Increasing Concern of Air Pollution in South-East Asia

Increasing Concern of Air Pollution in South-East Asia
Male Declaration is considered as an example for sub-regional cooperation. It provides the frame work for South Asia to cooperate not only on air pollution issues but also on environment security. With increasing urbanisation and economic growth, and having a quarter of the world’s population, air pollution is an increasing concern in South Asian countries. In 1998, UNEP together with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) drew attention to the possibility of the impacts of transboundary air pollution in South Asia. This initiative led to the adoption of the ‘Male Declaration on Control and Prevention of Air Pollution. The initiative was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) as part of the Regional Air Pollution in Developing countries (RAPIDC) programme. Participating countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Currently, the Male Declaration is at the IV phase (2010 - 2012), which is focusing on strengthening the basis of the Male Declaration. Commitments from participating countries are encouraging. Phase IV will continue to assist the member countries enhance their regional cooperation, monitoring impact assessment; strengthen the initiatives started in the first three phases and to initiate new ones.

Achievements of Indian Polar Program
Indian unfurled its Flag on Geographical South Pole on 20th November, 2010 for the first time in history. In Antarctica 30 out of 240 new species discovered so far have been from India. Two genes namely t-RNA modification GTPase and aspratate aminotransferase have been identified as genes required for survival of bacteria at low temperature.

North Eastern Council – Poised for Progress
The North Eastern Council is the nodal agency for the economic and social development of the North Eastern Region which consists of the eight States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.  The North Eastern Council was constituted in 1971 by an Act of Parliament.  The constitution of the Council has marked the beginning of a new chapter of concerted and planned endeavour for the rapid development of the Region.  Over the last forty years, NEC has been  instrumental in setting in motion a new economic endeavour aimed at removing the basic handicaps that stood in the way of normal development of the region and has ushered in an era of new hope in this backward area full of great potentialities. NEC has come up with the roadmap for over all development and progress of North Eastern Region by implementing the NER Vision Document 2020 released by the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on 2nd July 2008 in New Delhi.

India’s Global Rank in Field of Scientific Research and Development
India’s position globally in the field of scientific research and development, as measured by the number of research papers published, has improved from 13th position in 1996 to 9th position in 2010 as per the Scopus International database. A total 34287 patents dor new innovations are submitted by Indians and Foreigners Resident Abroad.

Nuclear Waste Management
A unique feature of nuclear power plants is the generation of extremely low quantity of radioactive waste. The spent fuel containing most of the high level radioactivity is not considered waste as it produces valuable fuel for future reactors. Spent fuel is sent for reprocessing for the extraction of plutonium, uranium and other useful isotopes. High-level waste is immobilised by verifications in glass matrix, encapsulated in stainless steel double – walled canisters and kept for interim storage for about 30 years under surveillance in concrete vault lined with stainless steel for decay of radioactivity. Ultimately waste is disposed off in deep underground geological repository with protective barriers.
Small quantities of very low levels of gaseous and liquid radioactive wastes are also produced in nuclear power stations. Gaseous wastes are filtered, monitored and disposed off through a 100 –m tall stack. Liquid wastes disposed off, are very low compared to regulatory stipulations. The impact of these wastes on the environment is estimated to be less than 1% of the stipulated does limit for the general public.

Protecting Environment while Generating Energy 
Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) has voluntarily taken up Environment Stewardship Programme (ESP), besides fulfilling regulatory and statutory requirement. The programme focuses on the scientific study of the bio-diversity, particularly avifauna, within and around Exclusion Zones (EZs) of Indian nuclear power plants for the improvement of habitat and conservation. An EZ is a 1.6-km- radius area around the centre of a nuclear plant. While only a fraction of this area is used for the plant structures, remaining is used for green-belting. A large number of bird-species have made EZs their home.
                                                                                    The Exclusion Zone is one of biggest strength of NPPs-a no-man’s land, graded by Central Industrial Security Force. Nuclear power plants use water or cooling purposes and , therefore, are located near water bodies-rivers, lakes, reservoirs and sea. These conditions make EZs a preferred choice for the birds. This lush green area is home to a large number of birds and other forms of bio-diversity. NPCIL’s Stations and Projects are located in several bio-geographic zones of India representing a large variety of bird species. A dedicated team of volunteers backed by a strong management support makes the programme progressive. Each station / project has set up a nature club named after a threatened bird of that area. With the help of nature club, a butterfly garden has been set up in the Exclusion Zone of Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) . More than 2500 plants of 63different species have been planted in the garden. It includes flowering plants, nectar plants, host plants, creepers, etc. A campaign has been launched under ESP to ensure that Diclofenac - a drug used in animal husbandry and responsible for killing 99% population of Gyps Vultures – is withdrawn and in no more circulation.

Desertification, land Degradation and Drought in India
Poverty and environmental degradation are major problems in dry lands, where forests and trees contribute significantly to rural livelihoods. In order to eradicate poverty in the dry lands, it is important to protect the land from deforestation, fragmentation, degradation and drought. About 228 mha (69%) of India's total geographical area (about 328 mha) is under dry lands (arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid). These areas incidentally are highly populated which makes the people vulnerable to environmental stress and impacts livelihoods directly.
                                                                                                                             In order to tackle the issues of desertification, land degradation and droughts, 22 major programmes are being implemented in the country, including, the “Mission for Green India”, one of the Missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, which will address dry land forests, in addition to other ecosystems.
4th national report submitted to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Secretariat  not only encompasses the Government of India's initiatives but also Civil Society's contribution in addressing the issues of desertification, land degradation and drought.

Highlights of the Report submitted to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by India
1. About 69 percent of India is dry land – arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid
2. These areas are heavily populated and degradation has severe implications for livelihood and food security for millions of people living in these areas
3. An estimated 32 percent of India’s total land area is affected by land degradation
81.45 million hectares, or 24.8 percent of the country’s geographic area is undergoing desertification
4. Water and soil erosion are major causes of land degradation; water erosion is most prominent in agricultural regions
The key anthropogenic factors resulting in degradation are unsustainable agricultural practices; diversion of land to development programmes; industrial effluents; mining and deforestation
Land rehabilitation has been a major priority since Independence, and several policies and government agencies address desertification and degradation. These include various programmes namely  Desert Development Programme; Integrated Wasteland Development; National Watershed, Development Project for Rainfed Areas; Soil Conservation in the Catchment of River Valley Projects; National Afforestation Programme; Arid Zone Research; Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme; National Rural Drinking Water Programme etc.
source - pib backgrounder