities to improve air quality.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


Q3. Which of the following Statutes of India is responsible for establishing the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)?

(a) Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

(a) Environment (Protection) Act, 1986

(b) Forest Conservation Act, 1980

(c) Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974

(d) Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981


Q4. Consider the following:

1. Water Vapour

2. Carbon Monoxide

3. Ozone

4. Ammonia

5. Carbon Dioxide

How many of the above are termed as the pollutants in the National Air Quality Index (AQI)?

(a) only two

(b) only three

(c) only four

(d) All five


Q5. With reference to the ‘Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)’, consider the following statements:

1. It is an autonomous and statutory body.

2. It works under the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2


1. (c) 2. (c) 3. (d) 4. (b) 5. (a)