Diwali Brings High Pollution Warning For Indian Capital Delhi

India's capital Delhi has the dubious distinction of being the world's most polluted city and Diwali fireworks are making its air pollution even worse. The smog will be particularly dangerous on Nov. 12 and 13, with the concentration of pollution-related particles — PM2.5 and PM10 — projected to increase by 148% and 170% respectively, according to Indian media reports.

News headlines said US President Obama's 3 day visit to New Delhi last year cut his life expectancy by 6 hours. Why? Because Delhi has the highest level of the airborne particulate matter, PM2.5 considered most harmful to health, with 153 micrograms per cubic meter, 15 times higher than the 10 micrograms per cubic meter considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).

World's Dirtiest Cites

Delhi is not alone; Other cities in India claim 13 spots among the top 20 dirties cities in the world. Not far behind  Delhi's 153 micrograms is another Indian city, Patna with 149 micrograms. Other Indian cities among the world's dirtiest are: Agra (88 ug/m3), Allahabad (88 ug/m3), Ahmedabad (100 ug/m3), Amritsar (92 ug/m3), Firozabad (96 ug/m3), Gwalior (144 ug/m3), Khanna (88 ug/m3), Kanpur (93 ug/m3), Lucknow (96 ug/m3), Ludhiana (91 ug/m3) and Raipur (134 ug/m3).  Pakistani cities of Karachi (117 ug/m3), Peshawar (111 ug/m3) and Rawalpindi (107 ug/m3) also count among the world's most polluted.

India's pollution problems are not entirely due to poorly controlled industry and transport. The early winter problems are significantly exacerbated by the burning of the fields by farmers after harvest.

With a score of just 3.73 out of 100, India ranks as the worst country for the ill effects of toxic air pollution on human health among 132 nations, according to a report presented at the World Economic Forum 2012. India's neighbors also score poorly for toxic air pollution, but still significantly better than India. For example China scores 19.7, followed by Pakistan (18.76), Nepal (18.01) and Bangladesh (13.66).

In the overall rankings based on 22 policy indicators, India finds itself ranked at 125 among the bottom ten environmental laggards such as Yemen, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iraq while Pakistan ranks slightly better at 120. The indicators used for this ranking are in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, boidiversity, and forest management.

These rankings are part of a joint Yale-Columbia study to index the nations of the world in terms of their overall environmental performance. The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia's Center for International Earth Science Information Network have brought out the Environment Performance Index rankings every two years since 2006.

The Yale-Columbia study confirms that environmental problems in South Asia are growing rapidly. The increasing consumption by rapidly growing population is depleting natural resources, and straining the environment and the infrastructure like never before. Soil erosion, deforestation, rapid industrialization, urbanization, and land and water degradation are all contributing to it.

It's important to remember that Bhopal still remains the worst recorded industrial accident in the history of mankind. As India, Pakistan and other developing nations vie for foreign direct investments by multi-national companies seeking to set up industries to lower their production costs and increase their profits, the lessons of Bhopal must not be forgotten.

It is the responsibility of the governments of the developing countries to legislate carefully and enforce strict environmental and safety standards to protect their people by reversing the rapidly unfolding environmental degradation. Public interest groups, NGOs and environmental and labor activists must press the politicians and the bureaucrats for policies to protect the people against the growing environmental hazards stemming from growing consumption and increasing global footprint of large industrial conglomerates.

There will be severe health consequences for all Indians unless the Modi government acts to legislate and regulate various sources of pollution in the country. Pakistan government, too, needs to act to prevent severe harm to public health by rising pollution.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's Air Most Toxic

Pak Entrepreneur Recycles Trash into Energy and Fertilizer

Bhopal Disaster

Environmental Pollution in India

Rising Population, Depleting Resources

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia


Riaz Haq said…
#India could push world into climate change danger zone, warn scientists. #climatechange #Modi http://gu.com/p/4e532/stw

India’s growth in emissions could tip the world over the threshold to dangerous climate change, experts have said.

The alert comes as the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, prepares to visit the UK on Thursday for talks on issues including the environment.

India is due to ask the UK and other rich nations to share breakthroughs in renewable energy and other “clean” technology, and for help financing a huge expansion in efficiency and solar and wind power. It is unclear whether British officials will pressure Modi to consider a tougher emissions target.

Before the UN climate summit in Paris in December, India has pledged to increase carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions more slowly than the economy grows. The latest analysis of India’s plan calculates that if it expands as it hopes – by more than 8.5% a year – emissions will reach 9bn megatonnes by the end of the next decade.

This is about one-fifth of the total annual emissions that scientists calculate the world can emit in 2030 and still have a more than a 50% chance of avoiding the global temperature rising more than 2C, considered a dangerous threshold. Although India would rank second behind China for total emissions, unlike China and other large emitters it has not set a date by which they would peak, while new coal-fired power and other new infrastructure would commit the country to relatively high pollution levels for decades.

Delhi warns against Diwali fireworks to safeguard air quality
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“If India’s plans to burn coal go ahead, it will make it hard for us to make the two degree target,” said Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham institute on climate change and the environment, at the London School of Economics, which carried out the study. “The chances are growth will be lower, but it’s hard to imagine we’ll get down to a pattern consistent with two degrees.”

