The hidden cost of a plastic planet

Jeswin Varughese

Plastic pollution is one of the significant contributors of air pollution. This is mainly due to the extraction of raw materials, its burning, and inadequate waste disposal. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, burning plastics is the worst possible end-of-life management approach for plastics from a climate perspective. Nowadays, Particulate Matter (PM) is the most common and prominent air pollutant. It is found that air pollution from PM takes 2.2 years off the global average life expectancy. Exposure to even low levels of PM has the potential to cause serious harm to humans, the natural and built environment, and is also one of the leading causes of climate change.

In India, more than 63 percent of the population lives in areas with PM concentration that exceeds the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. To deal with this, the Government of India launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in 2019. The programme aims to reduce PM concentration by 20-30 percent by implementing innovative city-level air pollution control strategies. As part of NCAP, IPE Global was appointed by GIZ for developing Viable Technical Solutions for Planning a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) at Lingaraj Temple Area (EkamraKshetra Heritage Zone) in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.(A Low Emission Zone (LEZ) is a specified area within which certain pollution-causing activities are regulated to improve air quality) The LEZ is seen as a potential solution to reducing air pollution levels within acceptable standards. The proposed measures will help in improving the overall air environment of the EkamraKshetra Heritage Zone. LEZ will also act as a model for similar interventions across the city, laying the groundwork for overall air pollution reduction across Bhubaneswar. The project aims to fast-track India’s net-zero aspirations and would also help achieve SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), and SDG 13 (Climate Action).

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