Saturday, December 31, 2016

Kolkata to Claim the Dirtiest City Title from Delhi

Calcutta is poised to claim the crown of most polluted Indian city from Delhi this winter. The central pollution control board's Air Quality Index (AQI) shows the city ahead of the capital in this winner-loses-all race, based on the severity of pollution in some locations. Independent reports generated by a pollution measuring Android app called Plume Air Report suggest that Calcutta's air quality is even worse than some of the world's more lung-unfriendly cities.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the city has been experiencing the worst spell of air pollution this year since December 23. The AQI, calculated after collating data sourced from various government agencies on different kinds of air pollutants, including particulate matter, shows that the average pollution count between December 23 and 27 was 363. A count above 300 is categorised as "very poor".

On December 25, when Calcutta's AQI at Rabindra Bharati was pegged at 414, the reading at ITO, Delhi, was 390. State pollution control board data from the Rabindra Bharati monitoring station shows that the average of Particulate Matter (PM) 10 between December 23 and 27, 2015, had been 234 micrograms. The PM10 average for the same period this year is 332 micrograms. Pollution increases in winter due to the phenomenon of "temperature inversion". The cold traps pollution close to the ground, particularly in the absence of wind, and maximises the effect on those exposed to it.

Read the full article @ Calcutta Telegraph

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This is modeled air quality for India in forecast mode. The reports for all the 640 Indian districts everyday @ India Air Quality.Info

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More on air pollution @ http://www.urbanemissions.info

Infograph - Outdoor Air Pollution Standards in India


More on air pollution @ http://www.urbanemissions.info

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Friday, December 30, 2016

6500 People Died of Respiratory Problems in Delhi in 2015

There is no stopping the national capital from driving its air pollution to a new high. The city of about 20 million, which ranks among the world’s top cities with foul air on a WHO list, has almost 10 million vehicles, a record it set this year. Delhi government data released on Thursday shows the number of registered vehicles increased from 8.8 million in 2014-15 to 9.7 million in 2015-16 — a spike of 9.93% and the highest in eight years. The city has the country’s highest density of vehicles, a primary source of air pollution.

According to an IIT-Kanpur report, toxic exhaust fumes from vehicles constitute 25% of the city’s air pollution. The latest government data show 6,502 people died of respiratory diseases in 2015, making it one of the leading causes of death. Exhaust fumes coupled with smoke from farmers burning paddy stalk in neighbouring states and dust from construction sites formed the thickest smog for two decades to shroud the city after Diwali this year.

The Capital is struggling to reduce its air pollution, with measures such as a road rationing formula that allows cars with odd- and even-numbered number plates to ply on alternates days. The government as well as the National Green Tribunal and pollution control boards had banished smoke-belching trucks from the city and sought to scrap all ageing vehicles above 15 years. But these measures are having little effect as people are forced to arrange their own ride because of an inadequate public transport system, which runs mainly on clean fuel such as CNG and electricity.The ridership and fleet strength of the Delhi Transport Corporation — the city’s public transporter — depleted in the past year. From almost 3.9 million in 2014-15, the daily average ridership of DTC buses decreased to about 3.5 million in 2015-16, the data show.

The number of buses depleted from 4,705 to 4,352 during the period, despite the government’s efforts to bulk up the fleet to encourage people to use public transport more often to reduce air pollution. The city needs 11,000 buses but even with private buses bolstering the operation, it is around 4,000 short. Besides pushing air pollution up, the rise in vehicle density has clogged the city’s road network and forced Delhi residents to spend more time travelling. A study by six road design experts found recently that people’s commuting time has doubled in the past six years and traffic speed has halved during peak hours. The average speed has come down from 42kmph to 20kmph. Experts said the city will crawl at 5kmph in 10 years, the average speed at which a human walks.

Read the full report @ Hindustan Times

Madrid Joins the Odd-Even Gang

Madrid has ordered half of most private cars off the roads on Thursday to tackle worsening air pollution, a first in Spain. The restrictions will operate between 6.30am and 9pm. The city council said in a statement: “vehicles with even-number registration plates will be allowed to drive around on even-number days and cars with odd-number registration plates on odd-number days”.

The measure is activated when levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere go above 200 microgrammes per cubic metre in at least two measuring stations for two days running, and if the air is unlikely to clear imminently. On Thursday, city environment councillor Ines Sabanes said the ban would not be extended as smog levels had dropped by the required amount. Other measures, including a ban on street parking for non-residents and reduced speed limits, will continue.

There are exceptions to the ban, such as for mopeds, hybrid cars, those carrying three people or more or used by disabled people. Buses, taxis and emergency vehicles are also exempt. With 3.2 million residents and 1.8m cars, Madrid often suffers from bad bouts of pollution. The move to ban half of cars is level three on a scale of four anti-pollution measures. Level four bans taxis from the city, except those that are hybrid cars. The measure implemented by the city hall, which has been led by an alliance of leftist groups since 2015, sparked criticism from the conservative Popular party (PP) which ruled Madrid for nearly a quarter of a century and governs at the national level.

Read the full article @ the Guardian

How China Decided to Go After Air Pollution

In the spring of 2015, the conversation on pollution in China kicked into an even higher gear with an online documentary film, Under the Dome, by a former TV journalist, Chai Jing. The documentary did for air pollution in China what Al Gore’s 2006 climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth, did to raise consciousness about global warming. The movie was significant as a major intervention by a Chinese film-maker aimed at a Chinese audience.

Under the Dome features a casually dressed Chai Jing reciting a litany of hard truths about environmental damage to a riveted audience. Striking a chord with parents, the group that is arguably most attuned to pollution’s adverse effects, she begins by talking about the fears she had for her unborn daughter, after weeks of reporting in China’s more polluted areas while pregnant. Her daughter needed an operation immediately after birth for a tumour (although the link to air pollution is not established). Later in the film, Chai shows an interview she conducted in 2004 with a six-year-old girl. ‘Have you ever seen a real star?’ Chai asks the girl. ‘No,’ replies the child. ‘What about blue sky?’ ‘I’ve seen one that’s a little blue,’ the girl says. ‘And what about white clouds?’ Chai persists. ‘No, I haven’t,’ the child says shaking her head.

When the documentary was released online on 28 February, it generated more than 200 million hits in less than a week, causing the Chinese authorities to block access to it. The viral popularity of the movie was a clear indication of the possibility of environmentalism blossoming into an organized national political movement. The CCP has consistently demonstrated that when confronted with a potential challenge to its authority it moves to clamp down on public expression of this challenge. But often, the Party simultaneously attempts to redress the more egregious aspects of the underlying cause of discontentment as well. This has been the case with air pollution.

