Posts Tagged ‘air pollution’

China takes economic hit as environment nears ‘point of no return’

November 28, 2017

  @CNNMoneyNovember 27, 2017: 11:45 PM ET

Beijing wants to swap its polluted air for blue skies. Doing so will be costly.

China has transformed over the past four decades from an economic backwater to an unrivaled industrial power that consumes huge amounts of raw materials and energy. The tremendous change has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, but also polluted the country’s air and water.

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 China — A farmer walking through heavy smog on the outskirts of Beijing, early January, 2017. Credit Lintao Zhang-Getty Images

“The environment is near the point of no return,” Alex Wolf, an economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments, said in a recent research note.

China’s economy has long taken priority over other concerns. Local governments tasked with meeting ambitious growth targets have historically kept the furnaces burning at massive state-owned businesses even when there’s no demand for their products.

But Beijing recognizes that the situation is now dire. Air pollution killed more than 1.1 million people in China in 2015, the most in any country in the world, according to a study published this year by the U.S.-based Health Effects Institute.

Related: Beijing’s smog: A tale of two cities

President Xi Jinping repeatedly mentioned the environment during a major speech to fellow members of the ruling Communist Party in October. Tommy Xie, an economist at OCBC Bank, said that Xi’s use of the word “green” — 15 times in total — means the “whole nation’s mentality shifts.”

“People in China, including local government and corporates, have now realized that environmental protection is no longer talk only,” Xie said.

beijing pollution
Pollution regularly cloaks buildings in Beijing.

The government has already undertaken initiatives to promote clean energy vehicles and sideline polluting industries. Beijing has signed the Paris Climate Accord and is working on a plan to eventually phase out cars powered solely by fossil fuels.

The moves reflect the growing desire in the country for the government to help improve citizens’ quality of life, experts say.

“Chinese people are very concerned about pollution, so it makes sense for the leading party to respond,” said Wei Yao, an economist at Societe Generale. “What’s most important to [the party] is social stability.”

The changes are coming at the expense of economic growth, which has dropped from above 10% in 2010 to below 7% in recent years.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics, said that China has recently intensified its war on smog. He predicts the efforts will knock 0.5 percentage points off GDP growth — a loss of about $56 billion — in the final quarter of this year.

Related: China is winning ‘arms race’ for electric cars

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The efforts are on full display in Beijing and nearby areas in the country’s industrial heartland, which have been among the hardest hit by air pollution. The capital and cities in its orbit have been tasked with slashing harmful air pollutants by 25% before the end of the year.

China has put inspection teams to work across the region in an attempt to curb production at the most glaring rule violators. Some 180,000 companies are expected to be hit, according to Societe Generale figures.

Related: The Xi Jinping economy: What’s next for China?

There are signs that the measures are starting to bite.

In Hebei, a province near Beijing, the owner of a glass factory told CNNMoney that sales had fallen about 15% this year as a result of the environmental crackdown.

The owner, who would only identify himself by his surname of Li, said that the government had ordered him to upgrade to cleaner machinery, which had disrupted production. He spent 8 million yuan ($1.2 million) on the equipment, which is still awaiting approval from regulators.

china pollution crackdown environment
Polluting factories in China are coming under greater scrutiny.

The question is whether authorities are willing to stick with the measures as the economic pain increases. When China’s economy wobbled early last year, Beijing loosened some environment rules in order to stoke the fires of growth.

Societe Generale’s Yao said the government must strike a balance between cleaning up the environment and protecting jobs.

“The pace of implementing the anti-pollution moves is the critical element,” she said, warning that the government could risk mass unemployment if it moves too quickly. That’s not happening so far, she said, as workers laid off from state-run businesses have mostly found other work.

Related: These countries want to ditch gas and diesel cars

Analysts generally agree that China’s economy is strong enough to handle more disruption — for now.

But should growth dip too sharply, the government may ease the pressure on big polluters.

“China’s reform process has never been a straight arc,” Xie said.

— Serenitie Wang contributed to this report.

Includes video:


Smog chokes Indian capital as emergency measures fail to bring relief

November 13, 2017

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A woman walks across a field on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Saumya Khandelwal Reuters

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A thick cloud of toxic smog 10 times the recommended limit enveloped India’s capital, New Delhi, on Monday, as government officials struggled to tackle a public health crisis that is well into its second week.

