Aviation pollution and environmental issues

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 Aviation is one of the most important parts of our national economy which provides people an option to move throughout the world. Recently, the outlook of the Government of India towards the Aviation industry has undergone many changes in almost every area; the emerging trends in the industry include new and totally different concepts of ownership, finance, operations, and free hassle free management. The new emerging trends in this industry in a global scenario are the increased globalization of economies, liberalization of aviation policies, developments in civil aviation, privatization of airlines, open skies bilateral agreements, etc.

 In the wake of the increasingly organized movement of goods and services globally, there is rising pressure in civil aviation as well, to grow as a super-fast mode of transportation and that’s how the Civil aviation has transformed itself from a mode of transformation to an essential part of our life from past few years, our overall growth is at the cost of our own environment, no doubt this is one of the fastest-growing industry in the global market and is experiencing growth all over the world but at the same time, commercial aviation consumes good amounts of nonrenewable fuels which leads to their depletion. According to one of the reports from Airports is too important to Privatize – a letter to the editor, 1992. Wall Street Journal, over the past 50 years, around 9 % demand for air travel has risen per annum globally and growth at a reduced rate of around 3-7% is predicted for the next coming 20 years.

 Growth of Aviation Industry and Environmental Hazards 

The increasing demand for air services in India is the reason for the deregulation of the airline industry, according to a report, by 2017 the growth in India’s air traffic was expected to increase in around 52.31 million domestic passengers and by 32.98 million in international passengers and by 2020 it was expected by The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation that the Indian commercial fleet will grow by 1000 aircraft from 380 aircraft and which will lead to automatically growth of fuel consumption to 3-3.5% and somehow will reach between 461 Mt. by 2036. According to a report by ICAO 2010, Environment Report 2010, Domestic and International operations will account for 38% and 62% of global fuel consumption respectively. Globally, the Aviation industry has a much positive economic and social impact on our society from making our lives convenient to travel the world to have a source of income from tourism; there have been several benefits.

 According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established by United Nations Environment Programme and Meteorological Organisation, around 4.9% of humans caused climate change, which includes greenhouse gases and the emission of Carbon dioxide, which is contributed by the air transportation system. According to research done by Airbus, in the Middle East, the air traffic will double by the year 2034 and the number of passenger’s fleet of airlines will grow by 2365 new passenger aircraft. With the increase in demand for air travel, there is now a greater need to examine ways to reduce its potentially damaging effects on our planet. 

Causes of Environmental Issues in Indian Aviation 

Industry Aviation has several environmental impacts faced basically by the residents and that’s why many activists around the world have started focusing on this matter. There are immediate demand and an urgent need to address the environmental effects with the growth in demand for aircraft and airplanes and the emission of some pollutants. As a result of these factors and with the rising value being placed on environmental quality, there are increases in constraints on mobility, economic vitality as well as the nation’s security. The environmental issues of the aviation industry can be classified into the following categories. 

Airlines Environmental issues

 Airport Environmental issues

 Environmental Pollutions Health Hazards

 Airlines Environmental Issues or Climate Change impacts of aviation emission: Atmosphere can be categorized into five spheres i.e. Troposphere (0-7 miles from ground level), Stratosphere (7-31 miles from ground level), Mesosphere(31-50 miles above the ground level), Thermosphere( 50- 440 miles above the ground level), Exosphere( 440-6200 miles from the ground level) and lastly Ionosphere ( it overlaps both the thermosphere and exosphere, it is ionized by solar scattering and contains magnetic powers and enhances radio waves propagation to distant places to earth) the pollution by aircraft can be categorized into different atmosphere layers like Carbon dioxide (CO2), NOX, Ozone layer and the last one is ground-level pollution. Carbon Dioxide (CO2): 

Nowadays many aircraft generally travel at the height of 35000 feet and their engines emit exhaust which contains CO2 which is generally heavier than the air. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate, Change CO2 is the most important gas which emits from the aircraft due to the combustion of fossil fuel which largely contributes to more greenhouse effect and climatic change. The level of CO2 emission is expected to increase more and more in the upcoming decade, and the level of toxic elements generated by this emission is very high regardless of the altitudes, but the effect of this greenhouse gas is more effective at the level of the Stratosphere than lower altitudes.

 Sometimes at the altitude at which the commercial airlines fly, CO2 which is released by the aircraft does not condense because the temperature varies from -35 degree C to -50 degree C which is warmer than the freezing point of this gas which is 56 degrees C and therefore it will disperse slowly because of the pressure of the gas at that temperature is 101 PSIG which will descend the lower altitudes which causes slow descending nature of these gases. The elevation below which the air and the pollutants mix is known as Mixing height and the emission at this height mainly contributes to the groundlevel air pollution and climate change as well when emissions are above the level of mixing height.


