Delhi-NCR gets normal air after two months

With air quality in Delhi-NCR finally improving to “moderate” due to the meteorological conditions, pollution monitoring agencies say it is the first December in three years that the national capital has inhaled “normal” air.

On Thursday, Delhi and the region around it saw a “moderate” air quality with the Air Quality Index (AQI) at 194 in Delhi at 4 p.m. It was consistent till 9 p.m. This is the first time that normal air quality was seen across Delhi-NCR since October 7 this year, while it is first December to have normal air in the last three years, officials said. “The wind speeds are up and it also drizzled at places, beside for past two days, we ensured curbing of extra emissions from burning of garbage, controlling fire at landfill sites and by water sprinkling,” A. Sudhakar, Member Secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), said.

AAP govt takes U-turn on odd-even scheme

Within 24 hours of its assurance to launch the next round of odd-even scheme without exemptions, the Delhi government on Thursday made a U-turn and filed a review petition at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), seeking exemptions again. On Wednesday, the Delhi government’s counsel assured the Tribunal that it would bring the odd-even scheme as directed by the green court, which includes no exemptions for women drivers and two-wheelers. “The government wants to implement odd-even with exemptions… We have filed a review plea,” the Delhi government counsel said here after the bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar asked its stand on the scheme. Earlier in November, when the Delhi-NCR faced “severe-plus” or “emergency” air quality situation that calls for implementation of the odd-even scheme under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), the NGT directed the Delhi government to implement the road rationing scheme without any exemptions for women drivers and two-wheelers. The matter will be heard on Friday. Observing that the air quality in Delhi and NCR was never “normal”, the Tribunal had earlier also directed the Delhi government and neighbouring states to spell out their action plans and how they would implement the GRAP, given the severity of the air quality. The Delhi government’s plan recommends implementation of odd-even plan, check on entry of trucks in the city, ban on construction work and asking parents not to allow their children to play outside when air quality turns “severe”.
Sudhakar added that efforts were bolstered in the last two days as the national capital hosted cricket matches where Sri Lankan players seen on the field wearing masks. “Officials were posted at all the landfill sites to actively check any incident of fire and it was doused within hours. Earlier, it would take civic bodies 48 hours to douse such a fire. Besides, the stubble burning totally stopped,” Sudhakar added. On Thursday, the most polluted regions including Vasundhra in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad, Anand Vihar in east Delhi and Delhi Technical University (DTU) in north Delhi saw normal air quality, ranging between “poor to moderate” since over 70 days as per records. The level of major pollutant PM2.5, or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, at 9 p.m. was 88 across Delhi, while in Delhi NCR it was 87 against 254 and 261 on Tuesday. The safe limit for PM2.5 according to International standards is 25 microgrammes per cubic meters and 60 units as per national standards. “There could be more Decembers, but we began monitoring in 2015, since then it’s for the first time when air quality has reached moderate,” the official added. (IANS) // ]]>

Green panel castigates Delhi govt on pollution

The National Green Tribunal on Monday pulled up the Delhi government for its “lackadaisical” approach over rising pollution levels in the city, a day after bad air quality plaguing the capital for several weeks interrupted play during the ongoing Test match between India and Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium here.