A U.S. embassy measure showed levels of poisonous airborne particles, known as PM 2.5, had reached 498 on Monday afternoon, compared with the upper limit of “good” quality air at 50.

India’s weather office said rain was forecast over the next three days which could help clear the smog.

“Light rainfall is likely in states surrounding Delhi and in Delhi over the next three days, and this could result in a change in wind pattern in the region,” Charan Singh, a scientist at India Meteorological Department, told Reuters.

“Smog will start to abate starting tomorrow.”

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But Skymet, India’s only private weather forecaster, said dense smog would continue over Delhi and the surrounding area for at least the next two days.

The Supreme Court is due to hear a petition filed by a New Delhi lawyer to direct government authorities to tackle the “intolerable and unbearable air pollution”.

The Delhi state government declared a public health emergency last week after pollution levels spiked, a yearly phenomenon blamed on a combination of illegal crop burning in northern states, vehicle exhaust and dust.

Over the weekend, authorities began using fire trucks to spray water in parts of the capital to keep the dust and other air particles down, but it has had little effect.

A senior federal government official said there was little more that could be done.

“We can only do this much, and now we will have to wait for rains to clean the atmosphere,” said Prashant Gargava, an official at the Central Pollution Control Board.

A man walks through smog near Delhi, India November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Gargava, who is in charge of monitoring air quality, said Delhi’s air has been consistently in the “hazardous” zone, despite measures such as a halt to construction and increasing car parking charges four-fold to encourage people to use public transport.


The PM 2.5 airborne particles are about 30 times finer than a human hair. The particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs, causing respiratory diseases and other ailments. Hospitals have seen a surge of patients coming in with respiratory complaints, according to media reports.

“Every second we are damaging our lungs, but we cannot stop breathing,” said Arvind Kumar, the head of the chest and lung surgery department at the Sir Ganga Ram hospital.

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United Airlines said it had resumed flights from Newark, New Jersey, to New Delhi on Sunday, after suspending the service temporarily over concern about the bad air.

Authorities decided to reopen schools on Monday after closing them temporarily for a few days last week, but the decision is likely to add more vehicles on the road.

Enforcement agencies said they were unable to impose a blanket ban on the movement of commercial trucks.

Primary school teacher Aarti Menon said her family had been wearing face masks, even when indoors.

“Not everyone can afford an air purifier or air-conditioned car. We are all living in hell,” said Menon, a mother of two teenage daughters.

The National Green Tribunal, an environment court, has directed the city government and neighboring states to stop farmers from burning crop stubble. But the governments have not been able to do so.

New Delhi-based non-government group TARA Homes for Children, which supports 60 poor children, said it was seeking donations to buy at least five air purifiers.

“Some of the children have breathing issues and couldn’t go to school,” said a volunteer at the group.

Additional reporting by Aditya Kalra, Sudarshan Varadhan, Suchitra Mohanty; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel



Pakistan is Better than India When it Comes to Controlling Crop Burning

November 9, 2017

This year, according to reports, 2,620 incidents of crop fire were spotted via satellite in Indian Punjab. In Pakistan, the number was limited to just 27.

Adrija Bose |

Updated:November 9, 2017, 3:04 PM IST

 Image result for crop burning, india, pakistan

Pakistan is Better than India When it Comes to Controlling Crop Burning

New Delhi: The air in Delhi is more toxic than what human lungs can deal with. And Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has blamed it on crop burning in neighbouring states. He tweeted, “We have to find a solution to crop burning in adjoining states.” But have we done anything substantial to find a solution?

Well, it seems Pakistan is doing better than India when it comes to controlling crop burning.

This year, according to reports, 2,620 incidents of crop fire were spotted via satellite in Indian Punjab. In Pakistan, the number was limited to just 27.

Now Pakistan is blaming India for causing an “incursion of smoke”. According to a report in Dawn, the Punjab Environment Department (EPD) has requested the federal government to approach Indian authorities on the pollution issue. They say it has caused smog in different cities of the province, including Lahore. “Crop stubble is also being burnt in our cities but the present and the expected level of burning on the Indian side is alarming,” an EPD official told Dawn.

While Pakistan’s Punjab area stretches to 205,344 km2 with a population of 11 crore, India’s is far less. The Punjab area in India is about 50,362 km2 and the population is 2.7 crore.

Though the problem of crop burning has existed in both the countries for decades, it seems Pakistan has been able to tackle it far better than India.