 At the layer of Troposphere this gas emits at a large amount by jet airline ranging from subsonic, supersonic was known for more than 20 years ago by Hidalgo and Cruten which are effective information of ozone (O3) in the upper layer of troposphere, and could damage the ozone layer. Volatile organic compounds also play a significant role in hampering the functions of the ozone layer which is basically present in the aircraft’s emissions, at the altitude of 8-13 km, these gases are in dominant nature and hence increased the concentration of O3 enhances the effect of global warming. 

The emission of NOx results in reducing the ambient levels of methane in the atmosphere which affects globally and the lifetime is around 8-12 years. There is an emission of around 5-25 kg of NO2 per kg burning of fuel. Direct aircrafts emissions include some harmful pollutants such as Carbon Dioxide and Water that can affect the climate along with some other effects like the production of ozone in the troposphere layer alteration of methane lifetime, contrail and cirrus cloud formation, etc. No doubt that Nitrogen oxide has a cooling effect in the atmosphere by reducing the greenhouse and other gases like methane but still at the same time it doesn’t counterbalance the warming effect which is caused by the formation of Ozone and the overall effect is increasing the temperature of earth’s atmosphere. 


 Contrails generally formed at altitude where the temperature is very cold and hum, and in turn it may lead to the formation of cirrus clouds, sometimes the lifetime of contrails vary from seconds to hours. But the warming effects are highly dependent on altitude, location, and atmospheric conditions, there is no such particular report on the extent of the enhanced cirrus that arises from aircraft contrails and particle emission is also not well quantified but at the same time, there is some evidence which shows that cirrus clouds and air traffic are interrelated.


 Soot basically traps outgoing infrared radiation and has a small warming effect, and the overall effect is regional and not global, Aerosols are totally different from soot, it reflects the solar radiation and have some cooling effects and has same regional effect as same as soot.

 Airport Environmental Issues

 Airports have also been accused of degrading the environment because of various factors. Even the slightest variations in terms of going against the environmental norms could lead to suspension of operations, which we don’t expect and are striving towards a friendly approach. a serious role for pollution caused at airports is by ground access vehicles (GAV) and ground support equipment (GSE). of these vehicles include; the staff jeeps; cars; heavy-duty pushback trucks; ground power units; passenger terminal buses; catering trucks; cleaning trucks; mobile airconditioning units. Apart from the above, this also contributes to the pollution crisis at the airports especially during peak hours within the morning and evening, because the aircrafts lineup expecting take-off clearance while others have their engines idling and one clearly figure out the foggy, hazy and smoky environment at the airport’s tarmacs and thresholds of the runways.

 Even when present on the bottom, the emissions from different categories of aircraft and airport vehicle emissions include harmful NOx, CO2 compounds that have very serious consequences on the health of individuals residing nearby, and also to those lying directly below the flight path (during take-off and landing). These compounds are carcinogenic in nature. Another defying aspect of airport pollution is that the biodiversity that has plants/ tree plantations and avian (birds) and has become at the brim of destruction while an airport is freshly under construction. the development of the airport involves clearing of planted lands that are usually spoken over vast areas and hectares (as 5500 Acres) of fields of plantations like rubber or filling from marsh areas with an incredible amount of sand and concrete like just in case of Singapore’s Changi Airport or Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, this sort of destruction creates an enormous imbalance within the ecosystem and should cause disturbances within the ecological good chain. But even after the completion of the airport project, they still pose threat to biodiversities like bird strikes or bird hits and safely recycle techniques of airport waste and water. 


 Aviation Air Pollution: Change in average weather is termed as climatic change. There are many types of air pollution at different elevations caused by airports and airplanes, aircraft emits many toxic elements while flying overhead in large amount and these emissions are spread over an area of 12 miles long and 12 miles wide on takeoff. Emissions from aircraft below 1000 feet above the ground somehow cause bad air quality. The concern for aviation air quality is basically related to the areas connected with airports and around them. 

The chief local air quality relevant emissions attributed to aircraft operations at airports are Nitrogen oxides, water vapor, Sulphur Dioxide, Carbon dioxide, Carbon monoxide, etc. According to a report, aviation account for around 2% of the total CO2 emission globally, and 50% more emissions from aviation are expected by this current year 2020 with the increase in fuel in around 50%. In 2009, India has totally revised the national ambient air quality standards. The notified ambient air quality standards in India are equivalent to the European level and exceed the standards prevalent in the US according to the Ministry of State for Environment and Forests. In India, it was decided under the report of revised National Ambient Air Quality that 12 pollutants in total will be measured to calculate the level of air pollution as compared to earlier which was 6 pollutants and the distinction between both industrial and residential areas have also been removed which means now the industries have to conform to the same standards as residential areas and will be compelled to take necessary measures to check air pollution. 


 It is a well-known fact that airports are known as to be the major source for water pollution, they used to dump all toxic chemicals, de-ice airplanes during winter storms into water. During de-icing, the airline mixes around 55% of glycol and around 45% of water at 185 degrees F heat and spray the planes down with it. Ethylene glycol is a more toxic substance and consumes high levels of oxygen during decomposition which is also one of the reasons for the depletion of freshwater and is harmful to aquatic animals.