The CCP is cognizant that it rules over an increasingly globalized, affluent, urban society. China’s middle classes, the main consumers of the movie, are estimated to number almost half a billion people. As a constituency, the middle class has a stake in the continuation of the political status quo so long as the authorities can deliver both economic growth and social stability. However, this burgeoning class also wants a stronger participative voice in governance. Research shows that the demand for environmental improvement grows as societies become wealthier. Awareness of this desire has prompted the authorities to give environmentally oriented civil society groups more freedom to operate than is the norm for nongovernmental organizations in China.

Read the full article @ Scroll

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Delhi is Struggling to Enforce Court Decisions to Manage Air Pollution

@ CSE - Delhi needs short-term emergency action and strict enforcement of Supreme Court’s directives for effective control of toxic and dangerous air pollution, according to the report submitted by the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority for National Capital Region (EPCA) today (November 7, 2016) to the Supreme Court. Urging the government to treat this smog episode as a public health emergency, the report stated that actions on the court’s directive are lax and “do not recognise the urgency of toxic air pollution, particularly in winter months”.

Read the full press release @ Down to Earth

Are Supreme Court’s directives followed?
  • Diverting non-destined traffic by Haryana and Uttar Pradesh: While Delhi government has severe staff limitations to keep up the active diversion of vehicles, Haryana had ensured diversion of a total of 600,880 vehicles between January 21 and April 25, 2016 by setting up 13 check posts. Uttar Pradesh has also taken steps to set up check posts and billboards about the diversion of traffic not bound for Delhi.
  • Upgrading alternative bypass: After the Supreme Court’s directions for the speedy commissioning of the two expressways—Eastern and Western Expressways—to bypass Delhi, EPCA conducted a study and discovered that these key words are in “critically sub-standard conditions” and the progress is not satisfactory. 
  • Installing RFID for effective ECC collection: The Supreme Court had directed installation of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) at 13 entry points into Delhi from where 80 per cent of the traffic comes. The Delhi government is now finalising the document with South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and after this is done, the tender will be floated. The transport department is also in the process of sanctioning Rs 120 crore over 5 years to SDMC for RFID installation at the 13 entry points into Delhi 
  • Shifting towards CNG-run taxis in NCR: Between May 10 and October 4, 2016, over 90 per cent of all taxi registered were on CNG. Between January 1 and August 19, 2016, 97 of the 104 new stations have commenced commercial operations as on June 30, 2016. With these, the total number of operating CNG stations in NCR has increased to 444. 
  • Augmenting bus fleet and metro: According to the assessment done by the EPCA, the Delhi government is in possession of 68 acres of land and other depot lands to accommodate more than 2000 additional buses. The DMRC, on February, had promised to commission 135 km of extended metro network in Phase III by December 2016. 
  • Controlling pollution through construction activities: While the EPCA has developed an accountability mechanism and created a guidance note for inspection of such sites, enforcement is lacking. 
  • Checking road dust: It is only recently that the Delhi government floated short-term tenders to procure such machines, although the process of vacuum cleaning the roads should have started in April 2016. 
  • Imposing ECC on private diesel cars above 2000 cc: The ECC is being collected at the rate of one per cent of the ex-showroom value of all new diesel cars registered in NCR. As on November 1, 2016, the total collection stands at Rs 8 crore. The EPCA has recommended using diesel cess for providing subsidy to farmers for upcoming Kharif harvesting season.
There’s hardly any headway when it comes to closure or transition to alternative fuel by Badarpur Thermal Power Plant and issues like waste burning. It has also come to pass that the government has spent only about eight per cent of the budgetary allocation (financial year 2016-17) of Rs 78 crore towards protecting environment.

Brick Kilns Blames for >50% of the Air Pollution Crisis in Dhaka


Brick kilns in and around Dhaka city are mostly responsible for the capital city’s air pollution, according to a research conducted by the country’s environment department in association with a Norway-based research institution NILU. Physicians said the polluted air is being inhaled by the city dwellers, entering their lungs and causing different kinds of diseases. According to the research findings, the brick kilns are causing 58 per cent of the air pollution in the city. Other than the brick kilns, dust from the roads and bare soil cause 18 per cent of the pollution, vehicles cause 10 per cent and others sources 14 per cent.

According to another research run by the World Bank on technology use in the Bangladesh brick kilns, shows that the kilns caused 38 per cent of the air pollution in 2011. Comparative study between the two research findings reveals that the air pollution in the city has been increased by 20 per cent in past few years. Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) joint secretary Sharif Jamil told Prothom Alo that brick kilns around the Dhaka city are primarily responsible for the air pollution as a high level of sulphur is being used in the kilns. The owners are being allowed to use coal in their kilns without testing the sulphur level.  Bangladesh brick manufacturing owners association secretary general Md Abu Bakar said there are more than 1000 brick kilns in and around the city. The level of pollution can be reduced with the use of a water sprinkler above the chimney. Abu Bakar said, as the technology is expensive, the owners are reluctant to use it.

According to a study of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), 2 lakh 32 thousand square feet of land is required for a brick kiln. This is taking over agricultural land. Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said, “We should think of an alternative mechanism to replace this technology.” She also said the brick kilns are prime sources of greenhouse gas in the country. Brick kilns produce an approximately 8.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas each year that burn 2.2 million of tonnes coal and 1.9 million tonnes of firewood.

Read the full article @ Prothom Alo

Graded Emergency Response to Air Pollution in Indian Cities, for Winter 2017

The Centre’s graded response system to tackle air pollution, which proposes emergency measures such as odd-even car rationing scheme and closing schools based on the intensity of the situation, will not be enforced in the national capital this season. Union Environment Minister Anil Dave has said a detailed framework in this regard, which will not be limited to Delhi, will be out in January for its implementation in 2017.  “We are discussing the possible standards to be set. State Pollution Control Boards are being consulted. The details will be shared in January. In 2017, there should not be blame game among the states on pollution,” Dave said, alluding to the wrangling between Delhi and neighbouring Punjab and Haryana over farm fires.

 However, the comprehensive plan, prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), that focuses on Delhi, was submitted to the Supreme Court on December 2. The apex court had accepted and asked the Centre to notify it. Nearly a month has passed, a period which has also seen the air quality index entering the ‘severe’ zone, but no emergency measure has been imposed in the city, which is among the world’s most-polluted. “The Supreme Court has asked us to notify it under the Environment Protection Act. There is a process involved and that has started. But even if its draft is put out, it has to be kept in public domain for at least two months,” a senior Environment Ministry official said.