The tribunal chairperson, Justice Swatanter Kumar, in his sharp remarks rapped the authorities for allowing the match in the city despite bad air quality. “Every newspaper has been carrying headline that the air pollution was going to be higher this week. Still, you took no action. Even the players were playing the match wearing masks. You should not have held the match if the air quality was so bad. Are people of Delhi supposed to bear this?” Kumar said. Kumar lashed out at the government for not filing a comprehensive action plan on how to battle the rising air pollution despite the green court’s specific order on November 28, asking the authorities in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to submit their proposals on curbing bad air quality. The governments in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan have already filed their action plans with the tribunal. The Delhi government sought more time on the contention that its Chief Secretary and environment secretary were recently changed and the new officers needed to settle down to finalize the plan. But the court apparently was not impressed with the reason. “Where is your action plan? Why have you not submitted it? What can we do if you keep on changing everybody? It’s not our problem if people don’t want to stick to you. “You keep on doing meetings but tell us a single action or a step you have taken in the last four days to combat air pollution,” the court said. The court said that the government was adopting a “lackadaisical” approach in dealing with the situation even as pollution had crossed alarming levels in the city and directed it to file the report by Wednesday. Referring to the India-Sri Lanka Test match, which was stalled on Sunday after Lankans were said to have complained to match officials that they felt like vomiting due to poor air quality, the court said: “Look at people abandoning (the) match.” The visitors on Sunday wore face masks to combat smog pollution amid disruption in the third Test against India. Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas said his players had to come off the field after they felt like vomiting. The play, however, continued uninterrupted on Monday even as indicators showed pollution levels rising to “hazardous” levels. The overall air quality index in the capital was 375 – considered to be “very poor” and hazardous to health. The tribunal also pulled up the Delhi government for not introducing odd-even car rationing scheme at this point in time when the air quality was severe. “You want exemptions for two-wheelers but you don’t apply your mind that these 60 lakh vehicles cause the maximum pollution,” the court said. (IANS) // ]]>

Odd-Even up in smoke, Delhi air still poison

#smogindelhi #DelhiChokes @narendramodi @ArvindKejriwal @JPNadda What have our children done to deserve this? Does anyone care ? pic.twitter.com/mStvcloZpA

— Dr Renu Sehgal (@drrenusehgal) November 8, 2017 What has come to rescue—if going from off-the-scale air pollution to a relatable severe level can be called that—is the weather, light winds taking the death-edge off the smog amd the possibility of rain bringing hope. Six of Delhi’s 15 regions recorded “very poor” air pollution levels rather than “severe” for the first time in the past week.With wind speed almost doubling as compared to last week and chances of drizzle in NCR and neighbouring states, the air quality is set to improve further, falling under “very poor” or “poor” category, experts said. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) the average AQI of Delhi-NCR was 398 while the major pollutant PM2.5 or particles with diameter less than 2.5mm recorded 397 units at 6 pm—considered “very poor”. However, the average AQI of Delhi at 6 p.m. was 407 with PM2.5 at 406 units, considered “severe”. This is considered an “improvement” as for past seven days since November 7, Delhi had been breathing toxic air with average AQI ranging between 460 to 500, on a scale of 0 to 500 and PM2.5 reached a dangerous 945 units at some places including Ghaziabad—37 times the safe limit.
“Delhi is out of emergency but not out of danger. In the coming days by November 16 and 17, the conditions are expected to get better. Unfortunately we are happy even though the air quality is very poor. In many countries there is an emergency-like condition at this air quality which we are cherishing as improvement.”
Usman Naseem, researcher at Centre for Science and Environment and member Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority 
According to data from System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), six out of 10 monitoring stations across Delhi-NCR fell out of “severe” zone to “very poor”. However, Lodhi Road in Central Delhi, Delhi University North Campus, Ayanagar in South Delhi and Pitampura in North Delhi continue to be ‘severe’. The most polluted region according to CPCB in Delhi-NCR includes Ghaziabad where at 6 p.m. the AQI was 471, Anand Vihar with AQI 458, Noida sector 125 with AQI 464—all considered ‘severe’. According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), the wind speed so far towards Delhi was 5 to 7 kmph coming from eastward, however the wind speed had suddenly increased to 10 to 15 kmph from north-west which would help in dispersing the pollutants hanging in the air. “There are fair chances of drizzling tonight or early morning on Wednesday, November 15 in parts of Haryana and Punjab. Since the winds are coming from there with good speed, the pollutant there would first settle due to rains, so the winds entering Delhi would be pure and then speed would disperse the smog here,” Charan Singh, chief weather forecast officer at IMD, said. Odd Goings-on Earlier in the day, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) turned down the Delhi government’s plea to exempt women drivers and two-wheelers from the odd-even vehicle restriction scheme, saying there was “no logic” to the proposal. But, coming up with its second review petition, the Delhi government tried to address the “logic” for seeking the exemptions and sought implementation of the odd-even scheme in the neighbouring states as well, or at least part of NCR, including places in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, stating that they had a cumulative effect on Delhi’s air. “Direct neighbouring states to implement odd-even scheme,” the new review petition of the Delhi government read. Defending exemption for women drivers from the odd-even scheme, the Delhi government pointed to “comfort” of women as the logic and continued seeking it in the new petition. “Such women will not feel comfortable while travelling in heavily crowded buses,” the petition stated. The city government also came up with a defence for two-wheelers, stating that it would need at least 2,500 additional buses to accommodate women and two-wheeler riders, which it currently did not have.
There are over 68 lakh two-wheelers in Delhi, out of which 25 lakh hit the road daily

