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Delhi Facing Worst Smog in Past 17 Years, says Centre for Science and Environment

Many schools across the city have either shut down or ended all outdoor activities

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FILE - A man covers his face as he rides in front of the landmark India Gate, enveloped by smoke and smog, in New Delhi, India, Oct. 31, 2016. As Indians wake to smoke-filled skies from a weekend of festival fireworks for the Hindu holiday of Diwali, New Delhi's worst season for air pollution begins, with dire consequences. VOA

New Delhi, November 5, 2016: Even for a city considered one of the world’s most polluted, the Indian capital hit a new low this week.

Air so dirty you can taste and smell it; a gray haze that makes a gentle stroll a serious health hazard.

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According to one advocacy group, government data shows that the smog that enveloped the city midweek was the worst in the last 17 years. The concentration of PM2.5, tiny particulate pollution that can clog lungs, averaged close to 700 micrograms per cubic meter. That’s 12 times the government norm and a whopping 70 times the WHO standards.

The Delhi winter, once a glorious time of clear, crisp days that meant holidays and weekends spent picnicking in its many public parks, is now a time of annual health woes.

As millions struggle with hacking coughs and burning eyes, many schools across the city have either shut down or ended all outdoor activities. Doctors have asked people to stay indoors during the worst days.

An Indian woman looks for air pollution mask inside a shop in New Delhi, India, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries. VOA
An Indian woman looks for air pollution mask inside a shop in New Delhi, India, Nov. 4, 2016. A new report from UNICEF says about a third of the 2 billion children in the world who are breathing toxic air live in northern India and neighboring countries. VOA

Yet many of the problems that turn Delhi’s air so toxic continue unabated. People still set off massive amounts of festival fireworks, piles of garbage burn all night and dust from the construction projects that dot the city is unchecked.

And at the start of every winter, farmers in the states bordering the city begin burning straw from their rice paddy crop to clear the fields for planting wheat.

“Sources of pollution in Delhi and outside of Delhi have exponentially increased in the last couple of days,” said Polash Mukerjee, a research associate with the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based research and lobbying organization.

He said that wind direction is blowing toward Delhi from all directions, especially from Punjab and Haryana, “where there are large incidences of crop fires that we are detecting even today.”

Limits on trucks

Over the last two years, the government has tried a slew of measures to control air pollution, including stricter emission norms for cars and a tax on diesel-fueled trucks that enter the city.

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New Delhi also has attempted to limit the number of cars during the winter months, when air quality is at its worst. Twice the city imposed a two-week period in which cars were allowed on the roads only on even or odd days, depending on the vehicle’s license plate number.

Last month, the city launched a smartphone application called “Change the Air,’’ inviting residents to send photos and complaints about sources of pollution, from the burning of leaves and garbage in public parks to construction crews working without dust control measures.

But despite announcing new measures, the city has struggled with enforcing them on a regular basis.

Regulations unenforced

One of the biggest struggles is crop burning in neighboring areas, where despite attempting to enforce cash fines on farmers enforcement has been hard. For the farmers, it’s cheaper to burn rice paddy straw than hire people to carry it away.

“Pollution is also caused by diesel cars, factories, and many other sources. Farmers only do this for one month of the year,” said Bijendar Singh, a farmer in neighboring Haryana state, as he watched his paddy straw burn.

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“It is a compulsion for farmers to do this. Because of this compulsion, we spread air pollution. As much as it harms the people sitting in Delhi, it harms us and our children even more,” he said.

CSE’s Mukerjee said that the government hasn’t worked out a strategy to help farmers dispose of their crop waste.
“Paddy straw that lies in your field today, as a farmer, it is absolutely worthless to me. I don’t earn anything out of it. Why should I spend money collecting it?” Mukherjee asked. (VOA)

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Is Delhi’s air going to take the structure of ‘London’s Smog’?

Breathing in Delhi is equal to smoking 40 cigarets.

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Smog in Delhi
In recent time, there is a huge increase in the smog in around Delhi. Wikimedia commons

New Delhi, Nov 15 On a cold December morning some 65 years ago, a seemingly dense fog engulfed the City of London. People went about their business as usual as it was a common occurrence at that time. It didn’t take long, however, for Londoners to realise that this was no regular fog but a toxic combination of smoke and fog — smog.

That Great Smog of 1952 — often called “The Big Smoke” — killed an estimated 12,000 people and had long-term ill-effects on the health of the city’s residents.

Last week, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria compared the alarming pollution scenario in Delhi with London’s 1952 crisis. Environment experts agree that if serious steps are not taken, Delhi may soon face a similar kind of “air pollution disaster” which London did 65 years ago.

The Big Smoke did not happen in London all of a sudden. There were signs — alarming signs — as even before the 1952 crisis, the British capital experienced smog events several times in the past which they called “pea soupers”. Those were similar to what Delhi may be experiencing today.

Just as in Delhi today, the smog engulfed London, reducing visibility and causing discomfort to children and the elderly and to those suffering from respiratory diseases. The number of patients reporting to hospitals with respiratory ailments used to increase at that time of the year.

But it took the air pollution disaster of 1952 for the British government to acknowledge the magnitude of the crisis and take a slew of measures to undo the damage — including passage of the Clean Air Act 1956 and shift from coal-based fuel to alternative fuels.

While some experts wonder if Delhi is also waiting for a disaster like The Big Smoke to take stringent measures to improve the city’s air quality, others feel the disaster is already upon us and would have long-term health impacts on Delhi’s residents.

Eminent environment expert C.R. Babu said what we face in Delhi today is much more serious than the London smog.

“In London, smog killed because people faced breathing problems. But the toxins in Delhi’s air could lead to long-term problems and chronic health disorders, and not just short-term health issues,” Babu told IANS.