Read the full article @ Indian Express

Monday, December 26, 2016

Tehran Closed Schools Due to Air Pollution

Preschools and primary schools were closed in Tehran on Saturday, as the sprawling city experienced its second consecutive day of dangerously high pollutant levels. For the second day in a row, Tehran’s air quality recorded an index of 152—more than three times the acceptable threshold of 50, based on World Health Organization standards. With 26,000 annual deaths due to air pollution, Iran ranks 16th in terms of air pollution-related deaths, according to figures released by the WHO in September. DOE has declared that Iran’s struggle with air pollution costs its people around $30 billion a year, nearly double the $16 billion reported by WHO in 2014.

Every year with the drop in temperature in winter, a phenomenon known as temperature inversion occurs during which cold air underpins warm air at higher altitude, leading to the entrapment of air pollutants in the city, which causes heavy smog. The parliament has only belatedly started reviewing the 35-article Clean Air Bill, after letting it gather dust for nearly two years. Unfortunately, progress remains slow. The bill singles out inefficient vehicles, substandard fuels, industrial activities and dust storms as the major sources of air pollution in the country.

Drawn up by DOE in cooperation with other bodies, the bill proposes more frequent technical inspections of private vehicles. While the current law stipulates technical inspection of all vehicles once every five years, DOE is pushing for biennial checks. The department insists that government vehicles should also be subjected to annual inspections. The government has banned the production of highly-polluting, carburetor-equipped motorcycles from September and is urging people to opt for eco-friendly electric ones. The administration has been distributing Euro-4 gasoline in major cities for months and has ordered automakers to make their products comply with the standard. Experts say the three main sources of air pollution in Iran are motorcycle carburetors (a device that blends air and fuel in the engine), diesel cars without filters and gasoline gas guzzlers. They say if 10% of the highly-polluting clunkers are removed from the streets, it will help reduce vehicular pollution by 48%.

Read the full article @ Financial Tribune

Saturday, December 24, 2016

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Air Pollution Crisis in Ulaanbaatar


If you think air pollution in China has been bad, just look at Mongolia. Levels of particulate matter in the air have risen to almost 80 times the recommended safety level set by the World Health Organisation – and five times worse than Beijing during the past week’s bout with the worst smog of the year.

Mongolian power plants working overtime during the frigid winter belch plumes of soot into the atmosphere, while acrid smoke from coal fires shrouds the shantytowns of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, in a brown fog. Angry residents planned a protest, organised on social media, on Monday (Dec 26). The level of PM2.5, or fine particulate matter, in the air as measured hourly peaked at 1,985 microgrammes a cubic meter on Dec 16 in the capital’s Bayankhoshuu district, according to data posted by government website agaar.mn. The daily average settled at 1,071 microgrammes that day. The World Health Organisation recommends PM2.5 exposure of no more than 25 micrograms over 24 hours. Mongolia’s contracting economic growth and a widening budget gap have left authorities few resources to fight the dangerous smog.

One thing the government has done is cut the nighttime electricity tariff by 50 per cent to encourage more residents to heat their homes with electric heaters instead of raw coal or other flammable material that is often toxic. On Wednesday, Defence Minister Bat-Erdene Badmaanyambuu announced that a 50-bed wing of Ulaanbaatar’s military hospital will open up for children with pneumonia, as city hospitals were filled to capacity, according to a statement on the government’s website. Public anger over the government’s handling of pollution has been growing on social media, where residents share pictures of the smog, encourage methods of protection and call on the government to do more to protect citizens. The air pollution protest next week was being organised for Sukhbaatar Square, the capital’s central plaza. A crowdfunding campaign to purchase 100 air purifiers for hospitals and schools raised almost US$1,400 (S$2,030) in four days.

A 2013 study by Canada’s Simon Fraser University concluded that 10 percent of deaths in Ulaanbaatar were related to complications from air pollution. Neither the ministers for foreign affairs nor the environment replied to requests for comment. A longer-term plan to convert areas known as ger districts, where hundreds of thousands of people live in makeshift housing including tents, into apartment complexes has been stymied by an economic crisis that has pushed the government to seek economic lifelines from partners including the International Monetary Fund and China.


Read the full article @ Today Online

Read more on air pollution in Ulaanbaatar 

How Bad Air Came Back to Indian Cities



@ TIME

More information on sources, emissions, pollution contributions, and forecasts @ http://www.indiaairquality.info 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Karnataka Government Asks Farmers to Stop Burning Sugarcane Trash

As part of its smoke-management strategy, the Karnataka government has issued a diktat to farmers: Stop burning sugarcane thrash in the fields. The move comes in the backdrop of the recent Delhi smog which was fuelled by the burning of paddy straw in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana. In fact, the soaring pollution levels and falling visibility levels in the National Capital Region had not only set alarm bells ringing a fortnight ago but also triggered a blame game between the Delhi government, the neighbouring states and the Centre. The practice of burning sugarcane residue is rampant in at least ten districts across Karnataka.

Taking a cue from the Delhi episode, Karnataka has got into a prevention mode. Agriculture minister C Krishna Byregowda has commenced talks with farmers' groups. He has instructed the agriculture department's field units to stop farmers from burning crop residue. An acre of sugarcane produces around 4,000 tonnes of thrash. With sugarcane being grown on 12 lakh hectares in the state, the sugarcane residue is said to be around 50 lakh tonnes.

The agriculture department shot off a letter on December 12 to all chief executive officers of sugarcane-growing districts explaining the emergency. The missive stated: "Burning residue is not just a loss to agriculture but also pollutes environment and causes ailments and deaths. Air pollution in India causes more than 1,500 premature deaths per day; this is more than one death per minute. For 12 lakh acres of sugarcane in Karnataka, it amounts to burning 48 lakh tonnes of valuable organic matter. This will emit tens of thousands of toxic pollutants into the air." The department wants sugarcane farmers to use technology and convert the waste into manure.

Read the full report @ Times of India

EU Approves New Rules For Member States To Drastically Cut Air Pollution


When fully implemented, the Directive will reduce by almost 50% the negative health impacts of air pollution, such as respiratory diseases and premature death, by 2030. Even if air pollutants are invisible killers, people are increasingly aware and concerned at the quality of the air they breathe and the agreement of stricter limits in the NEC is therefore an important achievement. It will also have substantial benefits for the quality of fresh water, soil, and ecosystems and help address the impacts of harmful particles causing climate change like black carbon. The Directive is the central element of the Commission's more comprehensive Clean Air Programme for Europe.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: 'The new European air quality rules are a significant landmark in the fight against this invisible killer that is air pollution. Air pollution kills over 450 000 people in Europe each year. This is more than ten times as many as road traffic accidents. Now it is for the national governments to start with implementation so that people can benefit from cleaner air. We will work with Member States to support them in this challenge for improving the health of EU citizens.'