The new petition pointed out that the shortage of buses would be largely resolved in a year and sought exemption until then. “Exempt two-wheelers and women drivers for one year or till another 2,000 buses are engaged,” the Delhi government requested. Earlier, the Tribunal rapped the Delhi government for its first review plea that it filed on Tuesday, asking why should exemption be given to two-wheelers — the major cause of pollution — and why the government could not run special busses to accommodate women drivers. “On what basis, are you asking exemption for two-wheelers,” asked NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar. On Delhi government counsel Tarunvir Singh Khehar raising the issue of women’s security, the tribunal said: “Why don’t you run Women’s Special buses?” The tribunal also rapped the Delhi government over “delay” in the procurement of 4,000 additional buses and noted that sprinkling of water on pollution hotspots was not being done properly. “Why don’t you act upon those who are responsible for pollution? How many people have you penalised or challaned so far?” Justice Kumar said. The Punjab Snub Responding to media reports triggered by Kejriwal’s tweet to once again seek a meeting with him, the Punjab Chief Minister said he “failed to understand why the Delhi Chief Minister was trying to force his hand, knowing well that any such discussion will be meaningless and futile”. “Kejriwal’s tendency to indulge in petty street politics is well known,” Amarinder Singh said, adding that the Aam Aadmi Party leader was “evidently trying to divert public attention from his own government’s failure to check pollution in Delhi, as exposed by National Green Tribunal response to the ill-conceived odd-even scheme”. Amarinder Singh said: “The problems faced by Delhi and Punjab on this count are completely divergent, with no meeting ground. Unlike Punjab, the Delhi problem is mainly the result of urban pollution caused by mismanaged transportation and unplanned industrial development. Instead of focusing all his attention on resolving these issues, Kejriwal wants to waste time with holding useless discussions.
  • “Every citizen is suffering from pollution. All authorities have opined that pollution on account of road transport is the major source of air pollution in Delhi. We need buses. This needs more serious attention than burning of crops and odd-even scheme.”
  • “The Delhi government should make an effort on war footing to bring in more buses as there is urgency for more buses for Delhi’s citizens.”
Delhi High Court observation on a petition by a person suffering from locomotor disability, challenging the Delhi government’s decision to procure 2,000 standard floor buses at a cost of Rs 300 crore.
He said he did not have the same luxury of time (as Kejriwal). “The Delhi Chief Minister has often been accused of leaving the national capital in the midst of a crisis and travelling to other places when his presence has been needed the most back home,” Amarinder Singh said. Amarinder Singh said the Supreme Court was already seized of the pollution problem and had already made it clear that it was in favour of a comprehensive long-term solution. “That is what Punjab is also seeking. I am hopeful that the apex court will show the way to resolve the crisis, with the Centre also pitching in, as requested by Punjab,” the Punjab Chief Minister said. “As far as stubble-burning is concerned, it is not a political issue that Kejriwal is trying to project it as. It is an economic problem crying for economic solutions, which the central government alone is in a position to provide,” he said. Jammu and Kashmir to the rescue? The Regional Met Office of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday said rain and snowfall forecast in the state will help reduce the smog and pollution levels in Delhi and its adjoining areas. Sonam Lotus, director of the Met Department said: “The balancing of weather system in the coming days in Jammu and Kashmir will definitely help in decreasing the pollution levels in Delhi and adjoining areas as the system is moving Westwards from the state. The smog and pollutant levels will drop in Delhi because of the wind speed generated by the gathering weather system in the state. Outdoor air pollution nailed for 6% of India’s disease burden A report on Tuesday said outdoor air pollution caused six per cent of the total disease burden in 2016. According to the report, titled ‘India State-level Disease Burden’ and released by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu here, indoor air pollution also caused five per cent of the disease burden last year. “The contribution of air pollution to disease burden remained high in India between 1990 and 2016, with levels of exposure among the highest in the world. It causes burden through a mix of non-communicable and infectious diseases, mainly cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and lower respiratory infections,” said the report. It said that the burden of household air pollution decreased between 1990 and 2016 due to decreasing use of solid fuels for cooking, and that of outdoor air pollution increased due to a variety of pollutants from power production, industry, vehicles, construction and waste burning. The burden due to household air pollution is highest in the Empowered Action Group states — that receive special development attention from the government — where its improvement since 1990 has also been the slowest. On the other hand, the burden due to outdoor air pollution is highest in a mix of northern states, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar and West Bengal. Calling for immediate measures, the report says that control of air pollution has to be ramped up through inter-sectoral collaborations based on the specific situation of each state.

