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Renewables Can Prevent A Potential Airpocalypse: Vaishali Nigam Sinha, ReNew Power

Renewables Can Prevent A Potential Airpocalypse: Vaishali Nigam Sinha, ReNew Power


In an interview with BW Businessworld, Vaishali Nigam Sinha, Chief Sustainability Officer of ReNew Power, talks about renewable energy potential and more

The theme this World Environment Day is air pollution. Vaishali Nigam Sinha, Chief Sustainability Officer of ReNew Power, India’s largest clean energy company talks to BW Businessworld about the growing concern of air pollution in India and the necessary steps required to mitigate the problem. Ms. Sinha is a member of the Governing Council of the UN Global Compact Network, India (GCNI) and Chairperson of their Gender Committee. She also serves on the Advisory Committee of Centre of Excellence for Research on Clean Air (CERCA) at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.


Air Pollution is a growing concern for urban India and it seems there is no urgency to solve the problem. How do you see it?

According to a WHO list on air pollution published last year, 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are from India. With increased construction activity, industrial waste, and massive growth in the number of vehicles on road, the situation is increasingly worsening. Global warming has only aggravated the problem. Earlier this month, Delhi was hit by a summer pollution which experts termed as ‘rare’. So yes, the concern is there and it is amongst the citizens, the government and the think tanks, however, we need to transform that concern into actionable steps to tackle the problem.

Moreover, air pollution is also a big health hazard. According to a study published last year, 1.2 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2017. And not just health, the problem of pollution has a negative economic impact as well.

You say air pollution also has a negative economic impact. What is the price we are paying?
According to a World Bank study published in 2016, India lost more than 8.5% of its GDP in 2013 due to the cost of increased welfare and lost labour due to air pollution. Mumbai and Delhi alone lost 70,000 crore rupees due to air pollution in 2015, according to an IIT Bombay study. These are alarming numbers and are only set to increase as our economy grows. We are also one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. In 2018 alone, we emitted 2,299 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, a 4.8% rise from last year. The economic and environmental impact of air pollution hampers the brand India image, considering India is poised to become an economic superpower in the years to come.

It is imperative for us to push forward our economic development. However, it is also essential that we adhere to SDGs and reduce our carbon footprint. How can we balance the act?

This is a question we have been trying to answer for years. India is developing economically and socially, and our per capita energy demands are increasing. Most of our energy demands are today being met by the burning of fossil fuels, which in turn are contributing to air pollution and global warming. How do we then ensure that while we grow economically, we also decrease the dependence on fossil fuels? The answer is Renewables. While clean energy provides for the energy gap, the environmental effects during energy production are also negligible.

Speaking of renewables, are we doing enough?
The previous NDA government put a huge focus on renewables. It set a target of 175 GW capacity addition and formulated necessary policies to achieve it. PM Modi also initiated the international solar alliance, which was hailed all over the world. Clearly, in the past couple of years, India has taken a leadership role globally in the renewables space. However, there is still a long way to go. Our country has an estimated renewable energy potential of about 900 GW, out of which we have only achieved 70 GW till date. Hence, there is a huge potential in the sector. It is encouraging to see that the new government is continuing to aggressively push the renewables policy through its 100-day agenda.

Your message this World Environment Day.

Awareness and action!
Our primary responsibility is to create awareness around the problem of air pollution. Remember, citizen awareness drives governments. Then we need to find constructive solutions. Various stakeholders, including the government, the citizen, NGT, and think tanks need to come together and devise a formidable action plan to curb air pollution. Some steps, for example, can be the introduction of electric vehicles nationally, less burden on fossil fuels by using renewable power, stringent checks on industrial waste and banning of polluting vehicles.

Women can play a critical role to create awareness around air pollution since they are the victims of household air pollution- it’s mostly women who cook via polluting fuels. I have personally been vocal about this cause and have encouraged increased participation of women in not only dealing with the problem of air pollution but also global warming.

Source: businessworld.in
Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network


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