Gas Chamber: 'Delhi gave me eye damage'

For 33-year-old journalist Shashank, shifting to Delhi 12 years ago was a good career move. The dust that hangs over the Capital’s roads, however, gave this young man permanent eye damage. He’s had to almost quit biking, one of his loves. His story:

 
It has been 12 years since I shifted to the national capital. Having completed my graduation from Kolkata, I shifted base to Delhi in July 2006. And the city became my home. Sadly, however, the city that gave me a new life and a new perspective also took away part of the vision in my left eye. But then it’s not the city which is to be blamed but its ever-increasing, toxin-rich pollution that left its mark on me in the shape of a permanent scar on the cornea of my left eye. The problem was first detected two years back when both my eyes began to remain watery and red. I was advised some eye-drops but to no relief. My vision was blurred and I was unable to open my eye in bright light. An advanced scan led to the discovery of two damaged layers in my left eye. Now I permanently wear glasses and have a -2.7 correction in my left eye. It’s impossible to step outside without sunglasses as my eye is now too sensitive for bright sunlight. How this problem started is the real shocker. It’s right in front of us but nobody never taken it seriously. If you drive in Delhi, you are well aware of the dust or sand that is encountered on the road, especially Ring Road. These dust particles are the main components of Particulate Matter (PM10) in the immediate environment. I’m an avid biker, and I have always made sure of using a good quality helmet and other protective gear. The dust was getting through all the time, even though I had started splashing water in my eyes as a rule after every ride. Rubbing my eyes, a spontaneous reaction,  made the situation worse. Over a period of time, I developed a permanent scar in one eye, and there it will remain for life. I have to be a part of this city — my family, friends and career are here. So I wear glasses all the time and have cut down on biking. Delhi’s pollution is silently killing us all every day and it’s high time we sit up, take note and act.
 

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Weather eases Capital's crisis, but air still poor

Smog has lifted almost as quickly as it descended on northwest India. Wider meteorological factors, possibly extending beyond India, are at play. Scientific studies needed. Panicky, Delhi-centric responses, such as school closures, only brought bad publicity for the capital city.

— Brahma Chellaney (@Chellaney) November 19, 2017 Satellite images from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Sunday showed increased stubble-burning in Punjab’s Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Firozpur, Fazilka, Muktsar, Bathinda, Moga and Kapurthala districts in the past two days. “Farmers in these districts are burning stubble now since crop residue could not be burnt earlier on due to moisture, and due to the fact that it’s almost time to prepare the fields for the winter crops,” Bharatiya Kisan Union’s Punjab unit member Omkar Singh said. With Delhi set to receive north-westerly winds (coming from Punjab and Haryana) over the next few days, the air quality in the national capital may see a slight deterioration. According to the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), however, good wind speed will help air quality from deteriorating any further. “As per an advisory from the weather officials and SAFAR, winds will catch speed and thus pollutants will not have much effect. The pollution levels are supposed to drop from very-poor to poor,” Polash Mukherjee, a researcher at the Centre for Science and Environment, and member of the EPCA, said. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, average Air Quality Index (AQI) in Delhi-NCR at 5 p.m. on Sunday was 292 compared with 298 on Saturday, both considered “poor”. The major pollutant, PM2.5, or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, was recorded above 290 units—about 11 times the safe limit. However, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), seven out of 10 monitoring stations across Delhi-NCR saw PM2.5 value above the danger level of over 300 units. SAFAR rated Delhi-NCR’s air-quality as “very poor”, with areas like Dhirpur, Pitampura and Delhi University in north Delhi, Indira Gandhi International Airport, Mathura Road, and Ayanagar in south Delhi, and Gurugram placed in the “very poor” category based on their respective air quality and PM2.5 levels. While the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted “no rains” over the next few says, weather analysts said they were expecting that the good wind speed alone will dissipate the additional pollutants entering the national capital and surrounding areas from Punjab. “Today the wind speed was around 20 kmph, which is considered good. The north-westerly winds will continue for the next three days —speed is expected to vary between 10 and 15 kmph, which will help in dispersing the pollutants here,” Mahesh Palawat, Director of private weather forecasting agency Skymet, said.
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Delhi air 'very poor' but diesel trucks are back

16 year olds Maanyaa, Ananya & Sarthak want cleaner air to be able to play outdoors. #AirPollution #CleanAir pic.twitter.com/eHmAMSSsZi

