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Meru Cabs to help curb pollution, launches ‘ride-share’

Meru cabs

New Delhi: Doing its bit to control air pollution, Meru Cabs announced on Tuesday a new service through which passengers can share their cabs ride with others.

The customers will be provided with an option of sharing their Meru cabs ride with other co-passenger who intends to travel in the same direction.

A fixed 30 percent discount on the estimated trip fare would be applicable for the customers who chose the “ride-share” option, the taxi company said. Customers will be charged a fixed fare, which will be communicated to them before booking.

The “ride-share” services were launched keeping in view the issue of traffic congestion and escalating pollution in the national capital and its adjoining areas, said the company.

“By choosing to share your personal vehicle with others or sharing a CNG-fuelled Meru cab by Ride Share, citizens can now contribute to solving the city’s travel woes,” Meru Cabs Group CEO Siddhartha Pahwa said.

The company has also introduced ‘Meru’s ICE (In Case of Emergency) feature’, which allows passengers to share details of their location with registered emergency contacts. (IANS)

(Photo: techstory.in)

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Risk of Multiple Sclerosis High in Urbanites due to Air Pollution

Air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) among urbanites, says researcher

Air pollution may up multiple sclerosis risk in urbanites. Pixabay

Air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), say researchers, adding that MS risk was 29 per cent higher among people residing in urbanised areas.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. Whilst MS can be diagnosed at any age, it frequently occurs between the ages of 20-40 and is more frequent in women.

Symptoms can change in severity daily and include fatigue, walking difficulty, numbness, pain and muscle spasms. The study, presented at the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Virtual Congress, detected a reduced risk for MS in individuals residing in rural areas that have lower levels of air pollutants known as particulate matter (PM).

According to the researchers, it is well recognised that immune diseases such as MS are associated with multiple factors, both genetic and environmental. “We believe that air pollution interacts through several mechanisms in the development of MS and the results of this study strengthen that hypothesis,” said study lead researcher Professor Roberto Bergamaschi from the IRCCS Mondino Foundation in Italy.

Particulate matter (PM) is used to describe a mixture of solid particles and droplets in the air and is divided into two categories. PM10 includes particles with a diameter of 10 micrometres of smaller and PM2.5 which have a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or smaller.  Both PM10 and PM2.5 are major pollutants and are known to be linked to various health conditions, including heart and lung disease, cancer and respiratory issues.

Air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis. Pixabay

The analysis was conducted in the winter, given that this is the season with the highest pollutant concentrations, in the north-western Italian region of Lombardy, home to over 547,000 people.

For the findings, the research team included over 900 MS patients within the region, and MS rates were found to have risen 10-fold in the past 50 years, from 16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 1974 to almost 170 cases per 100,000 people today. Whilst the huge increase can partly be explained by increased survival for MS patients, this sharp increase could also be explained by greater exposure to risk factors.

Also Read: Artificial Intelligence Capable of Identifying Personality Based on Selfies

“In the higher risk areas, we are now carrying out specific analytical studies to examine multiple environmental factors possibly related to the heterogeneous distribution of MS risk”, Professor Bergamaschi said. (IANS)

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While the Humans Are Caged Amid the Lockdown, Wildlife and Nature Enjoys

The coronavirus pandemic has surely resulted in a huge loss of lives and economy, but on the other hand the animals and the nature are enjoying their days while the humans are locked in their homes

Peacock lockdown pandemic
A photo of two peacocks approaching to eat the grains placed by villagers in a village in Noida amid the lockdown. [Photo by: Kanan Parmar]

By Kanan Parmar

How many of you remember that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the earth was facing another crisis- the environmental crisis?

Amid the lockdown, social distancing and quarantine, people across the globe have noticed drastic changes in the environment. People have reported that they can now see the sky clearer and can breathe better due to decreasing pollution levels.

According to a CNBC report, Clear water is seen in Venice’s canals due to less tourists, motorboats and pollution, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Venice, Italy. People have also noticed fishes and dolphins in the venice’s canals after many years. 

Recent satellite images from NASA of China also showed less air pollution amid the country’s economic shutdown, due to less transportation and manufacturing, says a CNBC report.