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Odd-Even game on as Delhi drowns in smog

SC notice to Centre, 4 states on pollution

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre and the governments of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh on a plea for taking immediate steps to curb rising air pollution in the national capital. The bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud issued notice to the central government and the four states on a petition by a lawyer R.K. Kapoor, drawing the court’s attention to the alarming level of air pollution due to rise in dust particles on the roads and stubble burning in these adjoining states. The petitioner lawyer has sought vacuum cleaning and sprinkling of the roads, fruitful use of the stubble instead of burning them, use of electricity-driven vehicles instead of those using costly fuels — diesel and petrol — contributing to pollution and focus on solar energy instead of thermal power plants. The court has given the respondents two weeks’ time to respond to the petition by the senior lawyer. Having issued the notice, the court tagged the plea with another matter relating to air pollution in Delhi being heard by the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta.
  On Saturday, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) gave the go-ahead to the odd-even scheme but disapproved the exemptions given during the previous two rounds of odd-even scheme in January and April 2016. The Delhi government had on Saturday said it would approach the green court again on Monday, requesting the exemptions and, subject to the NGT decision, it would “consider implementing it again”. Stating it did not have enough public transport as of now to accommodate the extra commuters — over 30 lakh during the odd-even if two-wheelers were not exempted — the Delhi government said the process of procuring new buses was going on. According to it, about 3,500 new buses were being procured to ply in the national capital. The Delhi government counsel said that from next year, with better preparation, it would be in a position to implement the odd-even scheme without any exemption. The Tribunal would hear the matter on Tuesday, NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said. The Delhi government on Monday also decided to work out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) with state-owned helicopter service company Pawan Hans for aerial sprinkling of water over the city to contain pollution. The average Air Quality Index (AQI) in the national capital on Monday at 8.00 p.m was 449, with PM2.5 at 447 units. For the entire Delhi-NCR, the average was 440 units, with PM2.5 at 438 units. The safe limit for PM2.5 — particles in the air with a diameter less than 2.5mm — is 25 microgrammes per cubic meters as per international standards, though it is 60 units according to Indian standards. Ghaziabad was the most polluted city in the entire NCR with an AQI of 500 and PM2.5 at an astounding 816 units at 4.00 p.m — over 32 times the safe limit. The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) initiative of the government said Delhi “may see increase in pollution levels” due to meteorological factors but the real picture would be clear after Tuesday. The Met office has forecast rain on November 15. The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) said Delhi’s air had “reversed” to “severe-plus” or “emergency” category after some signs of improvement on Friday and Saturday. The “emergency” or “severe-plus” situation requires PM2.5 to remain above 300 units or PM10 to be above 500 units for 48 hours. According to the CPCB, Delhi air had been polluted beyond the specified limits for over 50 hours by 3.00 p.m. on Monday. The “emergency situation” was last witnessed from Thursday to Saturday morning. However, the pollutant levels fell below the red line for an hour on Saturday noon. In response to the Delhi government’s charge that Haryana was not responsive to its requests for a meeting to discuss the smog situation and stubble burning, Khattar on Monday landed in Delhi and said he was in Delhi and ready to have a meeting with Kejriwal. Khattar also shared on his Twitter handle a letter he had written to Kejriwal on November 10 in which he had expressed his willingness to meet the Delhi Chief Minister, and also blamed Kejriwal for his “inability to rise above short-term electoral interests”. After arriving in Delhi, Khattar told reporters: “I am in Delhi, where is the meeting?” Kejriwal replied through a tweet: “Khattarji called. He is in Delhi till tomorrow. Says he is very busy and can’t meet me in Delhi. He has asked me to come to Chandigarh on Wednesday. I look forward to meeting him in Chandigarh on Wednesday.”

