- Press release: Winter woes: Delhi headed for air pollution disaster
- Green Schools Award: India's most environment friendly schools
- Editorial: Making space for emissions
- Cover story: SEZs: Advantage government, battle lost for farmers?
- Podcast: Hear what's new in Down To Earth
- Blogging Kyoto: Daily updates from COP
- News: Killer asbestos finds backers at Rotterdam Convention
- News: Government's new draft rehabilitation policy half-baked
- News: Action against polluting units gives Goa villagers some relief
- Features: West Bengal village sits on archaeological treasure
- Science: Endosulfan may finally have a destroyer
- Jobs: Wanted reporters for Down To Earth magazine
Press release: Winter woes: Delhi headed for air pollution disaster
With the mercury dipping, the air in Delhi is getting heavy with
dust and smoke as the cold weather blocks the dispersal of pollutants.
This low-hanging shroud, in turn, impairs visibility and chokes lungs.
A new assessment by CSE of the trends in peak pollution levels during
winter months since 1998 has revealed that pollution during the season
-- despite a climb-down in 2003 -- has begun to rise once again.
Sign up for CSE's Air Pollution Bulletin, a monthly newsletter on
developments in the fight for clean air.
The newsletter features:
- Policy police: Comments from Anumita Roychowdhury, head of CSE's
clean air campaign
- Action alert: In-depth analysis of new regulations, developments
and politics of air pollution
- Smog digest: A news digest on vehicular pollution compiled from
80 leading newspapers
Sign up for this newsletter by clicking the link below>>
You can follow the same link to sign up for CSE's other newsletters:
- E-Pov: In-depth news and analysis on environment, poverty, governance
and updates on the NREGA Act
- Body Burden: Exploring the critical link between health and environment
Green Schools Award: Rewarding environment awareness
For over a year, students have been monitoring the environmental
performance of their schools under the Gobar Times Green School Programme.
All participants performed a rigorous self-audit following a set of
guidelines outlined in the Green Schools Manual. Now it is time to
announce the winners of the Green Schools Award for India's top performing
schools. You are cordially invited to attend the awards event.
Date: November 27, 2006
Time: 3:30 pm onwards
Venue: Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, Lodi Road, New Delhi
Awards will be given in the following categories:
- Top green schools of India
- Green teachers' team award
- Best students' audit team award
For more information visit>>
To sign up to become a green school>>
Editorial: Making space for emissions
By Sunita Narain
What does the ubiquitous auto-rickshaw and the plush aeroplane have
in common, other than getting us from one place to another? The auto-rickshaw,
as India's largest manufacturer Rahul Bajaj will tell you, is the
symbol of democratic mobility - it provides transport for large numbers
of people at what he says is affordable costs. But these vehicles
are technology poor, and extremely polluting. How then do you control
emissions from these vehicles, which are sources of employment for
the poor; which drive the not-so-well-off from one place to another;
and are manufactured using poor technology? How do you balance interests
of equity and access with the interests of clean air and health?
Two approaches are possible: one, to find fuel and technology options
to reduce emissions. Delhi, for instance, now runs autos on compressed
natural gas; Kathmandu has a fleet of battery-operated autos; and
Bangalore is experimenting with LPG . But if this emission-efficiency
happens without controls on numbers of vehicles, then the 'clean'
atmospheric space created will be gobbled up and decimated by the
hordes of private vehicles on the roads.
The other approach would be to create ecological space for auto-rickshaws
to emit. In other words, atmospheric space would be allocated based
on the number of people a vehicle transports. Cars, which transport
fewer numbers, would have to be reduced. This would also mean that
we should reduce the numbers of auto-rickshaws and replace them with
buses, which carry even larger numbers. If the bus is emission-free,
we get a double win - where mobility is possible without damaging
our health and the health of our planet. Call it moving from autocratic
pollution to democratic pollution control.
But what does this have to do with aircraft? The fact is that airline
travel is also getting "democratised" - large numbers of people travel
in planes in both low-cost carriers and on short-haul routes. The
question is two-fold: how will this growth of air travel affect global
carbon emissions? How will the pollution from aircraft be shared within
the atmospheric space of the world, particularly when greenhouse gas
emissions are skewed by power and wealth.
We know that aircraft are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.
What is disputed is the degree of responsibility airlines should assume
in limiting global emissions. The airline industry argues that its
contribution to total human-made emissions is minuscule - less than
3 per cent of the world's annual carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists
say this could be underestimated as high-altitude emissions are more
damaging. Nitrogen dioxide from airline engines leads to formation
of ozone, and are worried about the impact of cirrus clouds formed
by aircraft, which they believe contribute to global warming. If all
this is accounted, the contribution of air travel to global warming
is possibly closer to 5-9 per cent.
However, what is beyond dispute is that the airline sector is the
fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. In Europe, emissions from
air travel increased by an estimated 73 per cent between 1990 and
2003, and are spiralling. Environmental NGOs estimate that this growth
of airline emissions has just about cancelled out a quarter of the
emission reductions made by European countries in the same period.
The Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to limit the emissions of the industrialised
world, does not include international aviation emissions in its controls.
Instead, the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation was to
address this issue, but has done little since. Now Europe is rocking
this boat. In July, the European parliament voted in favour of measures
to cap airline emissions in the future. When (and if) this scheme
goes into effect in two to three years, it would involve creating
a European airline emissions trading scheme - effectively putting
a price on their emissions.
But protest is mounting. The aviation industry is calling it a "tax
on holidays". They scream that budget airlines and recreation travel
will be hardest hit by this tax.
