Permanent solution to Delhi pollution lies in shift to green energy: Official

DRIIV chief says the Central agency is looking to collaborate with Delhi govt on garbage reduction & Yamuna cleanliness

| Updated: 30 May, 2023 4:45 pm IST
Before her DRIIV assignment, Misra worked with many multinationals and the UK government over policy matters. (TNI photo by Subham Tiwari)

How many years will it take to make Delhi livable? When will pollution stop haunting Delhiites? How does the government plan mass adoption of green hydrogen-powered vehicles? How many years are needed to clean Yamuna?

Shipra Mishra, the MD and CEO of the Delhi Research Implementation and Innovation – a Central agency under the office of Principal Scientific Advisor, answers some of the pressing questions related to urban India in an exclusive interview with The New Indian. Edited excerpts:

Question: What are the core focus areas of DRIIV’s mandate?

Answer: We are focusing on waste management, waste-to-wealth, air pollution and water pollution mitigation, sustainable mobility, greener energy, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) in healthcare.

Question: Pollution is a major issue in Delhi. What measures has DRIIV taken to combat air pollution?

Answer: DRIIV has extensively worked on air pollution. We have mapped hotspots in and around Delhi with ward-level accuracy. Our data spanning 20 years helps analyze pollution sources, which has been identified as road transport, industrial activities, construction, and stubble burning.

We have launched project SAMEER in collaboration with Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and Gurugram Municipal Corporation, focusing on science and technology (S&T) interventions. We have partnered with 50 startups offering PM levels monitoring and mitigation solutions, deployed at Delhi’s hotspots. AIIMS has integrated with ACs one of our solutions which not only reduces PM levels but also removes microbial viruses. This solution is being scaled up there.

Question: What are some practical applications of products developed by DRIIV partners to combat air pollution?

Answer: Some solutions include attaching special filters to ceiling fans that capture room PM levels, making classrooms safer. We also have a filter-less industrial-scale solution capable of significantly reducing PM levels. It can bring down PM levels from 700 to 200, which is more acceptable.

Question: How is DRIIV working to make Delhi livable in winters?

Answer: A multifold strategy is required for such a large goal. Different solutions are needed for pollution sources like road dust, vehicular pollution, and crop burning. To make Delhi pollution free, we need to focus equally on transitioning to greener energy sources like green hydrogen. It is crucial for addressing the pollution problem effectively.

Question: What initiatives has DRIIV undertaken to address crop residue burning which is a major cause of pollution in Delhi during winters?

Answer: The limited window for crop residue burning this year indicates progress from previous years. We have prepared a dashboard which provides live monitoring and alerts policy makers to take corrective measures. Awareness campaigns, such as the one conducted by ITC in collaboration with CISCA, incentivize villagers in Punjab to use alternatives to burning residue. The Lung Care Foundation, led by doctors from Medanta, has spread awareness about the impact of smoke on lungs at its source, achieving impressive results.

Question: What are the main initiatives for creating wealth from waste?

Answer: The office of the Principal Scientific Advisor has established an integrated waste-to-wealth park in Delhi’s Jafrabad, operational since December 2021. It offers technologies ranging from open drain cleaning and waste segregation to converting waste into fuel and fertilizers. A plasma pyrolysis plant breaks down plastic waste, converting it into steam for green hydrogen production.

We are working with local corporations to achieve mass-scale adoption of these technologies. Additionally, our collaboration with an international waste management company, involves converting plastic waste into plastic benches. Using CSR funds, we have donated more than 1000 such benches to government schools. We aim to collaborate with 1000 schools and process 1 billion tonnes of plastic waste over the course of a few months.

Question: Is DRIIV assisting the Delhi government in reducing garbage mountains?

Answer: Currently, we are not involved in any of the Delhi government’s garbage removal projects, but we have technologies that can be utilized.

Question: Does DRIIV have technologies that outsmart those used by the Delhi government for garbage mound disposal?

Answer: There is no silver bullet solution. We need a suite of technological solutions for such complex tasks such as the Jafrabad technology park which encompasses various technologies that work together to address different aspects of waste processing. We have technologies and service providers who have successfully removed landfills and produced green energy.

Question: Yamuna cleaning is another key priority area for Delhi. How is DRIIV involved in this?

Answer: DRIIV has various technologies effective in treating river waters, removing sulphur and arsenic, and treating industrial wastewater as well. We have successful technologies for sulphur removal in the northeast.

Question: Is DRIIV collaborating with the Delhi government for Yamuna cleaning?

Answer: Currently, there is no collaboration in this area. We are collaborating with the Delhi government on air pollution and are exploring collaboration in other areas as well.

Question: There is a huge thrust of the Government of India on producing green hydrogen. Is DRIIV working on any project to bring down the cost of its production?

Answer: The production cost of a kg of hydrogen is currently around Rs 600. Industry stakeholders are working to bring it down to Rs 50-60 per kg. Technologies like recycling municipal waste or crop residue into synthetic gas or splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen can help produce green hydrogen.

Question: When can India see hydrogen-powered vehicles on the roads?

Answer: Currently, many buses in Delhi use a mix of hydrogen and CNG. The biggest challenge green hydrogen poses is that it makes fuel cells brittle. Further development is needed to address the challenges of hydrogen’s impact on fuel cells. In 5-7 years, we should have fully functional hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Question: What other key initiatives is DRIIV undertaking to promote greener mobility?

Answer: We are looking for ways to reduce dependency on the grid for sourcing electricity for charging stations. At one point, we were exploring ways to install solar panels along with charging stations on highways but space is a major constraint. So the capacity of solar panels and batteries have to be enhanced. One of our startup partners is developing high-capacity batteries that can be charged at one location, let’s say Rajasthan, with solar energy and transported for consumption back to cities, reducing reliance on the grid.

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