The role of the Member States in coordinating and implementing the Directive at national level is very important. Member States must transpose the Directive into national legislation by 30 June 2018 and produce a National Air Pollution Control Programme by 2019 setting out measures to ensure that emissions of the five main air pollutants are reduced by the percentages agreed by 2020 and 2030. They must also coordinate with plans in fields such as transport, agriculture, energy and climate. This will require investment, but the costs will be many times outweighed by the benefits in cost savings, particularly on health care and sickness at work. The recently published Commission proposal for an Energy Union Governance Regulation highlights the importance of synergies between air quality and climate and energy policies and the new NEC Directive.

The Commission will work with Member States to ensure sound implementation, for example by setting up a new Clean Air Forum by autumn 2017. This will bring together stakeholders to exchange experience and good practice. The Commission will also facilitate access to EU funding instruments.

Finally, the Directive will pave the way for the ratification of the revised Gothenburg Protocol internationally agreed by Member States in 2012 under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. This will reduce pollution in the Eastern European, Caucasus and Central Asian states benefiting both the countries themselves and the EU citizens who are most directly exposed to transboundary pollution.

Read the full article @ Environmental Expert

Delhi High Court Orders Authorities to Map Areas that are Leading Polluters


The Delhi High Court on Thursday directed authorities concerned to map areas in the national capital that are the leading polluters of environment. The court directive came after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) told it that stubble burning in Punjab had put about 9,000 tonnes of PM 2.5 particulate matter in air in October and November, leading to severe pollution in the city.  The CPCB said burning of one tonne of dry paddy straw produces about 0.672 kg of PM 2.5 and 0.747 kg of PM 10, which do not dissipate easily from the environment.

Every year, between October and November, Punjab farmers burn approximately 14 million tonnes of paddy straw, the report added. A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Ashutosh Kumar termed the figures "alarming" and said an effective way to reduce air pollutants was to have more green cover. Stubble burning in Punjab has been blamed for air pollution in several parts of north India, particularly Delhi.

The court said it wanted the figure for the average ambient air quality for Delhi by excluding the figures from Anand Vihar, which recorded the highest air pollution level in Delhi. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) said Anand Vihar's high pollution level was due to the presence of a railway station, an inter-state bus terminal and chaotic traffic. The court directed Delhi Traffic Police to rectify and rationalise the movement of traffic in the area. The court posted the matter for further hearing on January 12, 2017. The court is hearing public interest litigation against increasing air pollution in Delhi.

Read the full article @ Economic Times

Clean Air Asia's Scroecard to Test Northeast India’s Air Pollution Situation

In a move to provide a comprehensive analysis to understand air quality management in a city, the Clean Air Asia (an international nongovernmental organization which works for better air quality and more liveable cities in Asia since 2001) is applying the Clean Air Scorecard Tool (CAST) on three states capitals of the north eastern region and 27 other Indian cities. According to CAA’s India Director Prarthana Borah, the three-year long initiative will be taken up as part of applying the CAST under clean air management programs across 30 Indian cities including these three northeast state capitals: Agartala, Guwahati and Imphal.

 The cities that the CAA has scheduled to explore for the application of the CAST are Aurangabad, Mumbai,Nagpur, Nashik, Varanasi, Pune, Surat, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Jallandhar, Dehradun, Varanasi,Allahabad, Kanpur, Jaipur, Lucknow, Kolkata, Bhubhaneshwar, Cuttack,Patna, Noida, Gwalior, Bhopal, Raipur, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Gurgaon, Faridabad and Ghaziabad. “We’re considering small town too because they’ve different issues and the CAST is a comprehensive tool that provides an understanding on the air quality management, identifies gaps in air quality management strategies through objective research and provides core solutions so the people of the city breathe cleaner, better air,” Prarthana said.

Read the full article @ Eastern Mirror

NTPC (India) to Phase Our 25 Year Old Coal Power Plants

In a bid to cut emissions, country’s largest power producer, NTPC lined up investments worth Rs 5000 crore and has decided to replace its over 25 year old power plants totalling 11 GW capacity in the next five years. Informing the gathering about a slew of measures taken by the Government to increase energy efficiency, Goyal said that the Nation has embarked on a mission to reduce India’s carbon footprint by phasing out all inefficient thermal power plants, older than 25 years, with modern energy efficient super critical ones. NTPC has already given the in-principle clearance to replace around 11,000 MW of its old, inefficient thermal power plants. The plants would be replaced in about five years, with an investment of around Rs 50,000 crore, he added.

Read the full article @ IIFL

Friday, December 16, 2016

Researchers Reveal How Chemicals Combined to Form Acidic Haze that Killed 12,000 in 1952 in London


In 1952, a mysterious fog swept through London, blanketing the city in a dense layer of pollutants that killed thousands of people and animals and made it difficult to breathe for days. While the exact cause has long remained unknown, an international team of researchers now says its solved the mystery – and the same air chemistry can be seen today in China and other areas.

In a new analysis, the researchers have pinpointed the chemical processes that combined with natural fog as a result of coal burning, eventually creating a deadly acidic haze that turned the sky completely dark. When the fog first rolled through in December of 1952, residents took little notice; fogs have long enveloped the city. But in the days to follow, visibility was reduced to just three feet in some areas, transportation was shut down, and thousands of people suffered from breathing problems. After the devastating event, it was thought that at least 4,000 people had died, along with thousands of animals, and more than 150,000 people were hospitalized.

'Our results showed that this process was facilitated by nitrogen dioxide, another co-product of coal burning, and occurred initially on natural fog. ‘Another key aspect in the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfate is that it produces acidic particles, which subsequently inhibits this process. 'Natural fog contained larger particles of several tens of micrometers in size, and the acid formed was sufficiently diluted. ‘Evaporation of those fog particles, then left smaller acidic haze particles that covered the city.’ According to the researcher, a similar chemistry frequently occurs in modern China, which hosts 16 of the world’s most polluted cities.

Read the full article @ Daily Mail

Eight-fold Rise in Respiratory Diseases in Varanasi

Toxic particulate pollution in this holy city, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents in parliament and intends to make a Smart City like Kyoto in Japan, has resulted in an eight-fold increase in respiratory diseases among children in the past decade, says a new report.

The report, "Varanasi Chokes", corroborating observations from private doctors, blames abnormally high air pollution levels -- that spiked five times higher than the average this winter for several days -- for the rise in asthma cases. It highlighted an increasing trend in the particulate matter levels in the city along with the rising number of respiratory ailments.

He said that in the past 10 years, he has observed an eight-fold increase in respiratory diseases and noted that the worst affected are children. His clinical case-load has shifted drastically and 80 per cent of his cases are now respiratory related. Jindal's toxic tales were affirmed by pulmonologist R.N. Vajpayee, who runs his clinic in the Lanka area. "One of the major problems in the city is road dust that causes dust storms and high pollution levels during summer," he said, adding that bronchial allergies and chest infections have increased manifold in the past four-five years.

