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The Air Report [9/1/17]

Air Pollution in Delhi.

January 9, 2017

Image Courtesy: Viktor Kiryanov []

PM10 Level (Safe): 100 micrograms per cubic metre

PM10 Level (Delhi): 260

PM10 Level (Beijing):232

PM2.5 Level (Safe): 60 micrograms per cubic metre

PM2.5 Level (Delhi): 416

PM2.5 Level (Beijing):269

PM2.5 Level (New York): 52

This is the world which we live in.


Screenshot (8/1/17);

The entire North India is of the same shade, that blood-like red. Seen? Now, stay with me for a bit.

In May last year, the WHO released a comprehensive list of PM10 and PM2.5 levels, across 2972 cities in the world. Basically, how polluted a city’s air was. You can download the report yourself. It’s the Excel sheet link on the right.

Among other things, you will see 17 Indian cities in the top 50 polluted cities (by PM10  levels), and 22 cities (by PM2.5 levels). Even better, the lists share 17 names.

All of these 17 cities lie in the dark red regions. All.

Even if, if Delhi manages to shut down all its pollution-causing sources, what chance does it have of breathing freely when it is surrounded by polluting cities on all sides?

Here’s a report from the Wire, published in the aftermath of Diwali. The interactive graphs and the report will tell you that it was a mixture of everything going bad, that led to the record levels of pollution. [The Wire] But crackers, at the most, can only add to the present levels of pollution. How did the pollution levels themselves get that high?

And as if to prove all this, just this week, data released through a joint study by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the British Deputy High Commission, UKAID, has officially started ringing alarm bells on the state of the air in Kolkata. [TOI]

The above image comes from AirVisual, a French startup which I would never have found had it not been for this report. [Washington Post] 

What happened this week?

The file regarding the DTC fare revisions reached our new Lieutenant-Governor on Wednesday. The transport minister was on record saying “We hope that LG will give his nod in a day or two.” No further developments. Fingers crossed.

Sukhdev Vihar residents, who had gone to the National Green Tribunal for shutting down the Okhla waste-to-energy plant, lost their case. Sure, the NGT is reported to have issued orders for making the plant, along with its counterparts, more eco-friendly. [NewsNation] But this is exactly the catch-22 situation that was always going to happen.

As we have reminded you, the Delhi government has plans to set up more such plants, while the existing ones, almost uniformly, face opposition from the residents nearby. Our political common men have helped by breaking their pre-election promises to the people.

Do they really pollute? The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency; of the USA) data shows waste burning to release more CO2 than coal, but still be ‘less polluting’ than it. In fact, Sweden and Europe and China have embraced this technology. [Salon] But there’s a difference between them and India. For starters, an energy company (whose job is to sell these projects) themselves are saying here about how India’s waste segregation has led to complications for the functioning of our waste-to-energy plants, and about one of our plants (Okhla) emitting more toxic gases than safe (Page 4). [Power]

No word about our graded action plan. Meanwhile, guess what emergency measures were being deployed last to last week? Sprinkling of water on roads. Along with mechanical sweeping, and strict monitoring to stop waste burning. That’s it. THAT’S IT!! [TOI]

Meanwhile, in Beijing, when the New Year itself was welcomed with smog, here’s what the authorities there were reported to have done: “schools and some industries have been ordered closed, hundreds of flights grounded, and vehicle bans ordered on the roads.” [Eco-Business]

In fact, the government data (always to be taken with a big pinch of cynicism) has reported air pollution to have dropped below 2015 levels in Beijing. In fact, it has been dropping since 2014, gradually. [The Beijinger]

This time, last year, we were in the midst of the first odd-even rolled out in Delhi. An year on, have things changed for the better then? Naa. [Hindu]

I told my dad about the forever record-breaking levels in Anand Vihar. He explained it away, with a good reason. “It’s Anand Vihar.” Of course, lots of buses, lots of people using transport to reach there; it does make sense. So why was it that over the past fortnight, ITO was found to be more polluted than Anand Vihar? Maybe, maybe, it’s finally a reason for us to get worried? [TOI]

“What are we waiting for? We agreed in 1997 that cleaning the air was going to be a long-term process. If after 20 years of dialogue we are exactly at the same (if not worse) place as we started at, how are we going to get better?” [The Wire]

Let’s end on a bit of hope: on November 23, the NGT  asked all government buildings to be subjected to a minimum environmental audit.  It “sought an assessment of the solid waste, sewage, and outdoor and indoor air quality systems of such buildings to ensure “that no hazardous result follows in relation to public health”.” If nothing else, it is a start in dealing with indoor air pollution, which mostly happens to be higher than the levels outside. []


About the author: Hitesh Shetty
Dreams of writing a bestseller and changing the world. When awake, tries to figure out how to do both. | Get Tech Addicted...
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