Can Government’s Commitment towards the Biogas Industry Result in Better Air Quality?
Using biogas in place of coal, fossil fuels, and raw biomass for the generation of energy in power plants, industry, and households can reduce particulate matter in the air and carbon emissions by over 40%. Biogas can be further refined and processed into biomethane, which can be used as vehicular fuel.
January 04, 2023. By News Bureau
11.6% deaths due to Air pollution globally
17.8% deaths due to Air pollution in India
Majorly by Respiratory diseases, Stroke, Heart attacks and Cancer
The latest statistics from AQLI (air Quality Life Index) shows that India is the second most polluted country in the world with a particulate pollution of 55.8 ug/ m3. The annual average particulate pollution level in India is far above the WHO guidelines, which shortens the life expectancy of its people by 6.3 years. Air pollution is much worse in some areas of the country, with the air quality index reaching above the national average. For example, the pollution in Delhi and its surrounding regions, with an AQI of above 300, shortens the life expectancy of the citizens by 10 years on average.
The leading causes of air pollution are industrial emissions, vehicular emissions, crop burning, and the utilization of fossil fuels for domestic cooking and heating. While nearly 50% of the total pollution is caused by unchecked pollutants from industry, vehicular emissions contribute 27%, crop burning adds up to 17%, and domestic cooking contributes 7% to the pollution. Industrial waste and vehicular emissions are the leading causes of air pollution in urban areas, whereas crop burning and the burning of organic material for domestic purposes are the two main reasons for reducing air quality in rural India.
The Indian government enacted the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in 2019 to address the issue of air pollution. The programme aims to reduce pollution in over 132 cities that are worst affected by air pollution by 40% by 2026. The NCAP works towards strengthening the air quality measurement network, reducing vehicular and industrial emissions, and increasing public awareness among other steps to improve the air quality in India.
Though the government is taking several measures to curb emissions and reduce pollution, the efforts are not yielding effective results in practice. India needs to look toward new technologies with a low carbon footprint to achieve its targets of pollution control.
The biogas industry can play a crucial role in reducing air pollution and improving the life expectancy of Indians. Biogas can be used for multiple purposes, ranging from domestic heating and cooking to generating electricity and serving as fuel for vehicles. Being a clean and green fuel, biogas has a very low carbon footprint in comparison to fossil fuels and raw biomass. Promoting the biogas industry can help combat pollution and climate change. It will also help in dealing with the issues of organic waste management and reducing the spread of diseases.
Using biogas in place of coal, fossil fuels, and raw biomass for the generation of energy in power plants, industry, and households can reduce particulate matter in the air and carbon emissions by over 40%. Biogas can be further refined and processed into biomethane, which can be used as vehicular fuel. Replacing fossil fuels such as petrol, diesel, and gasoline with biomethane can reduce ~60 to 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and also reduce particulate matter in the air.
Emissions from landfills are also one of the leading causes of air pollution. Globally, landfills cause over 799 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually. Moreover, rotting organic waste in landfills also leads to land pollution and the spread of diseases. The seeping water from landfills mixes with underground water sources and rivers to cause water pollution. Using organic waste in biogas digesters instead of throwing it in landfills provides a holistic solution to air, land, and water pollution and helps to maintain hygienic surroundings. Biogas digesters use organic and municipal wastes as raw materials to produce biogas via anaerobic digestion. Several cities worldwide, such as London, Scotland, California and Paris have demonstrated the benefits of converting organic and municipal waste to biogas.
Setting up biogas plants in rural areas can also help to resolve the issue of crop burning. According to the WHO, crop burning is alone responsible for 7 million deaths worldwide every year, of which 650,000 are children. In India, parali burning is responsible for over 44% of the PM 2.5 pollution in Delhi and surrounding regions. Apart from reducing air quality, the black carbon from crop burning also reduces soil fertility, causes soil erosion, and contributes to global warming. Converting agricultural waste into biogas instead of burning it can help reduce particulate emissions and improve air quality, apart from preserving soil quality and fighting climate change.
Burning raw biomass emits particulate matter and hazardous gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, lead, mercury, etc. Most households in villages use wood, dung cakes, etc. for cooking, heating, and lighting purposes. The pollutants released while burning these materials create indoor air pollution that severely damages the health of women and children. Biogas plants convert dangerous biomass into safe and clean biogas and ensure cheap energy sources for these households.
In view of the numerous benefits of the biogas industry, the government must increase its commitment towards promoting this sector. Easy loans must be provided to entrepreneurs in the sector to boost capacity. Incentive schemes such as feed-in tariffs, transparent pricing systems, etc. will make investment in the biogas sector lucrative. The government must also provide training and skill development programmes to create a cadre of technicians to work in the installation, commissioning, and operation of biogas plants. Moreover, to improve public perception and encourage participation, proper awareness of programmes about the benefits of biogas must be undertaken from time to time.
The biogas industry can reduce the imports of fossil fuels and make India self-sufficient in the energy sector. It can also aid in reducing particulate pollution and carbon emissions and help in combating climate change. India can increase the lifespan of its citizens and improve their living conditions by promoting the biogas sector, which is a clean, green, and sustainable form of energy.
- Dr. A R Shukla, President, Indian Biogas Association
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