In 2014, Pakistan wasn’t very far from India when it came to the problem of crop burning. Lahore, along with New Delhi, was listed amongst the top 10 worst cities for smog in that year.

A satellite image from November 2015 by ISRO showed that Pakistan had a near same incidence of farm fires a couple of years ago. Mohan Guruswamy, the chairperson for the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Delhi, pointed this out on Facebook.

These maps show that crop burning has reduced massively in Pakistan’s part of Punjab.

1: As shown by NASA in November 2015


2: As shown by NASA in October 2017


Meanwhile, in India, we are still struggling.

India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) has pulled up Punjab government, saying that even after “two years of being asked to come up with an action plan, they have not done much.”

The bench has asked if Captain Amarinder Singh-led government can produce a single farmer from Punjab before them who can say the government gave him any kind of assistance to stop crop burning.

The farmers in Punjab and Haryana say there is no affordable alternative to stubble burning. “I will set fire to my farm to clear it. If need be, I will pay the fine because there is no other option,” Jitendra Singh, a farmer told News18.

Farmers have to clear the fields and ready them for the winter crop in the window between kharif harvest and rabi planting. The window is of 20 days. The highly mechanized agriculture makes the input costs very high. Naturally, pollution is the last thing on their mind.

A fine of Rs 2,500 per acre can be levied if a farmer is caught burning his farm. But that is very little compared to the cost of any alternative method.

Time for us to take a leaf out of Pakistan’s book?


Thousands of schools close as smog envelopes India, Pakistan

November 9, 2017


© AFP | Low winds and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble have caused the levels of dangerous pollutants in the air to spike to many times the levels considered safe

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Schools closed across large swathes of north India on Thursday as pollution hit hazardous levels for the third day, with growing calls for urgent government action to tackle what doctors are calling a public health emergency.Punjab’s government said it was closing all 25,000 schools in the state for the rest of the week due to the acrid air blanketing north India and parts of neighbouring Pakistan.

The decision came a day after Delhi authorities said they were closing all 6,000 schools in the capital until Sunday.

Low winds and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble in Punjab and neighbouring areas have caused the levels of dangerous pollutants in the air to spike to many times the levels considered safe.

Figures on the US embassy website showed levels of PM2.5 — the smallest particulates that cause most damage to health — spiked at over 1,000 on Wednesday afternoon in Delhi, though by Thursday they had fallen to 590.

The World Health Organization’s guidelines say 25 is the maximum anyone can safely be exposed to over a 24-hour period.

A government advisory urged anyone with breathing difficulties to remain indoors and said everyone should avoid strenuous activity.

Media reports said the thick smog had also led to a series of road accidents in north India.

Eight students were killed late Wednesday when a truck ploughed into them as they waited for a bus on a roadside in Punjab.

On Thursday The Times of India joined growing calls for government action to curb the chronic pollution, which the Indian Medical Association this week termed a public health emergency.

It is the second year running that Delhi — now the world’s most polluted capital with air quality worse than Beijing — has faced such high levels of PM2.5.

“Delhi once again has become a veritable gas chamber with denizens finding it difficult to breathe,” India’s most read English-language newspaper said in an editorial blaming “political apathy”.

“Air pollution during winter months has become a catastrophe for large parts of north India. It’s high time the question is asked: why can’t authorities enjoying jurisdiction over the national capital of an aspiring great power… come up with concrete measures to tackle the world’s worst air pollution,” it said.

Since 2014, when WHO figures showed the extent of the crisis, authorities in Delhi have closed power plants temporarily and experimented with taking some cars off the road.

But the temporary measures have had little effect.

Delhi’s air quality typically worsens before the onset of winter as cooler air traps pollutants near the ground and prevents them from dispersing into the atmosphere, a phenomenon known as inversion.

The Delhi government is to meet later Thursday to decide whether to reintroduce restrictions on driving cars in the city.

Delhi’s poor bear the brunt of deadly smog

November 9, 2017


© AFP / by Nick Perry | Some streets in the Indian capital have recorded pollution levels 40 times the World Health Organization recommended safe level since Monday, with calm weather and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble in Punjab fuelling the crisis

NEW DELHI (AFP) – Rickshaw driver Sanjay can only afford a handkerchief to shield his face from the smog-filled streets of Delhi, even as many residents rush to buy protective masks to combat the toxic menace.