The coronavirus pandemic has surely resulted in a huge loss of lives and economy, but on the other hand the animals and the nature are enjoying their days while the humans are locked in their homes. 

 lockdown pandemic
A dolphin swims in the Bosphorus by Galata tower, where sea traffic has nearly come to a halt on April 26, 2020, as the city of 16 million has been under lockdown since April 23rd as part of government measures to stem the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. VOA

In the waters of the Bosphorus, dolphins are these days swimming near the shoreline in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul with lower local maritime traffic and a ban on fishing.

 lockdown pandemic
A Red Panda is pictured in cherry blossom at Manor Wildlife Park in St Florence. VOA

Humans getting a photoshoot was too mainstream before the lockdown and that is why have a look at this happy Red Panda posing.

 lockdown pandemic
Sheep graze as security guards patrol the prehistoric monument at Stonehenge in southern England. VOA

This picture clearly depicts how the sheeps are enjoying grazing while no human is around to litter the land.

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lockdown pandemic
This handout photo provided by Ocean Park Hong Kong on April 7, 2020 shows giant pandas Ying Ying and Le Le before mating at Ocean Park in Hong Kong. VOA

With the lockdown in force, most zoos and parks are now closed and that is why animals are now getting the privacy they wanted. You can see how happy the two pandas are while there is no disturbance.

 lockdown pandemic
Sea lions are seen on a street of Mar del Plata harbour during the lockdown imposed due to the new COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in Mar del Plata, some 400 km south of Buenos Aires, Argentina. VOA

Well, this is a rare happening, to find sea lions on a street. The only unchanged thing about the sea lions in this photo is their laziness.

 lockdown pandemic
This aerial view handout from Thailand’s National Marine Park Operation Center in Trang taken and released on April 22, 2020 shows dugongs swimming in Joohoy cape at Libong island in Trang province in southern Thailand. VOA

When was the last time an aerial photo of a sea or water body looked so clean and greenish? Well, let the water bodies breathe until the humans are adhering to the quarantine rules.

 lockdown pandemic
Flamingos are seen in a pond during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Navi Mumbai on April 20, 2020. VOA

Before the lockdown, there was a time when these flamingos couldn’t enjoy in the pond because of the noise and environmental pollution by people visiting the pond in Navi Mumbai

 lockdown pandemic
People take pictures of Pelicans at St James’s park, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain. VOA

Why should only humans go out for a walk to refresh themselves amid the pandemic? Pretty sure the pelicans must be thinking the same while posing for the pictures in the park.

lockdown pandemic
Deserted banks of the Sangam, the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Yamuna are seen during lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus in Prayagraj, India. VOA

Well before the lockdown and the pandemic, the Ganga and Yamuna river were mostly known for the pollution. But now, as people haven’t been moving out of their houses, the rivers are now cleaner and even more pure.

 lockdown pandemic
Wild bluebells, which bloom around mid-April turning the forest blue as they form a carpet, are pictured in the Hallerbos, also known as the “Blue Forest”, that had to be closed to groups of tourists this year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, near Halle, Belgium. VOA

With lesser pollution, flowers and plants are now blooming even more.

Also Read- Researchers Develop New Framework To Select Best Trees For Fighting Air Pollution

The question now being raised in the minds of environmental experts is that how long will this positive effect of Coronavirus pandemic last on the environment? Is it all temporary?
Most experts believe that once the lockdown is lifted across all countries, humans may resume their normal lives and hence we will again face the environmental crisis.

It’s now “our” decision to preserve the environment and the wildlife!

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Here’s How the Lockdown Has Affected New Delhi

New Delhi Shutdown Brings Cleaner Air, But No One Breathes Easy

New Delhi
Messages to practice social distancing and frequent disinfection are displayed on a building in the business hub of Gurugram that adjoins New Delhi. VOA

By Anjana Pasricha

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” said Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers. Living in the teeming Indian capital for more than four decades, I easily could have added another two items: the incessant clamor of traffic, and perpetual crowds in public places.

Until the coronavirus pandemic changed that.

