Act now: Assam is one of the six Indian states ordered by the NGT to submit a plan to clean up its foul air – or pay up | Image credit: TheHindu

6 Indian states get 15 days to submit plan to curb air pollution, or face fine

Submit a plan to bring air quality within the prescribed norms by April 30 or pay a $1,45,000 fine – that’s the order by India’s green court National Green Tribunal to six states of Assam, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Nagaland, which have failed to produce action plans. States whose action plans to improve air quality have been found deficient will have to pay over $36,000 each if they fail to upgrade their plans by April 30. The court said all states have six months to bring the air quality within the prescribed norms from the dates the plans are finalised.

The court also ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to update its list of 102 cities that  have poor air quality and include more cities that  meet the parameters. CPCB said that of 102 cities, 19 failed to produce an action plan. Non-compliance of the NGT order is a criminal offence under Section 26 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, and in case of non-compliance by governments, head of the concerned department is deemed to be guilty for such an offence, which attracts up to three years jail or fine up to Rs. 10 crores or both.

New study: Air pollution deaths are double previous estimates

A recent study revealed that the number of people dying early because of air pollution is double than what was estimated earlier. Experts say this would mean that more people dying of air pollution than smoking tobacco. The new research says that the air pollution is cutting everyone’s life by more than two years on average. In Europe alone, 8,00,000 people are killed prematurely every year because of polluted air, and damage to health by air pollution in Europe is higher than the global average. The research says killer air damages lungs first and then enters the bloodstream, causing heart ailments and strokes that account for twice as many deaths as respiratory diseases. Researchers also urged to phase out the burning of fossil fuels, the Guardian reported.

Top court to Centre: Vehicles pollute more than firecrackers

While hearing a plea seeking a complete ban on firecrackers, India’s Supreme Court told the government that vehicles seem to be ‘bigger’ polluters than firecrackers. The court said: “You are running after firecrackers, but bigger pollution contribution is perhaps vehicles.” The court asked if there was any comparative study on pollution caused by both. The court added that there are areas where firecrackers can be used and it did not want to leave people jobless. “If the trade is legal and you have the licence for this, then how can you stop this? How can you leave people unemployed?" the bench observed. The firecracker lobby’s lawyer said around 2.5% annual pollution in Delhi NCR is because of the use of crackers for a few days during the festive season. The Centre’s lawyers told the bench that the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and other agencies were developing "green crackers" that can reduce the emission of pollutants PM 2.5 by 25-30% at least.

Delhi high court seeks report on CNG pollution

The Delhi high court has asked the local government if vehicles running on CNG cause air pollution. The court ordered the AAP government to submit a report within a month, "particularly with reference to pollution, if any, caused by the CNG vehicles and the result of the same". Meanwhile, Union minister Vijay Goel took out a cycle rally to protest against the Delhi government’s failure to control sources of air pollution such as vehicles and industrial pollution, but imposing odd-even scheme on commuters instead. Goel also said: ”Instead of full statehood, pollution should have been the main issue for them because it kills 10,000 people every year in Delhi".

‘Pollution can cause Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s’

Air pollution can cause debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and not just lung and heart failure, reported TOI.  The report quoted doctors saying that the inhaled pollutants can enter the bloodstream and attack the brain, which consumes almost 50% of the oxygen we breathe. “This can lead to depression, anxiety, dementia and other neurological diseases,” Dr Manas Ranjan Ray of Chhitranjan National Cancer Institute said. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are on the rise due to pollution, said pulmonologist Dr Sameer Arbat.

China’s 2019 World Environment Day theme is air pollution

China plans to host the global World Environment Day celebrations on June 5, 2019 with a theme of air pollution. World Environment Day 2019 will urge governments and industry to adopt renewable energy and green technologies, and clean the air in cities and regions across the world. China will organise celebrations in Hangzhou, in the province of Zhejiang, to host the main event. The announcement came at last week’s UN conference at Nairobi. According to the UN environment site: “According to a new UN report on air pollution in Asia and the Pacific, implementing 25 technology policies could see up to a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide and a 45% reduction in methane emissions globally, leading to a third of a degree Celsius saving of global warming.”

Long-term exposure to toxic air can cause diabetes: Chinese study

According to a recent Chinese study, continued exposure to toxic air increases the risk of diabetes. The study said China has the highest number of diabetic cases in the world, but the link between diabetes and air pollution is hardly reported in developing countries, including China. 

Scientists from the US and China assessed the link between long-term exposure to PM 2.5 and diabetes cases based on a sample of over 88,000 Chinese adults between 2004-2015. Results showed that the risk of diabetes increased by 15.7% for an increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of long-term PM 2.5 concentration, Business Standard reported.

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