Festival of no respite: Peak Diwali pollution has pushed air quality in several parts of Delhi into the ‘severe’ category with little, if any, improvement seen over past years’ air quality | Photo: Tata Cliq

‘Delhi in ICU’: 2 days on since Diwali, “severe” pollution levels continue

It’s been over 40 hours that the national capital is battling “severe” AQI levels. The peak Diwali pollution struck Delhi at 3 am on October 28. Official limit for declaring emergency is 48 hours of continuous  “severe” category pollution. The peak pollution in Delhi NCR this year was almost similar to the peak Diwali pollution of 2018, according to the Centre for Science and Environment analysis of real time data collected by Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) on PM 2.5 concentrations. CSE says this Diwali the air quality index turned from clean to “severe” post 10 pm on October 27: PM2.5 jumped 10 fold between 5 pm and 1 am because of the use of firecrackers. The peak pollution levels from 1 am to 3 am on October 28 were similar to those of 2018 during the same period, but since this year Diwali occurred 10 days earlier, it was warmer and windier which allowed the smog to dissipate faster than it did in 2018 when “severe” levels lasted until 8 am on November 8. CSE said firecrackers triggered Delhi National Capital Region’s first “severe” pollution levels of the season that was comparatively cleaner from September 15 to October 27. In Delhi NCR, Ghaziabad ushered in the “severe” levels first, followed by Gurugram, Faridabad, and Noida.

Pollution watchdog moves top court: waste burning in Haryana, Rajasthan, U.P.

The top court appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) submitted special report to Supreme Court on pollution hotspots in the NCR states of Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab and asked the apex court to direct the pollution control boards of the three states to strictly monitor industry emissions at night and prevent waste burning in their states. The EPCA report found tons of plastic and industrial waste dumped and burnt in open areas. The pollution watchdog recommended that such waste should be processed or incinerated properly. The EPCA also spotted many industries spewing black smoke. Their report said industry must comply with standards for particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides. 

Another poisonous winter: Over 33 power plants in Delhi NCR to miss emissions deadline yet again

More than 33 coal plants in the National Capital Region will miss their deadline for the second time, after they were given a two-year extension over the original deadline of 2017 to retrofit their plants with emission control technology. A Right to Information application has revealed that most of these thermal units have not even awarded tenders for the job yet. This is after massive media coverage of Delhi’s deadly air pollution: 20 times over the acceptable limit which the residents of the region are forced to inhale. The RTI has revealed that for several months after the deadline lapses in December 2019, the power stations are likely to continue to pollute beyond legal limits. 

‘Dictatorial move’: 133 farmers booked in western UP over crop burning

In western Uttar Pradesh’s Pilibhit district 133 farmers were booked for stubble burning. The SDM said their revenue staff had conducted several awareness drives along with panchayats and even through beating drums to alert farmers. 133 FIRs were recorded under section 435 which can send violators to maximum seven years in prison. The farmers said the FIRs were draconian and dictatorial. They said burning of crop stubble was necessary to prepare grounds for sowing of next crop. 

Petitioners to challenge “grossly inadequate” Singrauli pollution fine of Rs 79 crore 

Earlier this month India’s green court National Green Tribunal imposed Rs 79 crore fine on six companies running mines and power plants in the critically polluted region of Singrauli in MP. Experts say since the companies are mostly government-run, will the inter-department penalties serve as deterrent is yet to be seen.  The fine is less than 1% of the profit made by the companies in the area. The petitioner had demanded compensation for two decades of pollution caused in the region. The green court formed committee of officials from the pollution control boards of the Centre, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to assess the damage. The panel collected data on non-compliance of these industries on a daily basis for the last five years and calculated penalty of Rs 30,000 per day for each non-compliant day. Campaigners say the amount was grossly inadequate compared to the massive damage that has been done in the region. The Environment law allows upto Rs 100,000 a day as fine for non-compliance. The petitioners plan to challenge the assessment of the fine by the panel.

Aus judge says fine “outrageous”, Volkswagen may have to pay more

Volkswagen may have to pay more fine after the $75 million amount calculated by the company and consumer watchdog was declared “outrageous” by the judge of the federal court in Sydney. A month ago the carmaker settled a suit of between $87m to $127m with owners of its 100,000 cars that were hit by emissions test cheat scandal. Volkswagen has been fined over $49bn globally since the scandal first erupted in 2015. Earlier this month a class action with 470,000 owners of Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi and Seat started in Germany.

Progress in reducing air pollution stalled in Europe: Study

Latest study has warned that reduction in air pollution in Europe has reached a plateau, little progress has been achieved despite global awareness and outrage over air pollution. The European Environment Agency’s Air Quality in Europe 2019 report says the levels of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5, which can enter bloodstream and lungs, appear to have stagnated across Europe, after over a decade of steady reductions. The PM2.5 is entering into the system from domestic cooking, industry and transport, the report said. Europe recorded over 4 lakh premature deaths from PM2.5 alone in 2016. The report said pollution monitors recorded levels over 10% the allowed limit in 2017. The UK recorded highest levels of Nitrogen Oxide in western Europe.

EU top court: France breached pollution limits “systematically”

Europe’s top court has ruled that France “systematically and persistently” breached pollution limits since 2010. European Court of Justice said Nitrogen Dioxide emissions, caused by diesel vehicles, exceeded the permissible limits in 12 zones. France will be fined if it fails to comply with EU standards. France is the third country after Bulgaria and Poland, indicted by the European court over failing to comply with air quality standards. Italy, Romania, Germany, The UK and Hungary also face court cases for exceeding NOx limits.

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