Soon, everywhere: India’s appalling air quality means half the country’s population could grapple with heavy PM2.5 pollution by 2030 | Image credit: HealthcareinIndia

670 million Indians to breathe poor quality air in 2030: Study

Latest research has warned that even if India successfully implemented its current pollution control policies and regulations, around 674 million Indians may end up breathing air with high concentrations of PM 2.5 in 2030.

“Only about half of India’s estimated population in 2030 – about 833 million citizens – would be living in areas meeting India’s air quality standards in 2030,” the research by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) explained. The research said, “The Indo-Gangetic plain, covering parts of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal, have the highest population exposure to significant PM 2.5 concentrations.

According to the report, solid fuel and biomass burning was the largest contributor of air pollution in the Indo-Gangetic plain. But in Delhi and Goa, NOx pollution from vehicles were the major poisoners of air. SO2 emissions from power plants were dominant contributors to air pollution in Haryana and Maharashtra, the study said.

Ahead of Indian elections, Congress promises environment, clean energy reforms in manifesto

The Indian National Congress, India’s main Opposition party, released its manifesto days ahead of elections, which highlighted environment and climate change as a key issue. The manifesto called air pollution “a national public health emergency” and pledged to strengthen the National Clean Air Programme by setting sectoral targets for emission reductions. It has promised to constitute an independent, empowered and transparent Environment Protection Agency (EPA) “to monitor and enforce environmental standards and regulations”. The party has also promised to encourage investments in off-grid renewables as a way to improve rural electricity supply.  A land and water use policy has also been included, which the party claims will enforce measures to conserve bio-diversity and wildlife, without affecting local communities. The Congress also claims it will strive to increase forest cover, with the help of state governments, from the current level of 21% to 25% by 2025. A policy on clean energy for existing power plants has also been mentioned. The party manifesto also promised to implement Forest Rights Act in letter and spirit, and said “no forest dweller will be unjustly evicted.”

Need ‘Hum Do Hamare Do’ for cars to make Delhi liveable: SC

India’s Supreme Court said Delhiites should follow a family planning-like policy, of two children to a couple, while purchasing cars. The number of vehicles in Delhi has exceeded 10 million, with almost a million new vehicles being  added annually to Delhi roads. “There are instances when one person owns five or more cars in a family,” the court said.

The top court judges were hearing a plea from auto giant Bajaj, seeking removal of cap on three wheelers, which restricts their numbers to 100,000. The auto giant is backed by the Environmental Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), which argues that more BS IV fuel compliant, CNG three-wheelers would add to public transport and discourage people from owning cars, which  are the main cause of air pollution in Delhi.

Dusty winds from Afghanistan and Rajasthan increase air pollution levels in Delhi

India’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said dusty storms blowing from as far as Afghanistan and neighbouring Rajasthan have increased air pollution in Delhi. According to CPCB data, the overall air quality index (AQI) of the city was at 232 on March 29, Friday, which falls under the ‘poor’ category. PTI reported that in June 2018, long-range dusty winds had increased the pollution level of the national capital by several folds, which had slipped to the ‘severe’ category.

Spike in PM2.5 levels post Holi burning festival

Meanwhile, air quality data analysis from Respirer Living Sciences revealed PM2.5 levels had shot up on March 21, after the Holika Dahan (festival of lighting pyres to mark the beginning of Holi celebrations) across India’s northern cities. A sharp spike was recorded on the evening of March 20, which lasted around noon the next day, after which most of the daily patterns largely resembled the earlier few days. Varanasi observed the largest deviation from its own daily patterns during this time, peaking at more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre, followed by Patna above 300, Delhi at 200 and Kanpur around 180. Mumbai maintained the lowest levels close to 50.

Holi at a glance

Delhi: Protest march against ‘hazardous’ waste-to-energy plant

Campaigners and residents of large and densely populated Okhla area in south Delhi took to streets against the alleged failure of authorities to shut down a waste-to-energy plant in Okhla. The protesters alleged that toxic emissions from the plant were polluting the area. The incinerator is close to populated areas of Sukhdev Vihar, Ishwar Nagar, New Friends Colony, Jasola, Sarita Vihar, Haji Colony and Ghaffar Manzil.

The protests said a joint panel of the Central Pollution Control Board and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee had told the Supreme Court in September 2018 that the plants at Okhla, Ghazipur and Narela-Bawana were not complying with the emission standards, reported ET.

US: EPA rejects UN’s scientific consensus on health impacts of PM2.5

Science advisors of a special committee at the US EPA (Environment Protection Agency) are seemingly trying to overturn scientific consensus established by the UN that fine particulate matter PM2.5 kills people. In a harshly worded draft, Trump’s science advisors said the findings are based on “unverifiable opinions” and lacking in scientific support.

The draft document calls for “substantial revisions” to EPA’s assessment of PM2.5. The document also gives more weight to what it called the “discordant” evidence among the 2,800 published studies cited in the EPA’s 1,900-page science assessment, reported Inside Climate News.

Air pollution linked to psychotic experiences in young people

Latest research has shown that air pollution is harming the mental health of young people. Teens living under high air pollution are more likely to suffer from paranoia and face psychotic issues, says the first research of its kind. Over 2,000 17-year-olds were analysed for the study across England and Wales and researchers found that those living in areas with higher levels of nitrogen oxides had a 70% higher chance of symptoms such as hearing voices or intense paranoia, The Guardian reported. The report says psychotic experiences are far more prevalent in adolescents than in adults, but those having these symptoms when young are more likely to develop serious mental illnesses later.

Joanne Newbury at King’s College London, who led the research, told the Guardian: “[Nitrogen oxides] explained about 60% of the association between urban living and psychotic experiences.”

Air pollution reducing lifespan in Indonesia by over 5 years

Researchers have warned that increasing air pollution in Indonesia has reduced life expectancy of people by over five years in some of the country’s worst polluted regions, mainly southern Sumatra and Ogan Komering . Indonesia’s air quality has worsened from among the cleanest in the world to one of the most polluted over the past two decades, reports said. The University of Chicago study says an increase in coal-fired power stations, burning of land for plantation agriculture and the rising number of cars are the main causes for the worsening pollution in the world’s fourth-most populous country. The ambient pollution more than doubled from 2013 to 2016.

Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, choking with smoke from coal plants

Coal stoves, coal power plants and coal mines are choking the people in Mongolia. The capital of Ulaanbaatar is covered in a thick blanket of smoke and particulate matter, and the killer air rising from burning coal has caused the incidence of pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses to spike in the Mongolian capital, especially among children According to reports, the levels of the tiniest and most dangerous airborne particles, PM2.5, reached 133 times the World Health Organization’s suggested maximum.

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