Government Actions this week


Polluters to pay up to Rs 1 crore without judicial review

Is fining better than jailing?  In this case, yes.
The government is going to move towards fining polluting industries up to Rs 1 crore.  This is good, as it improves chances of punishing polluting units for their harmful actions.  But there is a more critical issue that bureaucrats will never solve - if polluting units get away who is to be blamed?  Should blame be assigned to the polluting unit or also the relevant department overseeing it?  I would say that it is the laxity, corruption, and laziness within government departments that needs to be punished as well.  But who will punish the enforcer?


Why are Delhi’s waste collectors refusing glass bottles?

Garbage recycling employs lakhs in addition to reducing carbon emissions, and expenditures of municipalities. 
But the Finance Ministry forgot this fact and imposed higher GST on recycled products.  To add to that, units can only get a GST credit from the organized sector players, but most garbage collectors are poor informal sector operators.  The result, cost of refuse has crashed, lesser waste is being resold and recycled, employment and incomes are impacted and greater trash is being generated for landfills.  


Enough workforce, yet Delhi remains smothered in garbage

India’s capital does not know how to clear its trash! And the high court thinks it can solve the problem.
Is there a good solution?  Efficient trash collection is a result of good contracting, punishing bad behaviour, rewarding good one, and constantly monitoring performance.  The judiciary is wrong in believing that the bureaucrat can do this on his own, he needs the power of a local politician to enable him.  Therefore, India needs empowered and directly elected mayors, not just a proactive PM or a hyperactive judiciary.


Crop burning: Punjab govt to offer $1 million for solution

A new way of generating ideas is being tried in Punjab; hope this one works.
My experience with dealing with bureaucracy in Delhi or any state capital is that they always ‘know’ more than anyone else.  The fact that they achieve less than most is another matter!  The stubble problem has a simple solution, use of a seed drill enables a farmer to plant without bothering about eliminating the stubble.   But seed drills require some costs and effort which the farmer is unwilling to bear.  Other solutions are required.


Indian coal utilities seek state funds or tariff hike to cut emissions

Thermal power companies account for 80 percent of all industrial emissions of particulate matter, sulphur and nitrous oxides in India.
Both public and private sector thermal power units want the government to fund them and the numbers run into tens of billions of dollars.  Should the government do so?   The answer is an unambiguous yes.  The government is the chief contractor, buyer, regulator and input seller to these units.  If it changes the regulations midway in the lifecycle of the project, it should also enable them to meet the improved standards.  The clean energy fund was meant for such expenses.


Soon, industries could buy and sell PM 2.5 emission permits

The Niti Aayog is working on another scheme that will not work.  Another self-goal by the fast-tanking non-thinking body.
It won’t work because, the Central Pollution Control Board does not have the bandwidth to impose caps, monitor in the real time, and enforce obligations on thousands of small and large units.  The Central Government’s power plants are the most polluting units in India, and they claim not to have adequate funds to clean up.   Such schemes only adversely affect the small and medium private sector which is less than 20 percent of the problem. 



Electric trucks and vans cut pollution faster than cars

Electric commercial vehicles have a far more beneficial impact than electric cars.
Electric commercial vehicles are becoming economically viable, in fact much faster than predicted and their use is also rapidly rising.  It is not only the cost of energy that is in their favour, but also maintenance cost – electric vehicles have very few moving parts and therefore require lower maintenance costs.


India’s fossil fuel subsidies linked with 8 times the health costs

Subsidies on fossil fuels like kerosene seriously and adversely impact health.
Households are known to use LPG, coal, and kerosene for cooking and other heat related household needs.  However, given the fact that LPG pollutes relatively little, and coal is progressively becoming less important for household use, means that Kerosene subsidy is becoming the biggest culprit.  It would not take much to stop subsidizing kerosene altogether, but somehow this change oriented government is hesitating from taking the natural step of stopping kerosene subsidies.


In a first, NOIDA high-rise to run diesel gen-sets on PNG fuel

A housing society moves to a low polluting fuel because it works out cheaper.
A housing society, unfortunately, needs to have electricity back up which given the fossil fuel tend to be highly polluting.  However, the presence of piped gas in NOIDA allows such entities to retrofit Diesel gen-sets to burn PNG.  Should work as long as the gas supply is more stable than electricity and diesel supply!


In 2 years residential solar energy to be cheaper than electricity grid

Most believe that solar prices will continue to fall, but when will households shift en-masse is the question.
Solar energy is already cheaper than the cost of conventional power for commercial units, but soon some believe it will be even cheaper than that available to residents.  Moreover, most middle and higher income households in India already have the electricity backup mechanisms in the form of inverters with 6-12 hour capacities.  These are adequate to store solar power as well.  Interesting times ahead.

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