Pollution Current Affairs
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Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) under Ministry of Commerce and Industry has banned import of petcoke for use as fuel. But it has allowed its import of only for use as feedstock in some select industries such as cement, lime kiln, calcium carbide and gasification industries. These industries were earlier affected by petcoke-related policy flip-flops, which began after Supreme Court judgment (October 2017) banning use its in and around New Delhi to curb pollution.
India is the world’s biggest consumer of petcoke. It gets over half its annual petcoke imports of around 27 million tonnes from United States. Local producers include Indian Oil Corp, Reliance Industries and Bharat Petroleum Corp. It is dark solid carbon material. Cement companies in India account for about three-fourths of country’s petcoke use. Usage of pet coke in energy-hungry India recently had come under scrutiny due to rising pollution levels in major cities.
Petcoke (Petroleum coke)
It is one of the many industrial byproducts produced during oil refining. It is categorized as bottom of the barrel fuel as it is residual waste material which is obtained after refining coal to extract lighter fuels like petrol. It is used as a source of energy and carbon for various industrial applications. It is abundantly used in India in several manufacturing industries such as cement, steel and textile as it is significantly cheaper that coal, has high calorific value and is easier to transport and store. There are two kinds of pet coke produced viz. Fuel grade pet coke (80%) and calcined pet coke (20%) during oil refining.
Environment and Health Hazards of Pet Coke
Petcoke is much more potent pollutant than coal and causes greater harm to the environment and health. It contains whopping 74,000 PPM of sulphur content which is released into atmosphere as emissions which is much higher than vehicular emissions. It is also source of fine dust, which can get through filtering process of human airway and lodge in lungs which can cause serious health problems. Apart from sulphur, petcoke also releases cocktail of other toxic gases after burning such as nitrous oxide, mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, hydrogen chloride and greenhouse gases (GHG) which contribute to global warming.
According to Global Urban Air Pollution database released by World Health Organisation (WHO), 14 Indian cities have figured in list of world’s 20 most polluted cities in terms of particulate matter PM2.5 levels in 2016. These 14 cities include Delhi, Varanasi, Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur. They were followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem (Kuwait) and few cities in China and Mongolia. In terms of PM10 levels, 13 cities in India figured among the 20 most-polluted cities.
The database measured levels of fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) from more than 4,300 cities in 108 countries. It estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into lungs and cardiovascular system. WHO recognises air pollution is critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) as it causes diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia. Since 2016, over 1,000 additional cities are being added to WHO’s database, showing that more countries are measuring and taking action to reduce air pollution than ever before.
Pollution related Deaths: According to WHO database, ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016 across the globe, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies has caused 3.8 million deaths in same period. It shows that 9 out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.
Global Scenario: More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (including India), mainly in Asia and Africa. It is followed by low-and middle-income countries of Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and Americas. More than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits. While all regions of world are affected, populations in low-income cities are most impacted.
South Asia region: It alone accounts for 1.5 million (40%) deaths by household air pollution and 1.3 million (30%) global deaths due to ambient air pollution. Member-countries in Southeast Asia Region need to aggressively address double burden of household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution.
Lack of clean fuel: Around 3 billion people (more than 40% of the world’s population) still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution.
Since 2016, over 1,000 additional cities have been added to WHO’s database, which shows more countries are measuring and taking action to reduce air pollution than ever before.