As authorities squabble over how to tackle air pollution, Delhi faces an epidemic of lung cancer

Air Pollution: Apathy rules, govt ‘lets firms dodge norms’, doctors warn of ‘lung cancer epidemic’

No money to buy laser beam monitors, ASEAN looms

Stay at home levels of air pollution are back in Delhi, after Delhi’s AQI went off the scale twice recently. But the Central Pollution Control Board – the top pollution regulator – seems helpless; it doesn’t have the money to install monitoring towers fitted with laser beams. CPCB wants to counter air pollution ahead of ASEAN summit in January in Delhi. In November, it was partly due to West Asian dust storms, but now particles from Afghanistan salt mines are also pushing up the PM2.5 levels in Delhi.

PM’s task force releases air pollution draft action plan

The plan includes coordinated action between states to fight stubble burning, launching an anti-pollution app for citizens to report violations, NOx curtailment measures in NCR power plants, migrating brick-kilns to zig- zag technology and policy support to encourage electric vehicles.

Varanasi, 20 times worse than Delhi

Meanwhile, in Varanasi air pollution was 20 times worse than Delhi, while it slipped to ‘poor’ in Mumbai. The five worst AQI levels included Delhi (332), Lucknow (346), Faridabad (306), Gurgaon (331), and Noida (344). Each of these indicators was in the Hazardous category.

Juvenile Delinquency, Cancer epidemic

A new study says bad air is destroying children’s brains, causing juvenile delinquency. A 2017 survey based on 2012 data recorded 115,000 deaths in India from pollution from coal plants and an economic loss of $4.6 billion. According to experts, an epidemic of lung cancer is waiting to erupt.

Govt lets industry dodge norms, wants top court to dilute norms?

Coal plants have ignored a December 7, 2017 deadline and a 2015 law to clean up their emissions, but the environment ministry wants Supreme court to dilute emission norms and give coal plants 5 more years to check emissions, apparently as part of a plan by the ministry of coal and the power ministry to dodge the December 7 deadline.

Debunked: Retrofitting too costly, takes too long

A 2017 study has revealed that if the coal industry had implemented the new norms, emissions from thermal power plants could have fallen by 70-85%. A 2016 study has calculated that clean up costs would cause merely a 3% increase in tariff and the 2-year deadline was decided mutually between the environment ministry, the power ministry, the power industry and the Central Pollution Control Board. Activists have filed a plea in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to set up a committee to oversee compliance and punish the violators.

Lessons from China

Analysts say seething public anger prompted Prime Minister Li Keqiang to declare war on pollution in 2014, but in India the outrage is seasonal, and the government “remains largely silent while leaders squabble”.

China to make polluters pay

China plans to make polluters pay by tightening oversight of land, water and air pollution, and holding companies accountable for the clean-up costs and restoring the ecological balance after major accidents. China has shut down some factories and is holding officials accountable after central inspections. It has also launched an unprecedented campaign to switch millions of households from using coal to natural gas for heating this winter.

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