I cruise along an eight-lane arterial road that ferries officegoers in New Delhi to a vibrant business hub bordering the city. It is eerily empty, a sight I never imagined possible when I used to negotiate this dreaded commute, repeatedly checking Google Maps in hopes that the clogged roads had magically cleared.

It has happened, though not quite the way I had wished for. I encounter only a handful of vehicles and two police barricades. In a city notorious for flouting rules, police check every vehicle to enforce a strict lockdown that has been in place for the past 10 days. I can venture out only because of my press card.

New Delhi
Police in New Delhi have set up barricades to enforce a strict coronavirus lockdown. VOA

The once noisy, bustling capital, home to 20 million people, is now surreal, a virtual ghost city.

Small roadside shacks that made a living selling piping hot tea in winter and cold drinks in summer are shuttered. The street carts that sold meals like omelets and bread to the line of auto rickshaw drivers who waited for customers outside a shopping mall near my home have gone. Fuel stations are open but there are virtually no customers. I spot only three members of a family trudging along the road, along with a few deliverymen.

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Glitzy advertisements on hoardings have been replaced with health messages about the coronavirus: “Keep minimum six feet distance;” “Practice frequent hand washing with soap;” “Say Namaste Instead of Handshake.”  

The ever-vibrant business hub adjoining New Delhi, the aspirational office address for young people, is desolate, its tall glass and chrome buildings silhouetted against vacant streets.

New Delhi
Gasoline stations in New Delhi are open but in a city on lockdown there are virtually no customers. VOA

Inside my gated residential complex in Gurugram on the edge of New Delhi, walkers and joggers who liven up the road inside the community every morning and evening are missing — people are not supposed to step out of their homes for exercise, only for essential jobs. And gone is the army of cooks, maids and gardeners who walked in every morning.

A friend stops outside my gate to chat for a few minutes. He tells me he went out briefly to pay his maid her monthly salary — she was down to her last $5.

That is the worry for millions of low-income workers who have no credit cards, no bank balances and were caught in the lockdown announced with just four hours’ notice on March 24 before they were paid their wages.

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We are all painfully aware that the worst consequences of the virus brought by overseas travelers from the middle classes and the elite are being borne by the poor.

The men running the small grocery and vegetable shop in my complex tell me they are lucky because they have not had to pull down their shutters. The grocery shop’s stocks are running low after the wave of panic buying. There are no more sodas and chips for customers to consume as they while away quiet evenings watching television. But the vegetable shop owner is doing brisk business as most people hesitate to venture outside the complex.

New Delhi
A police officer mans a checkpoint enforcing New Delhi’s coronavirus lockdown. VOA

In some countries, people who cannot hunker down inside their homes because they have to work may not count themselves fortunate at this time. But for millions of Indians in the lower economic strata, like these shop owners, protecting livelihoods is a far bigger worry than the coronavirus.

“I use a mask when I go to the wholesale market to pick up vegetables. Other than that, I don’t care. If something has to happen to me, nothing can stop it,” the vegetable shop owner, Shankar, tells me cheerfully, echoing the fatalistic philosophy that millions down the economic strata swear by in this country.

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While announcing the lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told citizens, “Remember when there is life, there is hope,” to drive home the need for the drastic measure.

That message might have been lost on six daily wage laborers whom I had watched for months refurbishing a house opposite mine. The project is stalled. Were they among the tens of thousands of migrant laborers who walked hundreds of kilometers to their villages — the only refuge for unemployed labor when jobs are lost and money runs out?

Also Read- Social Distancing and Lockdown are The Strongest Vaccine: Health Minister Harsh Vardhan

With everything at a standstill, the twitter of birds has replaced the clamor of a noisy city. The spring has lasted longer than usual, and flowers are still in bloom. The skies in the world’s most polluted capital have turned blue — something a city typically shrouded in gray smog would have celebrated with gusto in normal times. I can switch off the air purifier and open the windows to let in air that is the cleanest in years.

Although we are breathing fresher air, none of us is breathing easy as we exchange one public health threat for an even deadlier one. We all know that cities like mine, with a massive population, will struggle the most if the infection spins out of control. (VOA)