Read the full report @ Indian Express

For modeled air quality forecasts for the 640 districts in India everyday, see @ India Air Quality.Info




See what is happening at the regional scale, which is conducted as part of the all India air pollution forecasting program, hosted @ http://www.indiaairquality.info. The animation below is from a WRF-CAMx simulation conducted @ 0.25x0.25 degree resolution (approximately, 25km x 25km).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Air Pollution in Ahmedabad

In an effort to protect local communities from rising air pollution levels, the AMC is developing a health-based program for outreach around the AQI developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune (IITM) and SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research). AQI systems already operate in key cities in India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Mumbai, among others, as well as internationally. The Ahmedabad AQI is scheduled to be formally launched in early 2017.

To develop the program, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Commissioner Shri Mukesh Kumar and Mayor Shri Gautam Shah joined by international public health and air pollution experts from the Indian Institute of Public Health-Gandhinagar (IIPH-G), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune (IITM) are holding a two day workshop on “Air Pollution & Health: Laying the Foundation for Effective Use of Ahmedabad’s Air Quality Index” this week.

NRDC and partners, IIPH-G, are working with the AMC on information, education, and communication strategies for the new AQI being launched in Ahmedabad. The combined efforts of government agencies, health professionals, and community leaders can serve to effectively inform the public about rising air pollution health risks in India, and how to take steps to protect community and individual health.

The new Ahmedabad program focuses on air quality alerts and advisories, interagency coordination, public awareness and community outreach, and assessing health impacts and monitoring to strengthen actions. The interagency coordination, alerts, and outreach are modeled on the effective Heat Action Plan by the city that has now scaled to 11 cities in 2016 and potentially leading states in the coming year.

The new program is also designed to integrate health and pollution control strategies with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board’s “City Clean Air Plan for Ahmedabad”. The GPCB includes a broader comprehensive strategy for emissions controls. The program will also incorporate knowledge exchange components with New Delhi and other cities. Ahmedabad is examining media strategies used in New Delhi on health risk communication and outreach to design its program.

Read the full article @ NRDC

What 2016 Revealed About the Deadly Dangers of Air Pollution


Beijing, London, Mexico City, New Delhi and Paris are among the cities that have drawn attention for their dangerously high air pollution levels in 2016 – but they’re not alone. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that 92% of the world’s urban population now live in cities where the air is toxic.

In India, a study found that 41 Indian cities of more than a million people faced bad air quality on nearly 60% of the total days monitored. Three cities – Gwalior, Varanasi and Allahabad – didn’t even manage one good air quality day.

Over on the African continent, dirty air was identified as the cause of 712,000 premature deaths – that’s more than unsafe water (542,000), childhood malnutrition (275,000) or unsafe sanitation (391,000).

In Europe, it was found that around 85% of the urban population are exposed to harmful fine particulate matter (PM2.5) which was responsible for an estimated 467,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries.

It’s not all bad news though: 74 major Chinese cities have seen the annual average concentrations of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, decrease since 2014 although the Chinese government’s “war on air pollution” has received criticism.

It is often poor, young, old and disadvantaged people who are worst affected by poor air quality. Air pollution is responsible for the deaths of 600,000 children under the age of five every year. Ethnic minorities were more likely to be exposed to high pollution levels than other groups. In London, black, African and Caribbean people were exposed to higher illegal nitrogen dioxide levels (15.3%) because of where they lived, compared to the rest of the city’s population (13.3%).

A number of creative ways of understanding and addressing the air pollution problem were seen throughout 2016. In London, racing pigeons took to the skies equipped with pollution sensors and a Twitter account, to raise awareness of the capital’s illegally dirty air. Amsterdam carried on the bird theme, with smart bird houses that light up to show the air quality status, while offering free Treewifi.

Meanwhile, Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens have pledged to remove all diesel vehicles from their streets by 2025, while promoting walking and cycling infrastructure. In Asia, a city certification programme is being piloted to encourage cities to make advances in air quality management.

If anything, 2016 has showed us that poor air quality is a scourge of the developed and developing world alike – and that it requires immediate action. The evidence is clear: we need to clean up our act, to protect human health and reap the benefits of clean air for all.

Read the full article @ Conversation

Drones Take to the Skies to Screen for Methane Emissions


When you think of greenhouse gas emissions, you might be thinking of carbon dioxide—but methane is another significant contributor to warming that’s on the rise. Sources include large grassfires, leaking natural gas wells, natural wetland processes, belching cows, or even farting termites. But the relative contribution of each of these sources to Africa’s methane mix has been hard to track. And that’s important data to have, because the tropics account for 40 percent of global emissions. Last month, researchers report in Geophysical Research Letters, that a drone on a remote tropical island may solve that mystery.

The magic of Ascension Island, located in the middle of the South Atlantic, is the way the air flows, says Rebecca Brownlow, an atmospheric science Ph.D. student at Royal Holloway, University of London. Above about 1.6 kilometers from sea level, the air is coming straight from southeast Africa. Below it is the South Atlantic’s mix. Subtracting that from the African air gives a good sense of how much methane is generated in Africa. And the best means of making those measurements is with a high-flying drone.

“There was no other way to take these samples and to make these measurements,” says Rick Thomas, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. Existing methane ground monitoring stations in Africa can’t discern region-wide effects, because they can’t tell how methane would end up mixing in the atmosphere.

Read the full article @ Spectrum

Saturday, November 26, 2016

CPCB - Hike Parking Fees 4 times if Air Quality Severe

The Central Pollution Control Board has recommended to the Supreme Court that parking fee in Delhi/NCR be hiked 3-4 times when air quality is in the "severe" or "very poor" category between October and February. For "severe" and "very poor" levels in the winter months, CPCB has recommended 17 action points. The same interventions will be taken up if the air quality is "severe" or "very poor" between March and May.

Besides suggesting that RWAs provide electric heaters to security guards to avoid open burning of waste or biomass, CPCB also called for a complete ban on fireworks and impounding of visibly polluting vehicles. These recommendations were part of CPCB's "graded-responsibility action plan" submitted to the SC on Friday to tackle air pollution. It also said that, as a special measure, a task force on air pollution could recommend additional measures, such as closure of schools, along with other action points depending on the severity of levels.

CPCB recommended that a task force be constituted with representatives from CPCB, ministry of environment and forests, Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Indian Meteorological Department and health experts who will oversee the implementation of this graded responsibility plan. CPCB also mentioned agencies responsible for enforcing these action points. For example, the municipal commissioners of Delhi and NCR will be responsible for hiking the parking fee when the air quality worsens, while DPCC and other NCR state pollution control boards will communicate air pollution levels and alerts through newspapers and TV.

