Technology solutions the key to combating air pollution in India’s cities

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Clean Air Asia and the Japanese Embassy in India brought together leading air quality experts and representatives from four Japanese companies at a roundtable discussion to foster the development of technological solutions to air pollution and improved air quality management in Indian cities.

The “Technology Landscape for Air Quality Management” discussion – a collaborative event organized by Clean Air Asia’s Integrated Programme for Better Air Quality in Asia (IBAQ Programme) and the Embassy’s air quality monitoring program “Blue Sky Initiative”, held on March 7 in Delhi – highlighted the importance of introducing innovative technologies to combat air pollution at the city level.

Speaking about Japan’s commitment to environmental protection, Kenko Sone, Economics and Development Minister at the Embassy said the country had also faced air quality challenges, particularly in the late 1950s to early 1960s during a period of high economic growth.

“With the increase in population and the rise in economy, there was rapid development,” Mr Sone said. “However, such development caused congestion and garbage accumulation and other associated problems. The environment began to deteriorate, the air became seriously polluted, rivers were poisoned, and local communities paid the price for the surge in prosperity.

“Smoke from factories polluted air in the cities, and people suffered from various diseases. The number of deaths due to asthma and other illnesses related to air pollution woke up the Japanese Government, companies, civil society, industries and citizens about the need to work together to fight against air pollution and other environmental problems.”

Clean Air Asia India Director Prarthana Borah said presenting technology as an integrated approach was vital in addressing India’s air pollution challenges.

“It is not just about data, but how we actually find the solution,” Ms Borah said. “It is important for us to understand that the right kind of technology is essential to meet the problem of air pollution.”

Hitachi Zosen India Deputy Vice-President Ravishanker Vadlamani detailed a range of measures being undertaken to reduce emissions for areas sources such as biomass and open waste burning, and dust from roads and construction sites, including energy generation from municipal solid waste.

Representatives from Japan’s Nitto Denko Corporation and Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt Ltd spoke about the development of environmentally sustainable products such as polymeric dust suppression to bind dust particles on roads to prevent their transmission in the air, and the electrification of vehicles and the development of hybrid cars in India for the past four years.

Japan International Cooperation Agency Programme Specialist Kenichirou Iwahori said it was important to pursue sustainable transportation options to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, including mass public transit initiatives such as the Delhi Metro and Intelligent Transport Systems.

While representatives from the cities of Guwahati and Chandigarh expressed interest in the solid waste management and dust suppression technologies, D.K. Behera from the Odisha State Pollution Control Board said that India’s experience with waste-to-energy plants had not been positive, primarily due to the lack of segregation of municipal solid waste in Indian cities. He said the most successful method was the co-processing of municipal solid waste with cement.

Ms Borah said there was a demonstrated need for dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders. “This discussion underscores the need to address the challenges through an integrated approach by bringing together eminent people from the national government, the Central Pollution Control Board and other national organizations to facilitate dialogue between stakeholders to find viable solutions.”