Better off inhabitants of the world’s most polluted capital are swarming sellers of face masks — costing more than the 300 rupees ($5) that Sanjay earns in a day — and high-tech air purifiers that could easily cost his annual wage.

Delhi authorities Wednesday ordered all 6,000 schools to shut until Sunday after choking smog descended on northern India, while people with breathing difficulties have been told to stay indoors.

On top of expensive European air purifiers, inhabitants are turning to nose filters, indoor plants and even yoga to mitigate the crisis.

But doctors say that none of it will be enough to prevent deaths in the metropolis of 20 million people battling a pollution crisis for the second year.

Some streets in the Indian capital have recorded pollution levels 40 times the World Health Organization recommended safe level since Monday, with still weather and the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble in Punjab fuelling the crisis.

Rickshaw drivers, street vendors and tens of thousands of homeless families endure the full force of pollution that doctors warn can do irreparable damage to the heart, brain and lungs, especially in children.

Sanjay, who like many Indians goes by one name, spends his days waiting for passengers, breathing in the poisonous mist so thick that often he cannot see the other side of the road.

“I don’t have a mask. The masks are too expensive. I have a hankie,” he told AFP, bringing out a cotton square.

He knows however that putting the rag over his nose and mouth does next to nothing against the onslaught of fine particles — so small they bury deep in the lungs — that sear his eyes and throat.

“My eyes are fire,” he said, pulling back an eyelid to expose an irritated, bloodshot iris.

Labourer MK Sharma also cannot afford a smog mask. He thought the scarf wrapped around his face — a method favoured by motorcyclists and street workers — made things “a little better”, but he wasn’t sure.

“It is better than nothing,” Sharma said hopefully.

Rupesh Kumar paid $4 for a cheap, poorly-fitted fabric mask. It was all he could afford. “I want to save myself from Delhi,” he told AFP.

– Yoga cure for smog poison –

Nearby, affluent Delhiites jostled in a long queue to a small shop selling neoprene masks, fitted with a carbon mesh designed to filter out the noxious particles.

Panic rose from the crowd as the vendor lowered the shutters, announcing most sizes had sold out.

“Oh my goodness, you’re finished? This is a catastrophe,” said Sue, an expatriate woman who declined to give her second name, her young daughter by her side.

Those lucky enough to secure a mask ripped open the packaging and put it on their children on the pavement.

One elderly Indian woman looked distressed upon learning a mask cost 2,500 rupees, roughly $40. “This is really too much. I cannot deal with this,” she said, shaking her head.

At a nearby shop, office worker Apurva, covering her mouth with her sleeve, purchased two air purifiers to complement the one already at home.

“Every room needs one because it is that crazy,” she told AFP, referring to the high-end machines that cost anything between $150 and $1,000.

Many joggers and dog walkers in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens park appeared unfazed, joining the overwhelming majority of residents battling on without masks.

Children played cricket, couples canoodled and men read newspapers in smog so thick that the park’s ancient Islamic monuments were barely visible in the gloom.

One snowy-haired retiree taking a daily walk told AFP he did not worry about the danger for his health because he did not have asthma.

“I can walk without a mask. I am not troubled by this weather,” said lifetime Delhi resident Rammi Bakshi, reflecting a common belief that the winter smog is seasonal.

At India Gate, a towering monument barely visible behind a screen of haze, Pushkal Rai scoffed at suggestions the smog would halt his cricket match.

“We’re spiritual guys, we love yoga, meditation, and this will remove (the pollution) from our body,” he told AFP, adding sugar cane also helped clean the lungs of contaminants.

“We are Indians, we never worry about such kind of things here.”

by Nick Perry

India: Toxic Firecracker Haze After Festival of Lights in New Delhi in Annual “Brown Out” of Pollution

October 20, 2017


NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Air pollution in New Delhi hit 18 times the healthy limit on Friday under a thick, toxic haze after a night of fireworks to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali – despite a court-ordered ban on their sales.

Residents of the sprawling Indian capital, which already ranks among the world’s most polluted cities, complained of eyes watering and aggravated coughs as levels of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter that reaches deep into the lungs, rose alarmingly.

Air quality usually worsens in New Delhi ahead of Diwali, the festival of lights, and the Supreme Court temporarily banned the sale of firecrackers, aiming to lessen the risk to health.

Two pedestrians on road in New Delhi engulfed in smog from last year
Authorities crack down on pollution in Delhi a few days before the festival of Diwali. AFP photo

But many still lit fireworks across the capital late into the night, either using old stocks or buying them from neighboring states.