Further pressure has been put on India by the International Energy Agency, which on Tuesday published it’s annual report on global energy use, and considered the Indian case to be so critical that it devoted several chapters to the country’s rapidly rising use of coal and oil in particular. “Meeting India’s energy needs requires … constant vigilance as to the implications for energy security and the environment,” the IEA said.

Although India has so far failed to meet its hopes for growth, its population is expected to rise from 1.2 billion to 1.5 billion by the middle of this century – overtaking China as the world’s largest – and it is pursuing aggressive expansion of industry and energy production to lift an estimated 300 million people out of poverty.

“It is estimated that more than half of [the] India of 2030 is yet to be built,” the government has said, citing “exponential” growth in demand for housing, energy, transport, water and waste disposal. The risks posed by India’s rapid growth are at the heart of ongoing tension between rich and poor nations, with developing and emerging economies arguing that countries that have already become rich on fossil fuel energy should make deeper cuts in emissions rather than curb poorer countries’ growth.

India’s emissions per person are 1.7 metric tons a year, compared with nearly 17t in the US and more than 7t in both China and the European Union.

Narendra Modi retains core support at home as world tour reaches UK
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“India’s argument is that they have development challenges which must take priority, and currently the cheapest route to development is through high-carbon infrastructure,” said Diarmuid Torney, author of a new book on China and India’s climate policies. “They don’t have time to wait for the cost of renewable energy to fall

“But if India’s emissions increase at the projected rate and developed country emissions don’t decline rapidly over the short to medium term, then the maths does get us into trouble.”
Riaz Haq said…
A Huge Noxious #Garbage fire in #India's biggest city #Mumbai was so bad you could see it from space #NASA http://wpo.st/83A91

Last week, a fire in the largest landfill in Mumbai sent smoke across the Indian coastal metropolis. It burned for four days, cloaking parts of the city in a thick, noxious smog. Some 70 schools were forced to close out of public health fears. Fourteen firetrucks and eight bulldozers were needed to bring the fire under control.

NASA's Earth Observatory captured the blaze from space. A more zoomed-out picture shows the extent to which the fire, streaming out of a teeming eastern suburb, was singularly discernible.

"Fires in landfills are often particularly difficult to extinguish because they burn through methane, plastic, and other highly flammable substances," NASA noted on its website.

The cause of the fire is as yet undetermined, but local authorities suspect youthful miscreants may have set it off intentionally.

It highlights the disastrous lack of adequate waste management in Mumbai, India's biggest city, with a population of 21 million. The Deonar landfill receives a third to as much as three-quarters of all of Mumbai's garbage, yet it doesn't have a proper waste treatment facility.

The Wall Street Journal describes how grim the situation is there:

Experts say the landfill needs an underlying layer of clay to prevent toxic materials seeping into the soil and polluting the groundwater. The waste also needs to be alternated with a layer of soil to allow it to decompose properly.

Tatva Global Deonar Environment Ltd., the contractor in charge of the Deonar dump, said [Mumbai's city government] had not provided the material necessary despite agreeing to do so.

The municipal body also dumped more than 6,000 tons of waste a day in the landfill, more than double the agreed amount, a spokesman for the contractor said in an email.

A journalist at the Times of India publicized a letter written by a 6-year-old to local authorities, pleading for something to be done.

Riaz Haq said…
From India's News18:

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


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.

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?

Riaz Haq said…
From Wall Street Journal Nov 2016:
Air pollution in India’s capital surged this week, with a haze reducing visibility to 50 meters at times and prompting calls for government action.
“We saw an increase in pollutants this year because of very low wind speed,” said Dr. Dipankar Saha, scientist and in-charge of the air laboratory at the Central Pollution Control Board.
Mean wind speed dropped to 1.8 meters per second last week compared with 3.4 meter per second around the same time last year, reducing the amount of pollutants that were dispersed.
The problem was also aggravated by a reversal in normal direction of wind, said R. Vishen, in-charge of the regional weather forecasting center of India Meteorological Department, New Delhi. “Normally, the wind direction in Delhi is north westerly (west to east). But from October 28 till date, the north north easterly (east to west) component was prevailing, preventing pollutants from dispersing and allowing them to accumulate in the air,” he said.

Burning of stubble in paddy fields to prepare them for the next harvest in the neighboring states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also add to Delhi’s own air pollution woes: emissions from vehicles, industries using coal for power and dust from construction activities and movement of vehicles. The burning of trash, which can contain plastic, rubber and metal items and gives off toxic emissions, also adds to the city’s acrid air.
Images of stubble burning from NASA show smoke emanating from India’s border state of Punjab.
Delhi’s polluted air saw an additional kick due to burning of firecrackers and fireworks during Diwali, said Mr. Sharma.
“Unless we control our pollution from combustion, crop burning, vehicular emissions and other sources on a regional scale, this problem of pollution can’t be solved,” he said.
Riaz Haq said…
#Garbage mountain bigger than 50 football fields and taller than a 17-story building burns in #Delhi, #India. #LandfillFire #toxic #Modi #Hindutva #BJP https://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/news/world/2022/04/27/landfill-bigger-than-50-football-fields-burns-new-delhi-india/9552792002/

A ragpicker separates items at the edge of a fire at the Bhalswa landfill in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, April 27, 2022. The landfill that covers an area bigger than 50 football fields, with a pile taller than a 17-story building caught fire on Tuesday evening, turning into a smoldering heap that blazed well into the night. India's capital, which like the rest of South Asia is in the midst of a record-shattering heat wave, was left enveloped in thick acrid smoke.

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