Top court ban on fireworks ‘goes up in flames’, AQI breach 1000 in many areas in Delhi

The air quality index (AQI) in Delhi exceeded ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ marks and “went straight for hazardous in many areas like Anand Vihar (849), Pusa Road (970) and India Gate (999)” reported The Weather Channel. Hourly PM2.5 and PM10 levels exceeded 1000 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and RK Puram between 11 PM and 4 AM after residents flouted the ban on firecrackers, the report said adding that as per SAFAR, the national capital’s AQI stood at 445 as of 11:30 AM.

New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai were among the world’s worst 10 for pollution on Monday morning,  reported Reuters. The country wide ban on firecrackers “was boldly flouted” reported DTE. An AQI level of 400-500 harms healthy people and is dangerous to those with existing diseases. AQI of 150-200 brings discomfort to people with asthma, lung and heart problems. Levels of 0-50 are considered good.

Authorities ban firecrackers every year but its never enforced. AQI deteriorates ahead of winter, when cold air traps vehicular and industrial pollution, construction dust and agricultural waste burning. Delhi government postponed an earlier decision to restrict use of vehicles after a brief spell of rain on Friday brought some respite from a week-long exposure to toxic air.

Firecracker regulation for the whole country, not just Delhi: Top Court

India’s Supreme Court had clarified that firecracker regulations apply to all states, not just Delhi reported DTE. The apex court banned barium and banned chemicals in firecrackers, stating, “the regulation is applicable across the country, binding all states and not just the Delhi-National Capital Region”. The judges added that “At this juncture, no specific order will be necessary since this Court, in the course of hearing the petitions, has passed several orders where steps have been indicated to minimise and avoid air as well as noise pollution. Hence, the said orders will bind every state in the country…”.

Speaking to DTE Arvind Kumar, chairperson of the Centre for Chest Surgery & Lung Transplantation at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi said the reminder is extremely delayed, the order should have come 6 months ago.

‘Stop ad hoc measures, scale up monitoring, address road transport to tackle air pollution’

Cloud seeding, smog towers, odd-even transport are ad hoc measures authorities should scale up monitoring and factor in health to tackle air pollution, wrote Mongabay. The report also reminded that vehicular pollution was the most significant cause of air pollution in Delhi. 

Earlier this year Urban Emissions studied the causes of Delhi pollution from 1990 to 2022 and found road transport to be the most significant contributor throughout the year. The metro rail, CNG buses, and high emission standards for vehicles helped reduce on-road emissions but, “the growing number of vehicles and their usage is nullifying any improvements coming from introducing better vehicle and fuel standards and any other interventions to curb traffic,” the paper says.

Delhi has the highest density of air monitoring machines in the country.  There are 931 ambient air quality monitoring stations under the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. This is less than half of what the National Green Tribunal had directed to be installed, Mongabay report said, adding that “India would need at least 4000 continuous monitoring stations, around 2800 in the urban areas and 1200 in the rural areas, to truly represent the air quality trends.”

How climate crisis is affecting cricket, India’s elite sport

DW reported on how air pollution is impacting India’s elite sport of cricket.  Smog formed by pollution from power plants, vehicles and other sources reacting in sunlight and heat, have deteriorated the air quality so much that training sessions before the match had to be cancelled.

The report added that the organisers are trying to tackle the problems at the World Cup matches by installing air purifiers in the dressing rooms and water misting alongside the pitch. “In an ideal world, you don’t want a situation like this…But I’m pretty sure the concerned people are taking the necessary steps to avoid these kind of situations.” DW report quoted India captain Rohit Sharma. 

Deadly chemical accidents linked to fossil fuel industry occurring almost daily in the US: Research

A new report by Coming Clean and a network of environmental and economic justice organisations in the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters have warned that deadly chemical accidents are occurring almost daily, on average, in the United States, exposing people to dangerous toxins through fires, explosions, leaks and spills, reported the Guardian

The majority of the incidents tallied are connected to the fossil fuel industry, including the use, transport, production and disposal of fossil fuels and fossil fuel products, according to the report.  The estimates are conservative as the research is based only on incidents reported in the news. The new report shows 829 hazardous chemical incidents from 1 January 2021, through 15 October of this year, or roughly one every 1.2 days. 

Mercury levels in the atmosphere have increased sevenfold due to human emissions: Study

According to recent research from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), since the beginning of the modern era, roughly 1500 C.E., humans have increased the concentration of potentially toxic mercury in the atmosphere by sevenfold. Researchers created a novel technique to precisely calculate the annual mercury emissions from volcanoes, the greatest source of mercury emissions from natural sources. That estimate and a computer model were utilised by the team to reconstruct pre-anthropogenic atmospheric mercury levels. Prior to humans adding mercury to the environment, the average amount of mercury in the atmosphere, according to the study, was 580 megagrams. However, in 2015, independent research that looked at all available atmospheric measurements estimated the atmospheric mercury reservoir was about 4,000 Mg—about seven times more than the natural situation indicated in this study. The difference is made up of human emissions of mercury from mining, industry, waste incinerator, and coal-fired power stations. A separate study revealed the mercury footprint of artisanal gold mines through the impact on native tropical bird populations. Researchers have found that birds living within 7km of artisanal gold mines in Central and South America were contaminated by four times as much mercury as similar birds living in other high altitude areas in the region.

Air Quality in October 2023 was the worst in the last five years

According to Respirer Reports’ Analysis of Air Quality in October for the past five years, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata saw PM 2.5 levels higher in October 2023, compared to a year ago. Chennai was the least polluted, with a fall of over 23% compared to a year ago. Delhi’s PM 2.5 level in October, 2023, was higher than a year ago. It remained the most polluted city. Mumbai saw a steady increase in October PM 2.5 levels from 2019 to 2023, pollution spiked by over 42% compared to October a year ago. In earlier years, PM 2.5 shot up between 2019 and 2020 (by 54.2%), fell slightly in 2021 (by 3%) and 2022 (by 0.9%). In Hyderabad and Kolkata, October PM 2.5 levels went up in 2023 compared to 2022. Hyderabad, PM 2.5 increased between 2019 and 2020 by 59% and dipped slightly in 2021 by 2.9% and considerably in 2022 by 29.1%, but went up again in 2023 (by 18.6%). In Kolkata, PM 2.5 dipped between 2019 and 2020 (by 26.8%), went up in 2021 (by 51.7%), decreased in 2022 (by 33.1%) and rose again in 2023 (by 40.2%). 

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