Wednesday May 22, 2019
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Battling pollution or compromising on safety, Delhi women face tough choice

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New Delhi: The Delhi government’s decision to curb vehicles on the capital’s roads has given hope of battling pollution, but the measure, announced on an experimental basis, has become a cause of concern for women, who fear it would compromise their safety.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday, was asked about the safety aspect when people leave their cars and take public transport.

“Would you guarantee my pocket is not picked or a woman is safe in public transport,” a male questioner asked.

Prefacing his reply with a “Delhi Police does not come under me” disclaimer, Kejriwal, who had announced on Friday that from January 1, 2016, odd and even numbers would be permitted on alternate days, said, “People are as safe in public transport as they are in private vehicles.”

Most women, while equally expressing concern about the environment, differed with the chief minister when it came to feeling safe on Delhi roads.

“I am not happy with this decision, public transport in Delhi is not very good and you have a tough time trying to take an auto-rickshaw.What are the women expected to do?” asked Diksha Saxena, an operations manager with a private firm.

“Even to walk on the roads of Delhi, you need armour.The idea sounds good but is not practical,” Saxena told a news agency.

Alka Kaushik, a freelance travel writer, said, “Its a senseless order, an imported concept which is being implemented without seeing the ground realities. Imagine, I cam use my even-number plate car one day, and the next day, I should use the insufficient public transport on the same route.If I can use public transport on a day, why not every day?

“But is that possible? Look at the route from Indirapuram (in suburban Ghaziabad) to Delhi University. The kind of people you come across while travelling, does the chief minister realise that? A car is not a convenience for me but a necessity. It is a solution to the inefficiency of authorities who could not give the people a good public transport system in all these years,” she added.

Kakoli, a Delhi government employee who did not want to give her surname, echoed this view.

“This should have been the second step.the first should have been ensuring there is a public transport system that can support half of Delhi’s population that drives on a single day,” Kakoli said.

“I am a single working woman, my car gives me the independence of movement, and to chose my working hours.If I cannot use my vehicle half of the month, what options do I have to fall back on,” she asked.

“There are couples who have two cars and have both odd and even number plates.Should I go looking for a partner with a different number plate.It is a compromise on my independence,” Kakoli maintained.

Shweta Arya, who works for a private firm, is not against using public transport but felt it was not an option if late working hours are involved.

“We cannot refuse work that spills over to late hours.If I am being asked not to use my car, what options are there? What if I need to go to hospital at a late hour? Or I have to go out of town.What are the options? ” she questioned.

Arya is however not all against the idea and suggests that the government should provide other options.

“The government must provide some options. For example if I am not using my car, there should be  a certain number of auto-rickshaws designated for our use, or there can be car pooling, the government needs to provide an alternative,” Arya told news agencies.

Ragini Jain, a home maker living in west Delhi, said while she is happy that it will mean reducing pollution, she also wondered how she will perform her day-to-day chores.

“There are numerous things to be done on a given day. Picking up children from school, getting groceries, managing a medical emergency since I have old parents at home, whom should I ask for help? Can anyone help you every day,” Jain asked.

“At the same time, I know some day we have to take a decision, for the sake of our children. Perhaps there is some more homework that needs to be done by the government,” she said.

A supportive voice, however, came from Divyani Garg, a doctor who found the idea good.

“its a good idea as per me. It’s a reasonable option to decrease the toxic levels of Delhi’s air pollution. I don’t mind the inconvenience as I am looking at the long-term benefits,” she said.

(IANS)

(Picture credit:www.huffingtonpost.in)

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No Stop To Air Pollution in India, Reducing Dirty Fuels Need of The Hour

"Household fuels are the single biggest source of outdoor air pollution in India," said Kirk R. Smith, professor of global environmental health at UC Berkeley.

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"India has got to do other things to fix air pollution -- they've got to stop garbage burning, they've got to control the power plants, they've got to control vehicles and so forth. Pixabay

Mitigating the use of household fuels could reduce air pollution-related deaths in India by approximately 13 per cent, which is equivalent to saving about 270,000 lives a year, an India-US joint study has stressed.

Nearly half of the country’s population relies on dirty fuels such as wood, dung, coal and kerosene for cooking and heating, said researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and the India Institute of Technology-Delhi.

Eliminating emissions from these sources — without any changes to industrial or vehicle emissions — would bring the average outdoor air pollution levels below the country’s air quality standard.

“Household fuels are the single biggest source of outdoor air pollution in India,” said Kirk R. Smith, professor of global environmental health at UC Berkeley.

A study in the Lancet Planetary Health journal last year found that air quality in India is so poor that 1.2 million deaths in the country in 2018 can be attributed to air pollution.

“We looked at what would happen if they only cleaned up households, and we came to this counter-intuitive result that the whole country would reach national air pollution standards if they did that,” Smith added in a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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“You can’t have a clean environment when about half the houses in India are burning dirty fuels every day,” Smith said. Pixabay

The co-authors of the paper are Sourangsu Chowdhury and Sagnik Dey of IIT-Delhi, Sarath Guttikunda of Urban Emissions in New Delhi, Ajay Pillarisetti of UC Berkeley and Larry Di Girolamo of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

As of early 2016, nearly half of the Indian population was reliant on biomass for household fuel.

“There are 3,000 chemicals that have been identified in wood smoke, and taken at a macro level, it is very similar to tobacco smoke,” Smith informed.

In 2015, India’s average annual air pollution level was 55 micrograms per cubic meter (ug m-3) of fine particulate matter.

Levels in New Delhi often soared beyond 300 ug m-3.

Complete mitigation of biomass as fuel – which could be achieved through widespread electrification and distribution of clean-burning propane to rural areas – would cut India’s average annual air pollution to 38 ug m-3.

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A study in the Lancet Planetary Health journal last year found that air quality in India is so poor that 1.2 million deaths in the country in 2018 can be attributed to air pollution. Pixabay

While this is still far above the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 10 ug m-3, it could still have dramatic impacts on the health of the people.

“You can’t have a clean environment when about half the houses in India are burning dirty fuels every day,” Smith said.

“India has got to do other things to fix air pollution — they’ve got to stop garbage burning, they’ve got to control the power plants, they’ve got to control vehicles and so forth.

“But they need to recognise the fact that households are very important contributors to outdoor air pollution, too,” he noted.

In 2016, India instituted a national programme to distribute clean burning stoves and propane to 80 million impoverished households, or about 500 million people.

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Smith hopes the findings would bolster support for reducing outdoor air pollution, as well.

Similar programmes have been successful in China, where air pollution is now on the decline in 80 cities. (IANS)