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(IANS) // ]]>

Green panel caps rush of Vaishno Devi pilgrims

National Green Tribunal decides to restrict number of pilgrims to Vaishno Devi shrine in J&K at 50,000 per day. pic.twitter.com/PvioM3YTvr

— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) November 13, 2017 While directing the removal of mules or horses gradually from the old path as well, the NGT has asked Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board to prepare a rehabilitation plan to replace animals with battery-operated cars. The bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also asked the authorities to impose a fine of Rs 2,000 on anyone found littering the roads as well as the bus stop in the nearby Katra town. “Stop the pilgrims at Ardhkuwari or Katra town if the total number exceeds 50,000,” Justice Swatanter Kumar said, observing that the Bhawan or the peak where the shrine is located, would not be able to accommodate more than 50,000 people a day. Directing to form a committee to check excessive traffic in Katra town, the Tribunal also asked the authorities to stop all construction activities around the Bhawan.

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Smog & Mirrors: Delhi revives number game

What are PM and AQI?

PM is the abbreviation for particulate matter, mostly particles of dust and combustion products, that are added to the air from by construction activity, fires of all kinds, petrol and diesel vehicles, industry and power plants. The numbers with PM indicate the size of these particles, measured in thousandths of a millimetre, or micrometre. PM10 thus refers to particles whose diameter is less than 10 micrometres, and PM2.5 to particles that are less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. Micrometre is abbreviated as µm. PM10 consists of coarser particles that settle down over a day or two and are washed down by rain; PM2.5 particles are far more dangerous in that they stay aloft for longer periods of time, are easily carried by light winds and worst of all, can enter the bloodstream—and thus every organ—through the lungs. PM, besides being a Grade I carcinogen, has deadly effects on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of the human body, causing every imaginable disease, including asthma, heart attack, low birth weight, stroke and arteriosclerosis. PM pollution is not just a health concern, it is a mortality issue. A 2013 study of over 3 lakh Europeans in nine countries revealed that there was no safe level of particulates and that for every increase of 10 ?g/m3 in PM10, the lung cancer rate rose by 22%. For PM2.5, a 36% increase in lung cancer was associated with per 10 ?g/m3 rise in atmospheric concentration. AQI, or Air Quality Index, is a colour-coded scale devised by the government in 2014 that measures atmospheric concentrations of eight major pollutants, including PM, and relates them to health standards and implications to produce an easily understandable and relatable value for  citizens. Here’s what PM and AQI translate into for us:
AQI Category, Pollutants and Health Breakpoints
AQI Category (Range) PM10 (24hr) PM2.5 (24hr) NO2 (24hr) O3 (8hr) CO (8hr) SO2 (24hr) NH3 (24hr) Pb (24hr)
Good (0–50) 0–50 0–30 0–40 0–50 0–1.0 0–40 0–200 0–0.5
Satisfactory (51–100) 51–100 31–60 41–80 51–100 1.1–2.0 41–80 201–400 0.5–1.0
Moderately polluted (101–200) 101–250 61–90 81–180 101–168 2.1–10 81–380 401–800 1.1–2.0
Poor (201–300) 251–350 91–120 181–280 169–208 10–17 381–800 801–1200 2.1–3.0
Very poor (301–400) 351–430 121–250 281–400 209–748 17–34 801–1600 1200–1800 3.1–3.5
Severe (401–500) 430+ 250+ 400+ 748+ 34+ 1600+ 1800+ 3.5+
 
