6 Ideas Our Government Can Use Right Now To Reduce Air Pollution
People in India die prematurely because of air pollution. If the air was not so polluted, we would, on average, live 3.2 years more. And things will only get worse as we as a nation develop further.
The AAP government in Delhi recently announced that they will provide funding of Rs 2 crore to test the best ideas a startup can come up with to combat pollution. While that is an awesome endeavor, the world has already given us ideas that are working fairly well in combating pollution. These ideas are just not evenly distributed.
Why fund new ideas when we can simply implement existing ideas that are working really well in France, China, Netherlands, and even our own Gujarat?
1. Using Air Quality Index data
So India started tracking their air quality only since April of 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the National Air Quality Index. Indians can now know in real time how polluted their city is.
The pollution data is not being used to reduce the pollution however. All we do is track the pollution. But if the pollution levels increase, we do nothing. Unlike cities like Paris and Beijing.
In Paris, when the pollution level increases, public transportation is made free. People take more buses and trains. Cars on the road reduce by about 50%. And this leads to instant reduction in air pollution levels.
Beijing takes even stricter measures by shutting down factories and putting a cap on the number of cars allowed on the road.
What’s the use of data if we don’t heed to it and take action? On days when air pollution is really bad, it would be awesome to make public transportation free. And to pay for it, may be charge more for fuel on those days – so that we have fewer cars on the road.
2. Electrifying the Public Transportation
In March 2015, E-Rickshaw bill was passed in the Indian parliament allowing electric rickshaws on the road. But the Indian busses are still gas guzzling behemoths.
Companies like Microvast have invented electric and hybrid buses. They have over 3000 buses running everywhere from London to Brussels to Munster to Chongqing to Beijing. These buses take 10-15 minutes to recharge. Each bus can travel 300 km on a recharge. And the batteries in these buses have the same lifespan as most gasoline vehicles.
But the best part? These buses provide a positive return on investment in as low as 3-5 years!
3. Vacuuming the Air
If you visit the Rotterdamn park in the Netherlands, you will see a 23 feet tall structure in the middle of the park. The structure is a big vacuum cleaner that cleans the air.
Invented by technologist Bob Ursem and designer Daan Roosegaarde, the vacuum cleaner inhales the dirty air and positively charges the smaller particles in the air. And just as iron is attracted to a magnet, these positively charged particles are attracted to the electrodes in the chamber. And what is exhaled out is clean air!
When tested, this technology showed that it reduced air pollution by as much as 60% outdoors. And when used indoors in parking garages and hospitals, it reduced air pollution by as much as 70%!
4. Smog Eating Roofs and Walls
Researchers from University of California developed roof tile coating in 2014 that reduces smog.
When fuel is burned at high temperatures, it forms nitrogen oxide. This nitrogen oxide reacts with organic compounds in the presence of sunlight to create smog.
But when titanium dioxide interacts with nitrogen oxide, it decomposes and breaks it down into harmless byproduct. By coating roof tiles with titanium dioxide, they reduced smog by 88%.
Boysen – a paint company in Philippines tested adding titanium dioxide to their paint. And found that one house painted with it can remove more air pollutants than are generated by two cars!
Mexico is one country that has taken this to their heart. And Mexico’s ministry of health funds coating of hospital walls with a dose of titanium dioxide!
5. Urban Forestry – Natural Way of Eating Smog
When Toyota wanted to make their building carbon neutral, they hired Dr. Akira Miyawaki. Dr. Miyawaki built a forest by planting trees densely in a systematic manner.
Shubhendu Sharma, an Indian who worked for Toyota – was fascinated by this process and learned everything he could from Dr. Miyawaki. And then started his own company Afforestt – that helps build forests in your backyard.
He can help grow 300 trees in the space it takes to plant 6 cars! When each single tree can absorb as much as 13-48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year, it adds up to a lot!
Air pollution would reduce drastically if each community created their own small little forest!
6. Better Auditing of Industries
Today, industrial plants and factories in India hire a third party company to come and audit their factories. These auditors check pollution levels thrice a year and submit a report annually. But who would complain against a company who is writing them their pay cheques?
Is it any wonder then that while 59% of factories violate Indian pollution norms, only 7% are cited for it?
Gujarat Pollution Control Board changed this. They did 3 things:
i. Instead of companies hiring their own auditors, they would randomly send an auditor to a factory.
ii. These auditors were paid a bonus on accurate information.
iii. And 20% of the time, they would send another auditor to randomly do a re-check (because face it: bribing is rampant in India).
With this new system in place, auditors were 80% less likely to submit inaccurate pollution readings!
And because of the better accuracy in readings, the factories started doing more to curb their pollution. Resulting in 28% reduction in air pollution in Ahmedabad in just 1 year!
- Our government needs to invest in getting more accurate data and reports. And then act proactively on that data.
- It should actively hunt for ideas that are already working in other parts of the world. Because implementing these ideas is cheaper.
- And it should incentivize implementation of tested ideas so that speed of implementation increases!
Author Bio: Ankesh Kothari is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor from Mumbai. You should subscribe to his monthly newsletter to get to read some amazing stories and studies that can improve your lives.
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