Read the full article @ Times of India

Read our commentary on taking the long view of air pollution in Delhi

India Added 14.3 GW of renewable Capacity in the Last Two Years

According to the Indian Ministry for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines, a total of 14,3 GW of renewable power capacity was installed over the last two and half year, including 5.8 GW of solar, 7.04 GW from wind, 530 MW from small-hydropower and 930 MW from biomass-fired power.

The Grid Interactive Renewable Power initiative aims to reach 175 GW by 2022. India aims to accelerate the development of renewable capacities over the next three years, planning to add 16,725 MW in the current fiscal year (April 2016-March 2017), 20,450 MW in 2017-2018 and 22,150 MW. The bulk of these capacities additions should come from solar (12 GW in 2016-2017, then 15 GW and 16 GW in 2018-2019) and wind to a lesser extent (4 GW in 2016-2017, 4.6 GW in 2017-2018 and 5.2 GW in 2018-2019). India plans to add 2.1 GW of biomass-fired capacity (500 MW, then 750 MW and finally 850 MW in 2018-2019) and 425 MW of small hydro (225 MW in 2016-2017 and then 100 MW per year).

In order to achieve the targets, the Indian government has taken various measures, such as amendments in the Tariff Policy for strong enforcement of Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) and for providing Renewable Generation Obligation (RGO) or incorporating measures in Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) for encouraging distribution companies and making net-metering compulsory.

Read the full article @ EnerDATA

Saturday, November 12, 2016

India Wavering on Delaying Emission Standards for Power Plants


India may ease a deadline to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants blamed for causing the world’s worst air quality amid pressure from generators who say it’s too difficult to implement the $37 billion reforms. The deadline to meet all the new standards may be pushed back beyond the original December 2017 target, said S.D. Dubey, chairman of the Central Electricity Authority and head of the panel drafting the road map for power producers to meet the new guidelines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government proposed the limits on toxic emissions in December 2015.

The delay highlights the challenge facing Modi’s administration to provide cleaner air alongside affordable and reliable power to all of the country’s 1.3 billion people. The new goals may be implemented “in a phased manner,” Dubey said in a phone interview. “Particulate matter emissions should be addressed in the first phase. The next step would be sulfur dioxide emissions and later on oxides of nitrogen. That’s the direction we are moving in.” The office of Federal Environment Secretary A.N. Jha, whose ministry originally proposed the standards, didn’t respond to e-mails seeking comment.

India’s 187 gigawatts of coal-fired power capacity, which generate more than 75 percent of the nation’s electricity, contribute to the air pollution that makes India home to what the World Health Organization has determined are 11 of the top 20 cities on the planet with the worst air quality. The plants account for 61 percent of its generation capacity, according to the Central Electricity Authority. India must first establish monitoring systems at all plants to establish an emissions baseline, determine what technologies will be appropriate and then install them at the plants, said Leslie Sloss, an analyst with the IEA Clean Coal Centre, a technology cooperation program of the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

Read the full article @ Bloomberg

Read more on power plants in India @ Urban Emissions

Coal India Taking Advantage of 60% Rise in Global Coal Prices

Armed with a product mix of high and low energy coal, Coal India (CIL) is all set to take advantage of a 60 per cent rise in international coal prices this year and has started targeting coastal power companies’ that heavily depend on imported coal. Many coastal plants source a mix of high and low energy coal. In most cases the high energy coal is sourced from the import market while low grade coal is either sourced from CIL or from the import market.

“For companies that have supply contract with CIL, the company is ready to send them both varieties of coal from different subsidiaries of CIL like Eastern Coalfields, South Eastern Coalfields and Western Coalfields, to some extent. For companies that do not have supply contracts from us, we are offering forward and spot e-auctions from subsidiaries that offer high grade coal as well as those offer low grade coal,” he said.

With international prices rising steadily distribution companies, independent power producers with non-escalable fuel cost, merchant power producers and ports relying on imported coal for the bulk of their volumes will face volume and profitability pressures in case they do not cash in on the opportunity offered by CIL.

Read the full report @ Economic Times Energy World

Coal Price Fever Chills Power Plants in China

North China has been caught by sudden cold snap with temperatures already sub-zero, but local power plants have been feeling the chill for a long time as soaring coal prices stripped their profits away.

China's five largest power companies saw their combined coal-fired business lose 300 million yuan ($45 million) in September, the first group loss since August 2012. GD Power Development saw revenue shrink in the first nine months, with net profits down about four percent in the third quarter year on year. Shanghai Electric Power saw its Q3 profit fall by 10.3 percent. "The high coal price is eating away our profit and there are worries that a short-term shortage might push the price higher," said Liu Shenghan, sales manager of a power company in Shanxi Province, where 30 of 52 coal-fired power plants made losses in the first nine months.

The Bohai-Rim Steam-Coal Price Index, a gauge of coal prices in northern China's major ports, rose to 593 yuan per tonne last week, the 17th consecutive rise and about 60 percent up on the start of the year. On one hand, the country is cutting excess coal capacity, while on the other, coal prices are edging up. Once synonymous with excess capacity, coal sector is staging a comeback. It is not rare to see trucks waiting in line at coal mines to be loaded, with similar scenes in ports. Winter is coming, and the coal shortage follows rapid price increases in the past few weeks. The government is in the midst of cutting inefficient production; demand is increasing as the economy stabilizes; and hydroelectric generation is falling as the rainy season ends. Policymakers face a delicate balancing act and it should be emphasized that the reasons for cutting coal capacity are not exclusively economic; environmental factors play a huge part in current policy.

Read the full report @ Energy Central

Friday, November 11, 2016

Air Quality in Jaipur (Rajasthan) (Forecasts Updated Everyday)

This is modeled air quality and source apportionment for particulate matter, in forecast mode (for the next three days). The reports for all the 640 Indian districts everyday @ India Air Quality.Info







See what is happening at the regional scale, which is conducted as part of the all India air pollution forecasting program, hosted @ http://www.indiaairquality.info. The animation below is from a WRF-CAMx simulation conducted @ 0.25x0.25 degree resolution (approximately, 25km x 25km).

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tracking Pollution in Bengaluru

To understand rising air pollution and study its impact on public health, urban environment, and its causality, ‘Breathe Bengaluru’, a project for assessment of the city’s air quality, is currently being undertaken in BTM layout. Breathe Bengaluru is taking a bottom up, ‘people first’ approach to tackling air pollution, bringing in multi-disciplinary perspectives and public participatory mechanisms. It is a joint venture of 'Sensors without Borders' and ‘Sensing Local', both Bengaluru--based organisations working on environmental issues such as air and water pollution, waste management among others.