The problem is that global airlines, the mode of transport for the
rich, have had a sweet deal. For instance, international flights do
not pay fuel tax. They also get other exemptions, including huge financial
bailouts from public funds when they are in trouble. Now this mode
of transport is expanding its market - competing with cheaper railways,
roadways and other modes of transport. Then budget airlines - in Europe
and in India - are growing exponentially and are forcing their competitors
to cut costs further. The only option is to push governments for lower
taxation and more (not less) sops. In India, the clamour is to reduce
the domestic tax on aviation fuel.
But here the similarity between autos and planes ends. The fact
is that airline travel cannot be considered 'survival' emissions but
are 'luxury' emissions. The fact also is that the rich in the world
have overused their atmospheric space (or pollution quota) and that
the poor need to be compensated for this overuse. The sad and unfortunate
fact also is that the poor are most vulnerable to adverse climate
changes. Therefore, a tax on the airline industry is needed to pay
for the unused carbon quota of the poor or indeed their adaptation
costs. This 'entitlement' payment will then provide incentives to
invest in technologies that do not add to global emissions.
The auto-plane principle is simple: we will need to free up the
occupied ecological space and then fill it up with things that can
benefit all and do not blow up our present and future. Simple, yes,
- Sunita Narain
To comment, write to >>
Read the editorial online >>
Cover story: SEZs: Advantage government, battle lost for farmers?
Of late, the Indian government has been pushing forth its new policy
on special economic zones (SEZs), envisaging big revenue generation
and creation of infrastructure. But setting up of SEZs is not a simple
task as it entails massive land acquisition and subsequently, displacement
of farmers. Much of the land involved is fertile, agricultural land,
though the government has said it will only acquire wasteland now.
This is a hard task as it is difficult to identify whether a piece
of land is indeed waste. Under such circumstances, where they risk
losing productive land, farmers are slowly gearing up for a fight
against the high and mighty. Will they succeed?
Read online >>
Podcast: Hear what's new in Down To Earth
Want to hear the latest from Down To Earth every fortnight? Get
our new audio podcast for a briefing on what's in the issue. Subscribe
to the podcast using free podcast software such as Juice or Itunes.
What is a podcast? How do I download podcast software?
Blogging Kyoto: Daily updates from COP
Down To Earth is in Nairobi, Kenya, this week covering COP-12/MOP-2,
the annual UN climate change conference.
The high-level conference will feature discussions on the Clean Development
Mechanism, the future of the Kyoto Protocol after 2012 and negotiations
on a fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change.
Visit our blog for the daily inside scoop on the conference. Post
your comments and suggestions on side events you want covered and
questions you had and we will do our best to address them.
For daily coverage from November 10-17, 2006 visit >>
More in Down To Earth magazine
News: Killer asbestos finds backers at Rotterdam Convention
Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, an international treaty governing
trading in toxic substances, have failed to add chrysotile -- the
most common form of asbestos -- to the prior informed consent (PIC)
list. According to PIC, exporting countries must inform importers
about the substance before shipping it. The opposition to list chrysotile,
an industrial toxin that causes diseases like lung cancer and mesothelioma,
was led by Canada and supported by a few countries, including India.
Read complete article >>
News: Government's new draft rehabilitation policy half-baked
The centre recently released a new draft rehabilitation policy.
This is the watered-down version of a previous one prepared by the
National Advisory Council, which the government had dumped earlier
this year. The new policy has many shortcomings: firstly, it does
not take into account development-induced displacement, and secondly,
it deviates from the issue of enforceable rights and compensation
for the loss of livelihoods.
Read online >>
News: Action against polluting units gives Goa villagers some relief
The Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court has upheld the Goa State
Pollution Control Board's decision to issue closure notices to three
polluting units in Cuncolim Industrial Estate. The order came in response
to a PIL, which was filed after local authorities failed to curb pollution
in two nearby villages, which have been devastated as a result of
the pollution. Villagers allege that these units, most of which manufacture
ferro alloys and steel, dump waste into water bodies or bury it, causing
great danger to their lives and health.
Read online >>
Features: West Bengal village sits on archaeological treasure
Lohapur, a tiny village in West Bengal's Birbhum district, has a
problem of plenty. Excavation of a 16 sq km patch of land invariably
leads to discovery of stone artefacts belonging to the Pala dynasty
(750-1150 AD). Even though villagers are proud of their possessions
(almost every family owns one), they do little for maintaining these
treasures from the past. Most of the time, figurines can be seen lying
around, covered with moss or vermilion. Some of the more precious
ones, villagers allege, have been stolen by outsiders.
Read online (subscription required) >>
Science: Endosulfan may finally have a destroyer
Scientists at Indian Institute of Technology Madras have discovered
a bacterial mixture, which breaks down the deadly pesticide, endosulfan,
into environment friendly inorganic chemicals. This happens under
both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Endosulfan enters the air,
water and soil during its manufacture and use. Exposure can lead to
birth defects, hyperactivity, nausea, dizziness, headaches and sometimes
Read online (subscription required) >>
Jobs: Wanted reporters for Down To Earth magazine
CSE is looking for reporters for Down To Earth magazine. The candidate
should have 1 to 5 years of professional experience. Freshers can
The job requires:
- Willingness to travel to little known parts of India
- Ability to make sense of complex information and statistics
- Ability to write clearly in English
The magazine looks at all matters of general interest -- politics,
economics, finance, markets, diplomacy, conflicts -- through the science
and environment perspective.
E-mail your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org
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in 1982 by Anil Agarwal, a pioneer of India's environmental movement.
CSE's mandate is to research, communicate and promote sustainable
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