Some environment activists said the court order was poorly enforced and firecrackers were still available to celebrate one of north India’s biggest festivals.

“Breathe nitrate and ammonia, home grown, hand made!” said environmentalist Vimlendu Jha in a Twitter post calling for city authorities to declare a public emergency.

An index of air quality had crossed the “hazardous” limit of 300 on Friday, the most severe level on a U.S. embassy scale of measurement which rates a reading of 50 as good and anything above that as a cause for concern.

Some parts of Delhi such as Mandir Marg showed an air quality reading of 941, close enough to the maximum level of 999 beyond which no readings are available. The index measures concentrations of PM 2.5, PM 10, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide among other indicators.

A hazardous level is an alert in which everyone may experience ill effects and are advised to stay indoors.

Apart from the firecracker ban, the Supreme Court also ordered diesel generators and a power plant to be shut down to try to reduce the pollution. The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority also ordered some brick kilns to close and a halt to the burning of rubbish.

Traffic on a street in Delhi amid heavy smog in November 2016
If pollution worsens, parking rates within the city could see a price hike. Getty Images

Dipankar Saha, a scientist at the government’s Central Pollution Control Board, said the still weather had also played a part in the toxic haze hanging over the city.

But pollution levels were better than at last year’s Diwali when crop burning in nearby states and firecrackers combined.

“It was going to be hard to beat last year’s level in any case,” he said.

Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani

See also:

India Diwali: Delhi acts against pollution menace


Smog shrouds the Jama Masjid mosque in an old section of New Delhi, which has been called the most polluted city in the world.Credit Dominique Faget/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Delhi wakes up to better air quality than 2016, but pollution levels far from safe

Despite SC ban on sale of firecrackers in NCR, Delhi celebrated Diwali, dashing the hopes of cracker-free festivities

Overall, Delhi’s air quality index was calculated at 326 which is ‘very poor’, according to the National Air Quality Index (NAQI). Photo: Hindustan Times

Overall, Delhi’s air quality index was calculated at 326 which is ‘very poor’, according to the National Air Quality Index (NAQI). Photo: Hindustan Times

New Delhi: The jury is yet to decide whether Supreme Court’s ban on sale of crackers worked or not, but citizens of Delhi certainly woke up to better air quality on Friday—the morning after Diwali celebrations—compared to last year. However, the air quality was far from satisfactory even this year.

In 2016, Delhi resembled a gas chamber with particulate matter (PM)10 and PM2.5—the two deadliest components of air pollution—at over eight times the safe limit. This year has been slightly better, with PM10 and PM2.5 levels over two and half times the satisfactory level.

But disturbingly, PM10 and PM2.5 levels—during and after Diwali celebrations in some parts of the national capital—went as high as over 24 times and nearly 15 times, respectively, the satisfactory limit even this year.

According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the Union ministry of earth sciences, the levels of PM10 and PM2.5 in Delhi on Friday morning were at “poor” and “very poor” levels respectively. The level of PM10 was 256µg/m³ and PM2.5 was 154µg/m³—over two and half times the satisfactory levels.

The satisfactory limit of PM10 is 100µg/m³ and PM2.5 is 60µg/m³. These fine particles can settle deep in the lungs and be absorbed in the bloodstream, which can lead to respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.

SAFAR had predicted a few days ago that there will not be a repeat of 2016 this year.

Overall, Delhi’s air quality index was calculated at 326 which is “very poor”, according to the National Air Quality Index (NAQI). As per SAFAR forecast, the air quality is expected to remain “very poor” on Saturday too with PM10 and PM2.5 levels expected to be at 358µg/m³ and 216µg/m³, respectively.

As per NAQI, very poor air quality “may cause respiratory illness to the people on prolonged exposure. Effect may be more pronounced in people with lung and heart diseases”. During such levels, people are advised to use pollution masks and avoid outdoor activities.

This, however, is still far better than 2016 when air quality levels were “severe” and were recorded over eight times the safe limit. In 2016, the day after Diwali, PM10 levels were recorded at severe level of 836.1µg/m³ (over eight times the safe limit) and PM2.5 at 624.2µg/m³ (nearly 10 times the safe limit).

If initial estimates are to go by, the pollution levels of the national capital a day after Diwali are better than 2015 results when PM2.5 levels were 428µg/m³—over seven times the safe limit.

