Diwali gone but bad air days stalk Delhi region

The stubble burning problem

The growth of paddy cultivation in Punjab and Haryana over the past two decades has added to the NCR’s pollution woes. The kharif season paddy crop is harvested mechanically in both states leaving the stalks of the plant in the soil. Removing the stalks by hand is labour intensive and has significant costs, about at least Rs 2,000 per acre. Farmers prefer to burn the stalks where they are in preparation for the winter wheat crop. Wheat is sown in November across this region, a little later than the warmer states of the plains and Central India and a little before the cooler states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. The estimate for paddy acreage in Punjab and Haryana in the 2017 kharif season is about 42 lakh hectares, almost as much as the land area of Haryana itself. This year’s acreage is marginally lower than last year but yield is expected to be the same because more farmers have opted for better varieties. It is estimated that 35 million tonnes of paddy residue is burnt in Punjab and Haryana every year. Coming as it does at the end of the year when the southwest monsoon has retreated, wind speeds have reduced and temperatures fallen, it adds up to a perfect storm of particulate matter for the dusty, jammed capital. The National Green Tribunal is hearing a case on stubble burning in which the governments of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are respondents. The next date of hearing is October 30.
  “Coincidentally, the air quality index two days after Diwali remains the same as last year,” Vivek Chattopadhyaya, air quality expert at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said, adding that weather also played a crucial role in air quality. He pointed out that an increase in number of monitoring stations over the last one year might also have contributed to recording higher level of pollution. “There were six monitoring stations in 2016, while this year it is 16,” he said. High humidity, low wind speed and low temperatures meant the pollutants hovered very close to the surface and could not be dispersed, he added. The Supreme Court ban on sale of firecrackers did not prevent people from lighting sparklers, rockets and loud Diwali “bombs” though the volume was lower than previous years. Some people claimed to have travelled out of the city or shopped online to buy firecrackers, while many claimed they used last year’s leftover stock to celebrate Diwali. The court on October 9 affirmed the ban it had imposed on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR). The court said the ban would be in effect till November 1. Expressing concern over poor implementation of the Supreme Court ban on the sale of fire crackers in Delhi-NCR, industry chamber Assocham on Saturday said ensuring a clean environment should be a combined responsibility of the Centre, the state governments, civil society and public at large and not of the apex court alone. “The economic interest of the traders and the manufacturers was involved; but once the Supreme Court had banned sale of firecrackers, the enforcement of the order should have been ensured by the Union Environment Ministry, Delhi government and the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana in entire NCR,” said D.S. Rawat, Secretary General, Assocham.  

Pollution kills 2.5 million in India every year

A study released by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health on October 19 estimates nine million people deaths worldwide in 2015 attributable to pollution. This makes pollution the top reason for premature deaths, beating AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis put together. Here are some other Lancet findings:
  • India and China accounted for 5.4 million of the 9 million pollution-related deaths in 2015
  • About 16 per cent of all deaths worldwide are because of pollution. This is one-and-a-half times more than those killed by smoking and six times more than the deaths caused by road accidents.
  • Pollution is the cause of more than a quarter of all deaths in low-income countries that have high pollution levels. Of the 9 million deaths in 2015, 6.5 million were because of air pollution.
  • Most pollution-related ailments are non-communicable, including renal and cardiovascular disease.
  • Pollution costs the world almost $ 5 trillion, or about 6 per cent of total economic output.
“Ambient air pollution in rapidly expanding mega-cities such as New Delhi and Beijing attracts the greatest public attention. However, WHO documents that the problem of ambient air pollution is widespread in low-income and middle-income countries and finds that 98 per cent of urban areas in developing countries with populations of more than 100,000 people fail to meet the WHO global air quality guideline for PM2·5 pollution of 10 µg/m3 of ambient air annually.”

(with IANS) // ]]>

BIRYANI BEEF TERROR IN HARYANA

Beef Biryani[/caption] The definition of ‘cow’ includes bull, bullock, ox, heifer or calf, as well as a disabled, diseased or a barren cow. ‘Beef’ means the flesh of the ‘cow’ in any form — including flesh that is packed in sealed containers, and which has been imported into the state. It also provided that any police officer above the rank of Sub Inspector, or any person authorised by the government, may enter, stop and search any vehicle used or intended to be used for the export of cows. The officer can also enter and search any premises used or intended to be used for slaughter. However, these provisions were not applicable for anyone suspected of selling cooked beef but the over enthusiastic Gau Sewa Aayog was taking along police personnel to seal samples of Biryani and send these for testing. The samples were sent to a laboratory which was granted sanction for testing samples for beef only a week ago. The laboratory has been set up at Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Hisar. Its vice-chancellor Major Gen Shrikant (retd) has also ready claimed that six samples have tested for beef although no formal report has yet been given to the government for registration of a case. Even though the legal validity of samples taken and tests conducted is in doubt, some of the experts say that it is difficult to distinguish between beef and some other kinds of meat and that it was even more difficult to do so for cooked meat. The issues came to limelight when a social activist Shehnaz Poonawalla filed a petition with the National Commission for Minorities against the Aayog. Opposition political parties too criticised the action of the government. Former Haryana chief minister and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda said that the BJP government was trying to “create disturbance in the name of beef policing”. As the tension mounted, the Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar stepped in. Although there are no official release or statement, an unnamed senior official of the Chief Minister’s Office was quoted by several newspapers to claim that Khattar was upset with the way the Aayog had been going about in collecting samples. The official said that Khattar has ‘advised’ its chairman to follow the law of the land and made it clear that no one other than the FDA was authorised to collect such samples. Unfortunately, despite repeated assertions to the contrary by the state government, reports of cow vigilantes burning trucks and beating up drivers for allegedly transporting cows and beef continue to pour in. Although Khattar has done well to intervene in an attempt to defuse the situation but firm directions need to go out from him to the cow vigilantes and other so called protectors of cow to follow the rules and law of the land. He must also ensure that the provisions of the strict law brought in by his government are not misused and that innocents, who are also generally poor and have little capacity to defend themselves, are not prosecuted. // ]]>