Sensors Without Borders, is a Karma Corps initiative that leverages commodity sensing technologies, devices and systems to collect high quality, bottom-up environmental data in the air and water domains to effect on-the-ground change. Sensing Local is a practice of architects and urban planners with a core focus on making cities healthier, safer and more inclusive. Researchers and experts working on traffic patterns, air quality, technology, urban planning and transport planning, as well as local communities that are an integral stakeholder, will come together under this project to provide suggestions, guidance and analysis of potential linkages between traffic emissions, air quality and health outcomes. -

Read more @ Citizen Matters

This is modeled air quality for India in forecast mode. The reports for all the 640 Indian districts everyday @ India Air Quality.Info







Don't Blame Farmers for Delhi's Air Pollution Problems



The spike in pollution levels in Delhi’s air is an annual winter ordeal, so is burning of paddy stubble by farmers in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana after the crop is harvested. But how much does burning of crop residues contribute to Delhi’s pollution peaks? There are no definite answers. About 80% of Delhi’s pollution is due to reasons that are restricted within the national capital’s limits, while the rest is due to crop burning, India’s environment minister Anil Madhav Dave said on Monday after a meeting with neighbouring states.

According to Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, no exact figure is available. “Stubble burning is an episodic problem which contributes to the pollution peaks in Delhi but even after the burning stops, in December, Delhi witnesses very high pollution,” she said, adding, “Delhi’s own pollution due to 8.8 million cars, constant construction activities and power plants are also major factors.” There are some other figures, too. Gufran Beig, programme director of System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the earth sciences ministry told the Times of India on Monday that the proportion of pollutants from crop fires in Delhi’s air rose dramatically from almost zero on 1 November to a peak of 70% on 6 November.

Read the full article @ Live Mint

Delhi is a Wakeup Call for World on Air Pollution - UNICEF


Delhi is a wake up call to the world on air pollution. It is a wake up call to all countries and cities where air pollution levels have resulted in death and illness amongst children. It is a wake up a call that very clearly tells us: unless decisive actions are taken to reduce air pollution, the events we are witnessing in Delhi over the past week are likely to be increasingly common.

Recent UNICEF analysis has shown that, globally, 300 million children live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution – exceeding six times international guidelines. However, there is much that can be done to improve the situation. We need stronger measures to cut back on the sources of air pollution. Air pollution moves across borders, both national ones as well as subnational ones, and so we will need coherent government policies to address these transboundary risks.  Providing children with access to good quality healthcare is a major part of protecting them from air pollution. Treatment and prevention programmes for pneumonia, as well as other respiratory conditions, can significantly reduce the chance a child falls sick or dies. At a global scale, we need better monitoring of air pollution. When a child, a mother, a father or caregiver know how bad the air is on a real-time basis, they can begin to take actions to reduce exposure. Pregnant mothers, and others who are at especially high risk, should do their best to avoid areas where air pollution is at its highest. Public knowledge on air pollution is a key first step to tackling it – it is key to supporting government policies to reduce it.

Read the full article @ UNICEF

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Wasting Water to Make Delhi's Roads Dust Free


At 5 pm, a water tanker with a capacity of 35,000 litres waited to clean the 3.5 km stretch along the Ghazipur drain. The PWD deployed 1,250 workers and 40 water tankers for cleaning and scrubbing of roads across Delhi. “We started by about 11 am and we hope to finish by 7 pm. All the roads and dividers have been cleaned on both sides,” said assistant engineer Naresh Kumar. “The cause of air pollution lies elsewhere. But when this cleaning of roads is carried out, it will make a difference at the ground level,” said a senior PWD official. A blue tanker with a capacity of 5,000 litres started cleaning the road from Shamnath Marg to Raj Niwas in north Delhi on Monday afternoon. PWD’s Executive Engineer Anil Trehan supervised workers spraying the footpath with water, while assistant engineer Vinod Garg took pictures.

Read the full article @ Indian Express

How Beijing is Cleaning the Air

China has launched a four-pronged strategy to clean up the air:
  1. 1The government commissioned a major study to determine causes of pollution. This showed smog was less from vehicles, more from coal plants, dust and crop-burning
  2. 2.All four coal plants in the vicinity of Beijing have been shut down. These will be relocated and replaced with higher tech, lower emitting factories
  3. 3November 2015 Plan to Phase Out Crop Burning: 85 per cent of the 900 metric tons of crop stalks will be collected and used by government programme by 2020 for biomass, fiber and pulp
  4. Regulating vehicles: Heavy trucks banned from city, registration of new cars limited every month and determined by a lottery. No odd-even ban as study found owners were buying new cars to evade the ban. Huge investment in expanding the already vast Beijing subway and BRT corridor.
Read the full article on Lessons for Delhi, from Beijing @ India Today

Monday, November 07, 2016

Linking Parking Fees to Air Quality Index !!

Upon the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT’s) order, the city banned the registration of diesel-engine-powered vehicles (for some time) and introduced an additional sales tax on diesel vehicles at the time of registration. Both the measures are applicable for newer vehicles only. The NGT also introduced an additional environmental tax for heavy-duty trucks entering the city; this does not include vehicles registered in Delhi and not crossing the border. The city also experimented with the odd-even concept (twice, for two weeks each time, with a number of exemptions) – which in turn is very dependent on a vigilant traffic police to be completely successful.

These measures were introduced and tested for one reason: to discourage the use of personal transport. However, one measure that could be applicable for old/new vehicles, petrol/diesel/gas engines and all engine sizes is the parking fee. Delhi has the lowest parking fees (often Rs 10-20 per hour) in the world. What if, the parking fees were increased tenfold – especially during the days of high air pollution? Take the malls, for example: every car parked there has to go through a toll booth and, without excuse, has to pay.

A fee-structure can be displayed outside the malls’ parking lots with that days’ air quality index (AQI). If the AQI is under 50 (green – very rare in Delhi), then parking is free. And as the AQI climbs, so does the fee. If the value is 500, then parking rate could just as well be Rs 500 per hour. Consider it a charge for spending time in the air-conditioned mall! Similarly, for those parking illegally, the towing fees should be increased further.

Read the full article - what it means to taking the long view on air pollution in Delhi

Smog Blankets 1/10th China

Severe pollution continues to haunt China with a spell of heavy smog enveloping the northeastern and northern parts of the country and affecting more than one-tenth of its land territory. The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) said in a statement late yesterday that around 6.30 lakh square km of land in the northeastern China and 3.80 lakh square km in the northern China have been under the influence of the latest smog spell. Adverse meteorological conditions are to blame...

Read the full article @ Economic Times

Emergency Measures to Combat Air Pollution in Delhi

Officials in the Indian capital shut down schools, halted construction activity and closed a coal-fired power plant temporarily as alarm bells were sounded about the deadly haze of air pollution that has shrouded the city this past week. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced Sunday schools will be shut for three days, all construction halted for five days and a power plant will be closed for ten days. He said roads will be doused with water to settle dust that is a huge contributor to the city’s toxic air.

