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Issue 21
, 2010
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Rising mercury puts brakes on Delhi's green light plan

Source: The Indian Express, New Delhi, Dec 14, 2009, Date: , 2009

Delhi may have become the first state in the country to finalise a city-specific 'Climate Change Action Plan', but one of the government's two proposals for notching up carbon credits through a complete switch to CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) lights has just lost its sheen.Reason: CFL lights contain high amounts of mercury, which cannot be easily disposed. CFL lights however are more long lasting than yellow bulbs. Sources said this proposal, part of the Delhi government's initiatives to encourage 'Clean Development Mechanisms' (CDMs), would now be reconsidered. The other CDM project, massive afforestation in the Asola Bhatti sanctuary, is still at the approval stage. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had earlier announced that all Delhi government buildings will switch to CFL lights. But at a conference of Environment ministers this year, she said the mercury posed a disposal challenge. "We don't know what to do with the mercury in the CFLs. We are thinking of LED (light-emitting diodes) lights now," she had said, responding to Union Minister Jairam Ramesh's query on why Delhi can't be India's first CFL city. LEDs are the most expensive and do not pollute. A senior official at the Environment department said: "The question is whether it would be wise to invest in a large-scale CFL project when concerns of mercury pollution are high. We have to see if we can find a way to safely dispose the mercury." The department is now working on a pilot project for LED lights, though no CDM projects are planned for that yet. While environmentalists have long lobbied for the safe disposal of mercury a highly toxic element from thermometers, the next big challenge is CFL. A typical CFL light has close to 10 to 13 milligrams of mercury. Delhi has one million CFL lights installed. No standards have presently been set to regulate the mercury in CFL lights in India.