— United Nations India (@UNinIndia) November 15, 2017 The major pollutant PM2.5 or particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometres, recorded 362 units putting it in “very poor” category while PM10 concentration was found at 281 units – considered “poor”. The Supreme Court-monitored Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) ban on entry of trucks and on construction activities in Delhi was imposed on November 7 as mandated by the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) when air quality falls to “severe-plus” or “emergency” standards. Under the “severe-plus” category, according to rules, truck movement in Delhi was stopped, construction work was banned, odd-even scheme for vehicles was imposed and schools were shut. The very-poor GRAP comes in force when PM2.5 levels are between 121-250 units or PM10 levels are between 351-430 units. Under “very poor”, diesel generator sets are also banned and the car parking fee is enhanced by three-four times to discourage private cars on roads. The smog isn’t going away, not till surface winds strengthen and it rains. System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), a weather forecasting body under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, has predicted levels of PM2.5 and PM10 in Delhi to remain in “very poor” and “poor” categories, respectively, on Friday. It may already be getting worse after the pitiful respite of the last two days. EPCA member and Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) researcher Usman Nasim said pollution levels in the region may go up in coming days due to climatic conditions. “Pollution may increase in next few days due to withdrawal of north-west winds. As wind speed goes down, pollution levels to go up. As per SAFAR, AQI will remain in very poor quality,” Nasim said. He said the major contributing factor would be local vehicular emissions now and increase in moisture would aggravate it. He said stubble burning in states of Punjab, Haryana had almost came to an end. Nasim warned that certain actions from EPCA may come again, in case AQI enters the severe category. “As far as construction is concerned, it will not be allowed since the NGT ban is there,” Nasim said. Mahesh Palwat, Director of Skymet, a private weather forecast agency, said air quality may show little improvement in the afternoon but it will remain in very poor category, mostly during morning and night hours. “At present, it is snowing in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. As its effect, winds from north-west and north will start and air pollution will decrease in Delhi from November 20,” Palawat said.

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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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Gas chamber! Delhi air worse than after Diwali

All of us together have to find a soln to this. Every year, during this time of the year, Del becomes a gas chamber for almost a month https://t.co/4YrA3HZG98

— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) November 7, 2017 Authorities hiked vehicle parking fees by four times in Delhi. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) to discourage people from using private vehicles. In neighbouring Haryana, whose rice production helps prop up the Central foodgrain pool, authorities made a show of clamping down on the now-outlawed stubble burning, the term in vogue for the popular practice of setting monsoon season paddy fields alight to clear them of the detritus that mechanical harvesters leave in the ground. Over 1,000 farmers were charged with fines of nearly Rs 12 lakh imposed. The National Green Tribunal rapped the Centre and the governments of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab over the spike in pollution in the city and asked why helicopters were not used to sprinkle water to control dust pollution. Seeking replies from these state governments along with the CPCB in two days, the tribunal said a sharp spike in air pollution in Delhi-National Capital Region is “choking children”. “Children can’t breathe… what will you do?” NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the Delhi government. “Why are you not sprinkling water by using helicopters?”
“There is need for immediate cancellation of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon to be held at 7 a.m on Sunday, November 19, 2017 in view of the alarmingly high levels of air pollution in the capital.”
Indian Medical Association statement
The Central Industrial Security Force ordered over 15,000 masks for its personnel deployed at IGI Airport, Delhi Metro and other government installations in Delhi and NCR region and said they would be provided prompt medical assistance in case of breathing trouble. On Tuesday, different locations of Delhi-NCR reported PM2.5 values at 23 to 19 times higher than the permissible limit. The safe limit for PM2.5 is 60 microgrammes per cubic metre according to Indian standards, and 25 microgrammes per cubic metre as per international standards. According to weather analysts, Delhi is suffering from one of its worst “smog situations”, due to combined meteorological factors and stubble burning in the neighbouring states. Recording severe PM2.5 levels at all its 10 monitoring stations across Delhi-NCR, the Central government’s System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) has cautioned ‘everyone’ in the region to “avoid walk, outdoor activities, burning anything including incense sticks and candles, shut the windows, mop the floors and not vacuum clean and use only N-95 or P-100 standard respirators and not to rely on dust masks”. According to SAFAR data that predicts the air quality of Delhi-NCR to remain ‘severe’ for the next two days as well, PM2.5 values ranged from 453 units (minimum) at Pusa to 569 (maximum) at Lodhi road at 2 p.m. According to Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), PM2.5 at Anand Vihar was recorded 558 units at 2 p.m., with CPCB measuring the AQI at 439.