AQI Associated Health Impacts
Good (0–50) Minimal impact
Satisfactory (51–100) May cause minor breathing discomfort to sensitive people.
Moderately polluted (101–200) May cause breathing discomfort to people with lung disease such as asthma, and discomfort to people with heart disease, children and older adults.
Poor (201–300) May cause breathing discomfort to people on prolonged exposure, and discomfort to people with heart disease.
Very poor (301–400) May cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Effect may be more pronounced in people with lung and heart diseases.
Severe (401–500) May cause respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung/heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.

The too little, too late Indian response was in evidence as the Delhi government announced odd-even rationing of privately owned cars from November 13 under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) that was officially imposed in Delhi-NCR on Thursday. The bad news didn’t stop: a change in the wind direction is set to add further ‘poison’ to the national capital’s air on Friday, officials said.
As Delhi-NCR suffocates, Union Health Minister JP Nadda is in Himachal Pradesh and Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan is in Goa

Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gehlot announced the third phase of the odd-even scheme from November 13 to 17. However, according to the members of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA), November 13 is too late as the “emergency or severe-plus” category under GRAP calls for immediate implementation of the odd-even car rationing scheme. “We had been telling them (Delhi government) to stay ready since last week and even during Tuesday’s EPCA meeting… The Delhi government said it was prepared to roll out the odd-even right away… Now they are saying they can roll it out only on Monday (November 13). This won’t help much,” CPCB Member Secretary and EPCA Member A. Sudhakar said. Off the charts The “emergency” or “severe-plus” situation arises after the major pollutants — PM2.5 and PM10, or particles in air with diameter less than 2.5 and 10mm, remain above 300 and 500 units, respectively, for at least 48 hours. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Thursday informed that both PM2.5 and PM10 had been beyond the “safe limits” for the past 52 hours or since 7 a.m on Tuesday, November 7. On Thursday (since Wednesday evening), all the 10 monitoring stations of the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (Safar) recorded “beyond severe” or 500-plus units of PM10 and PM2.5. As per SAFAR, the average PM2.5 was 546 units and PM10 was 895. According to the CPCB, at 5 pm, the average PM2.5 reading on the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi-NCR across 20 active stations (including Alwar in Rajasthan) was 478 units (on a scale of 0 to 500). The safe limit for PM2.5 and PM10 as per international standards is 25 and 60 microgrammes per cubic metre, while as per national standards it is 40 and 100 units, respectively. Hospitals swamped The alarming pollution in Delhi has led to at least 20 per cent increase in the number of persons complaining of cardiac/respiratory problems this week, officials said on Thursday. “There has been around 15 to 20 per cent increase in number of patients seeking treatment for respiratory and cardiac issues,” All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director Randeep Guleria told IANS. Similarly, Safdarjung Hospital witnessed a 15 per cent rise in number of patients while Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj area recorded 25 per cent increase in patients with breathing problems. Sir Ganga Ram Hospital had on Wednesday indicated rise in number of such patients by 25-30 per cent. Speaking to reporters earlier, the AIIMS Director had warned that about 30,000 persons may lose their lives in the National Capital Region alone due to current pollution levels, numbers which, he said, he had extrapolated from the number of hospital admissions. Guleria also likened the current environmental situation in Delhi with the “Great Smog of London in 1952” that was “estimated to have killed nearly 4,000 persons within a week”. It’ll get worse before it gets better Meanwhile, forecasting some relief for Delhi-NCR from November 14 onwards, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said rain in parts of Haryana, western Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab would help disperse the effluents, thereby normalising the air quality in Delhi. “Relief is likely from Sunday, when the wind speed would increase. However, the western disturbance, which is expected to arrive in this region from November 14, would bring major relief as it could rain. This is so far the best hope under the present conditions,” Charan Singh, weather forecast chief at IMD, told IANS. However, the relief would come only after Delhi has seen its worse, as air quality in the capital, which is already “beyond severe”, is set to deteriorate further since the light winds from Punjab and Haryana started entering Delhi on Thursday. As the stubble burning continues unabated in Punjab and Haryana, which is also a major cause of the present air quality situation in Delhi, the winds