Meanwhile, Delhi’s neighbourhood towns like Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad also did not see the air quality crossing “very poor” level. As per SAFAR, Gurgaon’s air quality index was at 341 (very poor level), while Noida’s air quality was “poor” with its AQI at 299.

Faridabad, as per data of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), too had “very poor” air quality level with AQI at 336. CPCB is India’s nodal pollution watchdog.

Meanwhile, even though the average levels as per SAFAR showed that pollution levels were not alarmingly high, the data recorded by air quality stations of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) showed that levels of PM10 and PM2.5 touched scary levels during and after Diwali celebrations.

Image result for Air pollution in New Delhi, Diwali, photos

For instance, Anand Vihar, which is one of the most polluted areas of the national capital, recorded PM10 at 2,402 µg/m³ early Friday morning (over 24 times the satisfactory limit) and PM2.5 at 626 µg/m³ (over 10 times the satisfactory limit).

Similarly, Mandir Marg area recorded PM10 levels at 1046µg/m³ (over 10 times the satisfactory limit) and PM2.5 at 355µg/m³ (nearly six times the satisfactory limit).

Another area, RK Puram, which regularly witnesses high levels of pollution, recorded PM10 at 1180µg/m³ (nearly 12 times the satisfactory limit) and PM2.5 at 878µg/m³ (nearly 15 times the satisfactory limit) on Thursday night. At 8am on Friday, the area recorded PM2.5 at 925µg/m³, which was nearly 15 times the satisfactory limit.

Now whether the low pollution levels—compared to last year—are due to the apex court’s ban on cracker sale leading to less people bursting crackers, awareness among people, favourable weather conditions or the graded response action plan (GRAP), it is yet to be finalized.

On 9 October, the Supreme Court had banned the sale of crackers in Delhi and NCR area.

smoke billows from two smoke stacks at the coal-based Badarpur Thermal Station in New Delhi.
Coal-powered thermal power plants meet most of India’s energy needs. AFP photo

After the high levels of pollution in Delhi-NCR area, SC had approved GRAP to tackle air pollution in Delhi and adjoining regions. The main objective was to institutionalize measures to tackle air pollution emergencies, giving a clear direction of steps to be taken by central and state authorities. GRAP was then notified by the Union environment ministry in January 2017. It classifies air pollution into four categories in terms of air quality—moderate to poor, very poor, severe, and very severe or emergency.

Moderate to poor is when particulate matter PM 2.5 and PM10 levels are between 61-90g/m3 (microgram per cubic metre) and 101-250g/m3 respectively; very poor is when PM2.5 and PM10 levels are between 121-250g/m3 and 351-430g/m3 respectively; severe is when ambient PM2.5 and PM10 levels are more than 250g/m3 and 430g/m3 respectively; and very severe or emergency is when PM2.5 or PM10 levels are above 300g/m3 and 500g/m3 respectively, and persist for 48 hours or more.

In the last few weeks, several aspects of GRAP have already been set in motion.


New Delhi shuts power plant in fight against Diwali smog

October 18, 2017


© AFP/File | Last year, pollution levels were sky high in the days that followed Diwali, prompting the Supreme Court to warn of a public health emergency

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s environmental watchdog shut down a coal-fired power plant and banned the use of diesel generators in New Delhi as air quality plummeted in the world’s most polluted capital on Wednesday, the start of the Diwali festival.New Delhi experiences suffocating smog every year around Diwali, when farmers in north India burn the stubble left behind after the harvest and revellers let off smoke-spewing firecrackers.

The onset of winter aggravates the problem as the cooler air traps the pollutants, a phenomenon known as inversion.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Board, a statutory body, made the ruling as levels of PM2.5 pollutants in the air reached around 200 micrograms per cubic metre — eight times the World Health Organization safe limit of 25.


“Difficult situations demand tough responses and solutions and Delhi is faced with a really difficult situation each winter when air pollution levels spiral out of control,” said its chairman Bhure Lal in a statement.

The Board said the city’s Badarpur power plant, which has a capacity of around 700 megawatts, would be closed until March. The plant is due to shut down for good next July as India seeks to move away from heavily-polluting fossil fuels.

It also banned the use of the privately-owned diesel generators that many rich households rely on during India’s frequent power cuts.

The measures follow a temporary ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi introduced earlier this month by the Supreme Court to ease the pollution levels.

