Friday, January 01, 2016

7 Sources of Delhi's Pollution you didn't know about

1. E Waste

India's capital is emerging as the world's dumping capital for e-waste, with hazardous activities taking place and like to generate e-waste to an extent of 50,000 metric tonnes (MT) per annum by 2015 from the current level of 30,000 metric tonnes per annum, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 25%, according to an Assocham estimate.

The Assocham latest study revealed that currently e-waste of Delhi is approximately 30,000 metric tones per annum and employs more than 1.5 lakh workers in city's various organised and unorganised recycling units, said DS Rawat, secretary general of Assocham while releasing the Assocham paper.

 "While the list is growing ,so is the quantity as these products are getting more affordable and more and more people are using them. Increasing usage also leads to more of them coming up for disposal, thus increasing the rate of obsolescence and replacement," added Rawat.

The paper further stated that large e-waste centres exist in Delhi, NCR, Meerut, Firozabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai, with 85,000 recyclers working in Delhi-NCR alone.

Workers are poorly-protected in an environment where e-waste from PC monitors, PCBs, CDs, motherboards, cables, toner cartridges, light bulbs and tube-lights are burned in the open, releasing lead, mercury toxins into the air.

Metals and non-degradable materials such as gold and platinum, aluminium, cadmium, mercury, lead and brominated flame-retardants are retrieved.

The paper further mentioned that Delhi alone gets around 85% of the electronic waste generated in the developed world.

In terms of total e-waste produced internally or brought from outside for recycling, Delhi's e-waste weighs between 25,000 and 30,000 metric tonnes per year.

The study highlights that though Mumbai and Chennai are the top importers of junk computers and electronic waste in India, Delhi has emerged as the main hub of e-waste recycling in India, and perhaps the world.

The e-waste imported from Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai makes its way to Delhi, as there is a ready market for glass and plastic in the NCR. Also, the wastes from Mumbai constitute a bulk of the 1,500 tonnes discarded electronics that land in Delhi's scrap yards everyday.

Assocham has also strongly advocated the need to bring out effective legislation to prevent entry of child labour into its collection, segregation and distribution.

As per the estimates, more then 35,000-45,000 child labourers in the age group from 10 to 14 years are observed to be engaged in various e-waste activities, without adequate protection and safeguards in Delhi's various yards and recycling workshops.

"Domestic e-waste including computer, TV, mobiles and refrigerators contain over 1,000 toxic material, which contaminate soil and ground water. Exposure can cause headache, irritability, nausea, vomiting, eye pain. Recyclers may suffer liver, kidney and neurological disorders," said Dr BK Rao, chairman of Assocham Health committee releasing the Assocham paper.

Due to lack of awareness, they are risking their health and the environment as well. They use strong acids to retrieve precious metals such as gold.

Working in poorly-ventilated enclosed areas without masks and technical expertise results in exposure to dangerous and slow-poisoning chemicals, adds the paper.

It also highlights that that there are no clear guidelines for the unorganized sector to handle e-waste. The recyclers are not fully aware of the health risks.

''These products have components that contain toxic substances like lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, plastic, PVC, BFRs, barium, beryllium, and carcinogens like carbon black and heavy metals. This deadly mix can cause severe health problems in those handling the waste," adds Dr Rao.

Printed circuit boards, for instance, contain heavy metals like Antimony, Gold, Silver, Chromium, Zinc, Lead, Tin and Copper. The method of extracting these materials from circuit boards is highly hazardous and involves heating the metals in the open.

2. Sewage

Though the Yamuna starts getting polluted by pesticides and fertilisers as it enters Haryana, most of the pollution occurs in Delhi. More than 10 million people live in Delhi. Yet it does not have a proper sewage disposal system.Nineteen drains from Delhi open into the Yamuna. At one time, these carried rainwater. But because of the poor sewage disposal system, water carrying sewage is discharged into these drains, from where it finds its way to the river.In Delhi, along a stretch, the Yamuna is choked by water hyacinth—a weed. This is an example of eutrophication. Dead fish are also found in the river as soon as the monsoon begins. This is due to the sudden increase in pesticide and other pollutant levels.Industrial wastes also find their way into the river from large industrial units (22 in Haryana, 42 in Delhi and 17 in Uttar Pradesh) and many small industrial units. Surprisingly, though Delhi constitutes only 2% of the catchment area, it is responsible for 80% of the pollution of the river.
Sewage in water directly leads to the production of methane and other deadly gases, which enter Delhi's air.

3. Industry and Power Generation - None of these plants have been shut down when I last checked.

In addition to power plants within the city, a lot of RWAs that ensure 100% power supply run Diesel based DG sets that contribute directly to air pollution.

Contrary to popular belief, most of the air pollution in Delhi is not due to vehicular traffic. Main contributors to particulate matter in the PM10 range, as a recent study shows, are road dust (50%) and industry (23%)--vehicles accounted for only 7%. Among industrial contributors, power plants within Delhi city limits were the main culprits.[7]

4. Hospital Waste

5. Burning Trash

6. Poor Solid Waste Management
- Go to the Section on Solid Waste Management

Analyses by NEERI of solid waste at the landfills demonstrates that in most parts of the landfill the deposited waste is stabilized with the passage of time. However, such stabilisation requires prolonged periods of time and invariably causes environmental pollution, due to the escape of generated gas and leachate, if land disposal is practised in the present manner. In the proposed system, biogas generated during landfilling will be recovered and utilised gainfully. NEERI has suggested Optimal Design of System Elements, including collection, transportation, processing and disposal. The resource requirement for the proposed system for the collection equipment and its replacement has been estimated.

7. Construction
Particulate Matter is directly related to the Construction Industry. Construction Activity is responsible for dust generation, esp in dry zones like NCR. Construction materials add significantly to the Suspended Particulate Matter.

And Endnote:
1. Delhi Govt does not know what is causing pollution in Delhi :
"If vehicles are not causing air pollution, then what is the cause. Can anyone tell us the reason of rest 80 per cent of air pollution? Think of children who are living on antibiotics due to pollution. Do we have no responsibility towards them," the bench had asked.

2. Studies that no one acted on:

3. What are the causes of pollution in Delhi


Onkar said...

A very informative and timely piece

kj said...

yikes. that is all so foolish and costly.
when will we ever learn?


Anonymous said...

Thoda unrelated to this but still... lemme tell anyways..

You know my town is perhaps the most polluted town of Gujarat if not entire India, once upon a time we had the Asia's largest industrial estate, most of it is pesticide and petrochemical plans making dyes and inks and what not...

Whilst Delhi gets all the focus and work atleast seems to have begun... our parts of the world I don't even know when will they all come into focus.

I so prefer some of the non industrialised states... they are far better..