“Vehicular exhausts have large amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are toxic in nature and are also carcinogenic,” he added.

Babu warned that the situation would become much worse if the government didn’t act fast. “Just like the London incident was called an ‘air pollution disaster’, what we have today is a similar disaster in Delhi. But in Delhi’s case, people will suffer for longer periods.”

“It is time for the government to think deeply about long-term planning for preventing such air pollution disasters,” he added.

According to AIIMS Director Guleria, the alarming pollution level in the city has already led to an at least 20 per cent increase in the number of persons complaining of cardiac and respiratory problems.

He also warned that about 30,000 persons may lose their lives in the National Capital Region alone due to the current pollution levels, numbers which, he said, he had extrapolated from the number of hospital admissions.

Vivek Chattopadhyay, Programme Manager at the Centre for Science and Enviromment, said it could be a watershed moment for Delhi and should not be taken lightly.

“Ultimately, we are dealing with a health crisis, not just visibility problems,” Chattopadhyay told IANS. “There are huge health costs and, as per estimates, air pollution is costing India around three per cent of the GDP in terms of health costs.”

Chattopadhyay said that the recurring smog incidents of Delhi are major warning signals and just as was the case of London before the big disaster, the powers that be in Delhi may also be unaware of the magnitude of the problem.

“The problem is that our health system won’t be able to tell how many are affected. We need a comprehensive data recording system. Hard statistics are needed about the number of cases of respiratory problems, cardiac arrests and strokes that are reported in the hospitals,” he said.

As for precautionary measures, he said there was a need to introduce clean fuel for everything and a parity of laws across NCR and not just in Delhi.

“Delhi in isolation cannot remain clean. It is high time that the government woke up and an inter-state meeting was held to collectively solve the problem. It has become a recurring thing and there is a need to change the way we work. The time for action is now,” he said.

R. Suresh, Fellow and Area Convenor at TERI (The Energy and Resource Institute), pointed out that Delhi’s response to the crisis has so far been reactive, not pre-emptive, which needed to change.

“While weather is not in our control, what we can control are ground-level emissions. What we have witnessed so far is that we face a crisis every year and then the government reacts. We need a long-term solution,” Suresh told IANS.

“We know that November-December is the peak time for air pollution. So our precautionary measures should happen before November. Why wait for Diwali to ban crackers? For next year, measures should be taken now.”

While Suresh said that the main problem was stubble burning in the neighbouring states as well as construction and road dust, Babu maintained that the exhaust from automobiles are more dangerous.

“You have to regulate automobiles — stringent measures are needed. For example, Singapore has decided to stop registration of all new vehicles. Why can’t we do that in Delhi? Almost every household has a vehicle today. More than the need, it has just become a symbol of social status,” he said. (IANS)

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Manoj Bajpayee is an amazing actor and a team player on set: Sidharth Malhotra

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

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Actor Sidharth Malhotra
Actor Sidharth Malhotra. Wikimedia Commons

November 7, 2017: Actor Sidharth Malhotra, who will be seen sharing screen space with Manoj Bajpayee in “Aiyaary”, says the National Award winning actor is amazing and a team player.

Sidharth Malhotra on Thursday treated his fans to a question and answer session over Twitter.

A user asked the “Student Of The Year” actor about his experience working with Manoj in “Aiyaary”.

Sidharth replied: “He’s an amazing actor and a team player on set.”

“Aiyaary”, set in Delhi, London and Kashmir, revolves around two strong-minded Army officers having completely different views, yet right in their own ways. It is a real-life story based on the relationship between a mentor and a protege.

Presented by Plan C and Jayantilal Gada (Pen), the project is produced by Shital Bhatia, Dhaval Jayantilal Gada, Motion Picture Capital.

When asked about the development of the film, Sidharth replied: “Awesome. Excited to show it in a few months.”

Sidharth, 32, also described his “Brothers” co-star Akshay Kumar as his “brother from another mother.”(IANS)

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The major Challenge is to make the Youth of the Country Entrepreneurial and not Job Seekers : Venkaiah Naidu

"The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers," Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government's various initiatives.

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Venkaiah Naidu
Venkaiah Naidu. Wikimedia Commons
  • At a time of tepid job growth and continuing income disparities, the major challenge is to make the youth of the country entrepreneurial and not job seekers, Vice President  Venkaiah Naidu said on Thursday.

“Disparities continue to remain in India and so there is a need for inclusive growth… there is the need to take care of the suppressed, oppressed and depressed,” Venkaiah Naidu said at the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust’s (BYST) silver jubilee celebrations here with Britain’s Prince Charles as the chief guest.

“The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers,” Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government’s various initiatives to encourage youth enterprises like Startup India, Standup India and the Mudra financing scheme for underprivileged sections.

Modelled on Prince Charles’ Trust for business startups, BYST, founded by Lakshmi Venkatesan, daughter of former President R. Venkatraman, is engaged in building rural entrepreneurship — “grampreneurs” — as also enterprise among under-privileged sections, which includes business mentoring. The current BYST chairman is Bajaj Group chief, Rahul Bajaj.

“Without mentoring, it would be very difficult to set up startups, with all the business, marketing and other vital issues involved in the first two-three years,” Prince Charles said in his address at the International Mentoring Summit organized by BYST to mark its 25 years.

“What amazes me are the sheer number of jobs these young entrepreneurs had created. The aim of such a project should be to create a virtual cycle of creating entrepreneurs who can then invest in the future of business,” Charles said referring to his trust.

BYST was officially launched in 1992 by Prince Charles and expanded its operations to six major regions of India.

Out of these six regions, four — Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad — run the urban programme while two regions — Haryana and Maharashtra — run the rural programme.(IANS)