Last year, levels of PM2.5 — the fine particles linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease — soared to 778 in the days that followed Diwali, prompting the Supreme Court to warn of a public health emergency.

Levels of PM2.5 between 301 and 500 are classified as “hazardous”, while anything over 500 is beyond the official index.

The Delhi government then shut schools for three days, banned all construction work for five days to curb dust levels and temporarily closed the Badarpur plant.

A 2014 World Health Organization survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted.

India’s notoriously poor air quality causes over a million premature deaths every year, according to a joint report by two US-based health research institutes earlier this year.

Xi Jinping hails ‘new era’ at opening of China congress — Xi now a transformative leader alongside Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.

October 18, 2017

Party conclave likely to cement president’s status as a transformative leader

China anti-corruption purge hits Central Committee

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, suit and indoor

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech at the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party’s five-yearly Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2017. Credit Wang Zhao – AFP – Getty Images

By Tom Mitchell and Lucy Hornby in Beijing
FT (Financial Times)

President Xi Jinping declared that China had “entered a new era” as he opened a landmark Communist party congress that he hopes will cement his status as a transformative leader alongside Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.

“The Chinese nation now stands tall and firm in the east,” Mr Xi said on Wednesday in Beijing at the opening of the party’s 19th congress, marking the formal start of his second five-year term as party leader. The congress, attended by about 2,300 delegates, will deliberate for one week before Mr Xi’s new party leadership team is revealed on October 24.

In an address that ran for more than three hours and was attended by his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, Mr Xi urged his party colleagues to “work tirelessly to realise the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation” and hailed the economic progress made during his administration’s first term.

Image result for Xi Jinping, young school children sitting at attention in their classrooms, October 18, 2017, photos

President Xi Jinping’s (right) first term line-up was influenced by his predecessors Jiang Zemin (centre) and Hu Jintao. Photo: Reuters

“The Communist party is entering the Xi era,” said Sima Nan, a patriotic blogger. “Mao and Deng’s shadows still loom large, but Xi is his own man.”

As the hours ticked by, pictures circulated on social media showing young school children sitting at attention in their classrooms as they watched the president’s address on television.

Image result for chinese school children sit at attention, photos

AFP Photo

Mr Xi, however, offered little in the way of concrete plans and warned that “severe challenges” awaited China’s ruling party. “We have a long way to go in protecting the environment,” he said as air pollution in the Chinese capital hovered at officially “unhealthy” levels.

This is an era that will see China move closer to the centre of the world and make more contributions to humankind

“The last leg of a journey just marks the halfway point,” Mr Xi added, quoting a Chinese proverb. “Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park; it will take more than drum beating and gong clanging to get there.”

Upon assuming power in November 2012, Mr Xi declared China’s rejuvenation as one of the world’s great powers to be the “dream” of the Chinese people.

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After a stock market crash and run on China’s currency in late 2015 and early 2016, which marked the low points of Mr Xi’s first term in office, the party’s confidence surged as economic growth stabilised and Europe and the US were rocked by the rise of economic nationalism.

Mr Xi indirectly alluded to these events, most notably Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the 2016 US presidential election, in Wednesday’s address.

“China’s cultural soft power and the international influence of Chinese culture have increased significantly,” Mr Xi said. “China’s international standing has risen as never before.”

Mr Xi noted that, during his time in office, China’s annual economic output surged from Rmb54tn to Rmb80tn ($8.2tn-$12tn), accounting for about one-third of total global growth.

“China has seen the basic needs of over 1bn people met,” the president said. He added that an average of 13m new urban jobs had been created each year, while some 60m people have been lifted out of poverty.

The Chinese president also highlighted the accomplishments of his signature anti-corruption campaign, which has ended the careers of more than 150 senior officials including 18 members — or about 9 per cent — of the party’s outgoing Central Committee.

One of the speech’s biggest applause lines was Mr Xi’s pledge to maintain the campaign’s “unstoppable momentum”. He said anti-graft investigators would continue to “take out tigers, swat flies and hunt down foxes”, referring to officials of all ranks and corruption suspects who have fled abroad.

“We have solved many tough problems that were long on the agenda … but never got done,” the president added.

“The focus for Xi has clearly been party-building and cleaning out corruption,” said Andrew Polk at Trivium China, a Beijing-based consultancy. “Everything else has been secondary.”

