According to the World Health Organization, about 7 million premature deaths from air pollution, and 4 million of these people belong to the Asia-Pacific region.
By Gaurav Kedia,
Air pollution affects everyone from unborn babies to school-aged children to seniors wherever we are, whether it’s in the house or on the street. Children are more vulnerable to air pollution because exposure to dirty air with a higher concentration of pollutants damages brain development and leads to cognitive and motor impairment. Every year, 600,000 children die prematurely due to polluted air.
Air pollution affects poor people because they lack access to clean fuels and technologies for domestic use. According to the World Health Organization, about 7 million premature deaths from air pollution, and 4 million of these people belong to the Asia-Pacific region. A survey conducted by the WHO in 1600 cities concluded that Delhi has the worst air quality compared to most major cities in the world. The air quality in Delhi is said to be six times higher than normal, especially during winter. Stubble burning by farmers in the neighboring states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh is also one of the main reasons for the deterioration of air quality in the capital. According to data from the Indian Institute of Meteorology, stubble burns by farmers contributed 6 to 48% to Delhi’s air PM 2.5 in November.
The right to clean air and a healthy environment is a fundamental right in more than 100 countries. Addressing this problem of air pollution requires concerted efforts from policy makers, NGOs, industries, farmers and the general public. Since air quality is fundamental to the well-being of every living thing, everyone must be involved in the action to preserve it. Governments should take the lead in policy making, while the rest of our policies should support to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals to mitigate the effects of climate change and build sustainable cities and communities, living prosperous and peaceful. guarantee for everyone.
To tackle the problem of air pollution from stubble burning, governments need to educate farmers about the various environmentally friendly methods of using biomass and encourage such practices.
Using biomass to combat air pollution
Biogas is a renewable energy source produced by the anaerobic digestion of organic waste by microbes in sealed containers. The organic waste includes food waste, agricultural waste and sewage sludge. Biogas mainly consists of methane, carbon dioxide and other gases. Biogas is combustible and can be used for multiple purposes, such as electricity generation, heating, cooking and fuel for vehicles. It can be produced at the micro level for consumption in small communities or buildings, and at the macro level for distribution in larger networks.
The biogas industry meets 9 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It contributes to curbing global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Electricity generation from biogas projects reduces dependence on fossil fuels and reduces CO2 emissions by completing the carbon cycle. Apart from these benefits, biogas plants also generate nutrient-rich biofertilizers as a by-product that can be used to increase soil fertility in agricultural lands.
To reduce pollution from vehicles and industry from the combustion of fossil fuels, biomass can be used to generate biofuels. Various types of solid, liquid and gaseous fuels can be made from biomass, such as ethanol, methanol, bio-oil, biochar, hydrogen and methane. These fuels can be used for various applications, such as fuel in engines, cells and for electricity generation. Biofuels can be blended with fossil fuels such as diesel and gasoline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial units and vehicles.
According to the concept of circular economy, the production of fertilizers must be closed in a cycle to avoid pollution caused by the dissipation of the fertilizing nutrients into the air. Biomass waste is a storehouse of valuable nutrients that keep the soil healthy and promote plant growth. Biomass generated during crop harvesting, livestock residues and residues from slaughterhouses and food processing units can be used to generate nutrient-rich compost that improves soil structure and increases crop productivity.
Gasification of biomass
Biomass can be converted into low-calorific production gas consisting of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. This gas can be treated and made suitable for use in domestic cooking and lighting purposes and industrial purposes such as power generation and RNG for vehicles. The pellets and briquettes from crop residues can be fed to the gasification plants to generate clean energy from biogas.
Used as feed
Biomass from agriculture can be used as animal feed. The organic waste from agriculture contains protein, energy and various nutraceuticals. It can be mixed with other supplements and fed to cattle and other animals to maintain their health and strength.
Effective use of biomass can bring multiple benefits to farmers by providing a sustainable source of heat and energy, improving soil fertility, increasing productivity and thereby increasing their income.
Biomass is a very valuable energy source that can help combat climate change and protect the environment. However, direct combustion of crop residues for cooking and heating purposes leads to air pollution and poses health risks. Burning agricultural stubble also results in a loss of soil nutrients, which affects crop yield.
Awareness, education and action are the need of the hour to tackle the problem of air pollution. Farmers should be made aware of the effects of stubble burning on the environment and alternative methods of disposing of agricultural waste.
Governments should introduce advanced technologies for the efficient conversion of biomass into various forms, such as biogas, biofuels and biofertilizers. Provisions should be made for easy transfer of agricultural waste to the biomass conversion plants during the harvest season. Several plants have to be set up for the conversion of biomass into biogas and biofuel to ensure that most of the generated organic waste is converted into clean energy. Industries should be encouraged to use cleaner fuels and measures should be taken to ensure the availability of biofuels for vehicles.
(The author is president of the Indian Biogas Association. Opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)
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