Read at Lokmarg

DELHI’S AIR CAN BE CLEAN ONLY IF MODI & KEJRIWAL JOIN HANDS


Analyzing the severity of air quality based on AQI, Burari Crossing in North Delhi has the cleanest air with a 378 AQI, followed by 361 at Vikas Sadan in Haryana’s Gurugram and 350 at Rohtak (Haryana)— all considered ‘very poor’ while all other regions in Delhi-NCR had ‘severe’ AQIs with dangerous trend in PM2.5 levels. The AQI levels recorded were —Delhi Technical University (452), Punjabi Bagh (435), Dilshad Garden (413), North Campus (445), Shadipur (466), Mandir Marg (433), Pusa (453- SAFAR data), Dwarka (435), Lodhi Road (569-SAFAR data), R.K. Puram (437), Siri Fort (430), Mathura Road (464), Aya Nagar (409), Anand Vihar (439), Faridabad (412), Sector-125 Noida in Uttar Pradesh (449), Setor-62 Noida (443) and Vasundhara in Ghaziabad (443). According to weather analysts, the negligible wind speed along with other meteorological reasons are behind the spike in air pollution, along with unabated stubble burning in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana. “Currently the westerly winds from Rajasthan and Haryana are flowing at negligible speed, this causes the condensation of air near the surface which thereby mixes with the pollutants from local emissions and those from the stubble burning. This is the reason that there is no scope of dispersal of the pollutants for now,” Mahesh Palawat, Director private weather forecasting agency, Skymet said. “The situation will remain same for next few days,” he added.

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Delhi pollution touches 19 times safe limit

Air pollution linked to kidney disease

The increasing toll of chronic kidney disease (CKD) globally can significantly be attributed to the rise in air pollution, researchers have found. The researchers, who presented their research at ASN Kidney Week 2017 that ended November 5 in New Orleans, Louisiana, used the Global Burden of Disease study methodologies to estimate the burden of CKD attributable to air pollution. “Air pollution might at least partially explain the rise in incidence of CKD of unknown origin in many geographies around the world, and the rise in Mesoamerican nephropathy in Mexico and Central America,” said Benjamin Bowe, MPH, in a statement. Epidemiologic measures of the burden of CKD attributable to air pollution, including years living with disability, years of life lost, and disability-adjusted life years — a measure that combines the burden of living with the disease and the early death caused by the disease — suggest that the burden varies greatly by geography, with higher values seen in Central America and South Asia. Previously, Bowe and his colleagues described an association between increased levels of fine particulate matter and risk of developing CKD. The estimated global burden of incident CKD attributable to fine particulate matter was more than 10.7 million cases per year.
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Delhi-NCR air quality falls back to severe

After a day’s breather, the air quality of Delhi-NCR worsened again on Friday, owing to drop in temperature, rise in wind speed and increase in humidity. The air quality of Delhi-NCR is, however, still better than what it use to be 48 hours back, due to change in the direction of wind from Wednesday onwards, thereby barring the effluents being carried from Punjab and Haryana where stubble burning continues. On Friday, Delhi’s Environment Minister Imran Hussain also reviewed the ambient air quality status and said urgent steps are required to reduce pollution. Pointing to stubble burning in neighbouring states, the minister urged the citizens to take all steps to minimise the their contribution to the bad air by using public transport and keeping a close watch on burning of garbage. “Agricultural residue burning has been observed in Punjab and Haryana. However, the wind direction towards Delhi is not from these states, as currently winds are coming from Uttar Pradesh and adjoining Madhya Pradesh,” the minister said. According to a government statement on Friday, the air quality in the capital has been “very poor” since october 17. The national capital on Friday recorded the Air Quality Index (AQI) at 331 units, against 311 on Thursday and 355 on Wednesday, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data. Several places in Delhi-NCR, where air-quality improved from “severe” to “very poor” on Thursday, slipped back in the “severe” category. “Existing air condition in Delhi is induced due to localised sources and sources situated in the NCR region. This fact is evident as values observed in NCR are higher than the values in Delhi,” Hussain said. The CPCB recorded 338 units on AQI in Haryana’s Gurugram (against 354 on Wednesday), 349 in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida (321 on Thursday, 344 on Wednesday), 383 in Ghaziabad (352 on Thursday and 402 on Wednesday) and 401 in Rajasthan’s Bhiwadi (372 on Thursday and 417 on Wednesday). Air quality in Haryana’s Faridabad reverted to “very poor” on Friday with AQI at 344, against 82 or “satisfactory” on Thursday. In Delhi, the major pollutant PM2.5, or particles with diameter less than 2.5mm, saw a rise, with average volume recorded 337 units till 7 p.m, while in Delhi-NCR the combined average of PM2.5 was 331 units on Friday. The average PM2.5 on Thursday in Delhi was 280 units, based on the results from 16 different stations. The Delhi Technical University (DTU) in north Delhi on Friday turned out to be the most polluted location, with a “severe” level of AQI at 407 units. Dilshad Garded in east Delhi offered the most clean air on the day, with a “moderate” AQI, followed by Pusa in central Delhi where AQI was at “poor” level — the second-most clean air in Delhi. Safe limit for PM2.5 is 60 (microgrammes per cubic metre) as per national standards and 25 globally. “The winds are still south-easterly as against north-westerly, which were earlier coming from Punjab and Haryana. The temperature has however dropped and humidity has also increased in the past 24 hours,” Mahesh Palwat, Director of private weather forecasting agency Skymet, told IANS. (IANS)

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