It is another very important issue airport noise and noise due to overflying at low heights had led some local people to even protest leading to night curfews in some developing countries, but such unilateral decisions by municipalities are not good for the overall growth and it curfews continue then it will become very difficult to manage and even getting land slots at the airport. 


 In ancient times in India, men lived close to forests and loved their surroundings. Today, however, man has only plans for constant air travel, spoiling the fragile mother Earth. 

The Rabindranath Tagore saga 

Commercial aviation had begun in 1911 in India and construction of civil aerodromes was first started at Dum Dum in Calcutta following in Baramati in Allahabad and Gibbert Hill in Bombay in 1924, in total 44 airports were being operated by the Civil aviation department during Independence in 1947. The Indian aviation sector has transformed itself from an over-regulated and the managed sector to a more liberal and investmentfriendly one in the past few years, which at present is undergoing several developments according to the current scenario of our country. Even though it is estimated that the Indian aviation sector would be the world’s fastest-growing sector over the next few years both in the terms of passenger and cargo traffic as well as an area of equipment supply, maintenance, repair, and overhaul, etc, still there are no prescribed standards to noise pollution around the airports, it a fact that noise pollution is bound to have higher at airports as compared to other places. 

A petition was filed before the Delhi High Court on March 3, 2010, by the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre and an NGO named Bijwasan Gram Vikas Samithi to direct the Directorate General of Civil Aviation ( DGCA) with no deadlines fixed to implement some measures to check the growing level of noise pollution near Delhi airport and Delhi International Airport pvt.ltd was barred from using two runways that were being used at the IGI airport. The DGCA is looking for introducing continuous descent approach which is a method by which aircraft approach airports before landing to reduce fuel consumption and noise and it also involves maintaining a constant three-degree descent angle during landing until meeting the instrument landing system at the IGI airport as an immediate measure to reduce noise pollution. Recently in 2009, the Government of India has raised the National Ambient air quality standards that are equivalent to the European level as well. 


 Earlier only common law remedy was only available for excessive noise and other pollutions. With the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment which was made at Stockholm on 16th June 1972, Modern environment law started. In 1982, a charter was made for nature by United Nations and in the 1989 Hague declaration, a charter was made on Environment basically to protect the Ozone layer globally and to prevent global warming of the atmosphere. In India, there is no specific provision related to aviation pollution, but our Indian Constitution states that protection and improvement of the environment, forests, and wildlife of the country is State’s duty. 

An act was passed by the American congress in 1990, which states that by the year 2000 all aircrafts in commercial fleets weighing more than 75000 pounds must be at either stage three aircraft at stage 2. According to the bill of United States senate bill, the Quiet communities act of 1947; it would re establish the office of noise abetment and control in the environment protection authority and would also challenge the US federal aviation administration to listen carefully and also to look after the aviation noise. In India there is no specific provisions regarding aviation pollution however our Indian Constitution states that it is the duty of the state to protect the environment and to work for improvement as well along with wild life and forests. Both fundamental rights and dpsp talks about environment Our constitutional provisions are backed by a number of laws, it is considered as the father of other laws. 

Under art.253 of constitution the epa 1986 was enacted and came into force after bhopal gas tradegy. Similarly A large number of laws such as water act and air came into existence when there is disputes The scope of the environment protection act is broad in the sense with the environment which includes water, air, land, and the interrelationships among them and human beings and other living organisms. Environmental Pollution is defined in Environment Protection act, as the presence of pollutants in the environment, and environment pollutants can be defined as the solid, liquid, and gaseous substance present in such concentration as may be and which are injurious to the environment. 

According to sec 15 of the Environment Protection Act, whoever fails to comply with or contravenes any of the provisions of the Act or any rules made thereunder shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years with a fine which extends to one lakh rupees or with both. Under sec 17 of this act, where an offense under this act has been committed by and head of the department shall be guilty of the offense and will be liable and punished accordingly.


 We can say that no doubt that in our changing scenario aviation is something very important and becoming an essential infrastructure and on the other hand, airports and aviation industries are causing pollution to a reasonable extent. There are three actions which have been recommended to achieve the National Vision for Aviation and the Environment, the first one is to basically promote coordination and communication among the stakeholders, the second deals with the development of more effective tools and metrics for the guidance of policy decisions and research planning investments, the last one is related with technological and policy options to achieve a balanced approach to a long term environmental improvements, all of them are interrelated and can only be achieved if all of them are implemented correctly. 

Apart from the recommendations, there are some suggestive ways by which we can help in reducing environmental pollution like using biofuels which are present partially currently, by addressing new and independent challenges, regular check on air traffic controllers, curbing air transportation. As Mahatma Gandhi said that “ Earth provides enough to satisfy our needs but not to satisfy our greed.” And hence it is our responsibility to protect our environment.