coming from there would further affect the air in Delhi-NCR. According to the IMD and private weather forecasting agency Skymet, the wind speed is less —five to 10 kmph, but this is enough to bring effluents and not disperse them due to its low speed. The inevitable committee The Union Environment Ministry on Thursday formed a seven-member committee to work out short and long -term measures to fight air pollution. The Union Ministry held a meeting headed by Environment Secretary C.K. Mishra along with the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) chairman Bhure Lal and member Sunita Narain, along with officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The seven-member committee which will be headed by Environment Secretary Mishra also includes Secretary Science and Technology Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary Department of Biotechnology Prof K. Vijay Raghavan, Chairman CPCB S.P. Singh Parihar, Chief Secretary, Delhi M.M. Kutty. Gadkari says more research needed Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said thorough research was needed to find the cause of rising pollution levels in the National Capital Region. Stressing that smog had engulfed the city this year despite a ban on crackers and restrain on burning of crops, he said research is required to find out the reason behind the rising pollution levels and that his Ministry will offer all possible help for such research, a government statement said. Gadkari said directions have been issued to project directors, contractors and field-level officials working on highways projects around the national capital to take stringent steps to check pollution arising out of the construction work. Amarinder repeats his stubble plea Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking compensation for farmers for crop residue management to check the dangerous trend of stubble burning, which has triggered a major smog crisis in the northern belt of the country. Amarinder Singh also requested the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of Chief Ministers of the affected states along with the Union Ministers for Agriculture, Food and Environment on the issue. Reiterating his request, earlier raised in a letter on July 5 this year, the Chief Minister sought the Prime Minister’s intervention for arresting the problem of paddy straw burning by providing a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal as incentive to compensate the farmers to manage the crop residue scientifically. Back to normal soon, environment minister says from Goa Air quality levels in the national capital will come back to normal within the “next few days”, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, an MP from Delhi, said on Thursday. “Whether the steps which have to be taken by the Delhi government, they should be doing it in complete, total sincerity and similarly the state governments of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan.. They all have to step in to fulfil their part of the responsibility. And I am sure in the very near future, in the next few days, things will return to normal,” he told reporters on sidelines of an event organised at the National Institute of Oceanography near here. Kejriwal sticks to stubblepointing Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday blamed stubble burning for the “severe” air quality and said the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab should come together with Delhi to find a solution. Kejriwal had on Wednesday written to his Haryana and Punjab counterparts for a meeting on the issue but Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, in an exchange of tweets, declined it saying air pollution level in the National Capital Region wasn’t an inter-state matter and needed the Centre’s intervention. “I haven’t yet got a chance to meet the two Chief Ministers,” Kejriwal said after inaugurating 20 Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations here. “This one month period from the mid-October to mid-November, when farmers burn the stubble, the whole of North India and not just Delhi turns into a gas chamber,” he said. “In September this year, the PM10 was recorded at 300 units and PM2.5 was 160. Now these figures have gone up to 940 and 750. This certainly hasn’t happened due to the local problems,” he explained.   High Court calls for cloud seeding The Delhi High Court on Thursday said there was an “emergency situation” vis-a-vis pollution in Delhi-NCR region and asked the Delhi government to consider vehicular odd-even scheme and cloud seeding to induce artificial rain. The court also asked the Centre to hold meetings with Delhi and National Capital Region authorities to bring in short-term measures to control pollution immediately and to submit a report to it on November 16, the next date of hearing. A Division Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva also directed the Chief Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Control to call an emergency meeting with his counterparts in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and pollution control agencies within three days to discuss ways to curb pollution.

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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) // ]]>