Mr Xi also outlined a vision for China through the middle of the 21st century, predicting that the world’s most populous nation would be “moderately prosperous” by 2035 and “prosperous, strong and democratic” by 2050. “It will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind,” he said.

The president’s long-term vision has stoked speculation that he might seek to stay on as party leader beyond the traditional 10-year term.

Additional reporting by Xinning Liu

UN slams UK government over ‘plague’ of air pollution — UK through inaction the government has “violated its obligations” to protect children

September 11, 2017


© AFP/File | More than 40,000 premature deaths a year are linked to air pollution in the UK, according to a UN report

LONDON (AFP) – A UN report has slammed the UK for failing to tackle the “plague” of air pollution, while also warning of Brexit risks, ahead of the body’s Human Rights Council opening Monday.”Air pollution continues to plague the United Kingdom,” read the report by United Nations expert Baskut Tuncak, to be presented at the rights council in Geneva which runs until September 29.

More than 40,000 premature deaths a year are linked to air pollution, noted the report which argued that through inaction the government has “violated its obligations” to protect children.

“The Special Rapporteur is alarmed that despite repeated judicial instruction… the United Kingdom Government continues to flout its duty to ensure adequate air quality and protect the rights to life and health of its citizens,” it said.

The British government has faced a series of legal challenges over its proposals, with a 2015 air pollution plan struck down by the courts for being inadequate.

New proposals, including a scrappage scheme targeting diesel cars, were unveiled in May after the High Court ruled against the government’s intention to delay.

But the UN report said the latest plan “does not convey the necessary urgency” and urged the government to implement a “robust clean air plan without delay”.

Published against the backdrop of Britain’s divorce from the European Union, the Tuncak report praised the bloc for having some of the highest environmental standards in the world which have positively impacted the UK.

Despite government assurances that it will maintain EU environmental standards after Brexit, Tuncak said a lack of clarity on how this will happen has led to a “real danger” Britain will be left without the necessary legal framework.

“The United Kingdom market could risk becoming a haven for ‘dirty’ industries and a dumping ground for products failing to meet European Union regulations,” without matching EU legislation, the report said.

Wading into the subject of Brexit talks, the UN report advised the British government to continue to abide by evolving EU standards despite its exit from the bloc.

282 hot spots detected across Indonesia

August 6, 2017

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Indonesia — Fire-fighting operations in South Sumatra, one of the five provinces currently in a state of emergency. Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB)

JAKARTA – Indonesian satellites on Sunday (Aug 6) morning picked up 282 hot spots – believed to be the highest number across the country this year – as the dry season continues.

The worst hit province was West Kalimantan, where more than half of the hot spots were detected, said National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman, Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, as he released the figures yesterday (Aug 6) evening.

Five districts in the province – Kubu Raya, Ketapang, Sekadau, Melawi and Bengkayang – have declared a state of emergency to enable local authorities to access central government support, including military assistance, to put out the fires.

Dr Sutopo also expressed concern that although 150 hot spots were detected across West Kalimantan, the number of fires there may be higher.

“Land and forest fires in West Kalimantan continue despite our continued efforts to suppress them,” he added.

He warned that the number of hot spots is probably higher as the satellites may not have passed over all the forest and land areas where fires could be burning.

Other areas in Indonesia were also hit by forest fires, albeit not as badly as in 2015 when the burning of forest and peatland in Kalimantan and Sumatra produced a transboundary haze, which blanketed the region and led to record air pollution levels for months.

Aside from those in West Kalimantan, the hot spots were spread across other provinces such as South Sumatra (23 hot spots), South Sulawesi (18), Riau (16) and East Nusa Tenggara (12).

Dr Sutopo said the hot spots were spotted on private plantation land, community-owned land and in national parks, in hard-to-reach locations.

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An Indonesian woman and a child walk on a bamboo bridge as thick yellow haze shrouds Palangkaraya on Oct 22, 2015. AFP photo

“The areas burned are generally areas that are difficult to access and away from settlements, that is why (the fires) are difficult to extinguish,” he added.

As of Saturday, 18 helicopters have been deployed for fire-fighting operations in Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan. All five provinces are currently in a state of emergency.

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said last Sunday that helicopters will deployed to put out fires over areas where there is limited road access.

“If land access is difficult or shut down for a long time, then we will use water-bombings,” she said.

The dry season in Indonesia is forecast to end in September, at the earliest.


 (Contains links to several related articles)

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Carbon monoxide concentrations world-wide during the Indonesian burning season, 2015