Read the full article @ Voice of America

Well, a similar plan was proposed last year (December, 2015)

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Air Quality in Raipur (Forecasts, Updated Everyday)

This is modeled air quality for India in forecast mode. The reports for all the 640 Indian districts everyday @ India Air Quality.Info



See what is happening at the regional scale, which is conducted as part of the all India air pollution forecasting program, hosted @ http://www.indiaairquality.info. The animation below is from a WRF-CAMx simulation conducted @ 0.25x0.25 degree resolution (approximately, 25km x 25km).

Friday, November 04, 2016

Schools Closing in Delhi Due to Air Pollution


Several schools decided to remain closed on Friday, while some others cancelled physical education classes, outdoor activities and issued special advisories for students with respiratory disorders in view of the steep rise in pollution levels in the national capital region (NCR). The Shri Ram School (Delhi, Gurgaon and Greater Noida) will remain closed from Friday to Monday. The Heritage School, Vasant Kunj and Gurgaon, and Modern School, Vasant Vihar, will remain shut on Friday because of the high concentration of pollutants and smog in the air.

Shri Ram School authorities told parents in a message, “This is to inform you that on account of high pollution levels in the city, the school will remain closed on Friday, 4th November and Monday, 7th November 2016. To keep the children gainfully occupied at home, academic-related worksheets will be uploaded on academic resources on the parent portal.” Students of Classes X and XII, however, will have to attend school.

The Heritage School said the air indoors is cleaner and it was better to shut school till conditions improve. “As facts stand today, the outdoor PM 2.5 count in the school is 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre and the indoor air quality is between 700 and 900 micrograms per cubic metre. We’re probably the least affected, being in a far more open and less inhabited area, compared to the more interior parts of Gurgaon, which would be much worse,” said a message for parents sent by The Heritage School, Gurgaon.

Apart from closing down on Friday, the school has also proposed that there be no outdoor sports till the air quality improves. Ridge Valley School in Gurgaon has postponed a students’ trip to the Rail Museum as “air pollution has touched hazardous levels, in and around Delhi”. “We are not closing down the schools as it will be a problem for parents. We have already issued advisories for students and cancelled any outdoor activities in the morning hours,” said Ameeta Wattal, principal, Springdales School, Pusa Road.

Read the full article @ Indian Express

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Delhi Smog !!


A growing outcry has forced some improvements. The national government has agreed to speed the adoption of tougher vehicle emissions standards, making them mandatory by 2020. The Indian Supreme Court has been especially active, doubling the fees for commercial trucks entering Delhi and ordering the capital’s taxis to switch from highly polluting diesel to compressed natural gas. Bans on burning garbage and agricultural waste are in place, and fines are being levied for spreading construction dust. Yet many regulations are ignored or poorly enforced. Delhi’s government, which promised to buy another 2,000 clean buses for its fleet this year, has managed to add only four.

Read the full article @ Bloomberg

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

8 Common Myths About Air Pollution in Delhi That are Unlikely to Ever Contribute to a Long-Lasting Solution


From a commentary piece @ the Wire
  1. Awareness that Delhi is the most polluted city in India. The fact is that Delhi is the most studied and the most documented city on air pollution issues. Almost all the national as well as international agencies want to work in Delhi. The city has the most number of air-pollution monitors operated by multiple agencies, including the emerging non-regulatory low-cost monitors. So, with most coverage, it has obviously become known as the most polluted city in the country. If data from other cities can be as freely documented and disseminated at the same scale, this could be different.
  2. Most of Delhi’s pollution comes from outside Delhi. Somehow, that air pollution knows no administrative boundaries becomes suddenly applicable here and Delhiites become more willing to point fingers at their neighbours. This is partly true – particularly when there is a dust storm coming in from the Thar desert or the Middle East (common occurrences in April and May) and during the agricultural-clearing season in Punjab and Haryana (common occurrences in November). Other than that, everything is very much local. The media usually starts talking about air pollution in late October and November as the agricultural clearing peaks. For the same reasons, we simply assume all our pollution, all year long, comes from outside Delhi. 
  3. We need more studies to ascertain where the pollution is coming from. As a scientist, I agree, we need more studies – to enhance our understanding. However, we do know most of the sources to act now. Consider any 2-3-km-wide block in Delhi and you are likely to find residential cooking and heating, waste burning (it is banned only on paper), some form of industrial activity, diesel generators, vehicles and associated road dust, construction activities – all low-lying sources that contribute to local pollution.
  4. Transport is the biggest contributor to air pollution in the city. The Central Pollution Control Board released one report in 2010 that put transport contribution at under 20%. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee released one report in 2015 that put transport contribution at under 25%. Both were conducted by the same team, at IIT-Kanpur. This means up to 75% of the pollution is from non-transport sources. This is a classic case of “what we see is what we believe in”. We are stuck in traffic for a few hours a day, moving at 15 km/hr, with an engine under the hood that can go at 100 km/hr and we start blaming transport for all air pollution problems. Transportation’s contribution must be cut – but we shouldn’t be neglecting other contributions along the way.
  5. The odd-even pilot was good for mitigating air pollution. The average commute speeds in the city went up but no statistically significant change could be monitored for air quality. We missed the bus here: the goal is to cut the demand for personal transport, not target individuals with cars. Take Hong Kong or Singapore, example: both cities managed to cut down the demand for personal transport by setting up a very wide network of public transportation systems (road and rail), walkways and bikeways, and promoted them aggressively. They also have economic measures in place, such as higher vehicle sales and congestion taxes that further enabled the move from personal to public modes of transport. All this was possible only because the alternatives were in place – more buses and inter-connectivity via rail, walkways and bikeways. The odd-even policy was, and is, a good policy but for the level of infrastructure in Delhi, this will remain an experiment. If we want this move to be permanent, irrespective of whether someone owns a car/motorcycle or its registration number, we need a safe and clean infrastructure that will move people from point A to point B using rail, bus, bike and walk – and eliminate the need for personal transport. The Delhi Transport Corporation operates approximately 6,000 buses but the city could use at least 15,000.
  6. There is a silver bullet to control pollution. This is a long term game and history tells us that this fight was not easy – neither in the EU nor in the US. Today, countries like India and China are better placed in terms of there being examples to look up to, lessons to take home from the EU’s and USA’s experiences, and the technology to control pollution is far superior than what was available in the 1980s and 1990s. If anything, the challenge is now in convincing policymakers to learn from the past and act fast. In India, we are seeing changes in some sectors, such as new emission standards for coal-fired thermal power plants, accelerated introduction of cleaner fuel for the transportation sector, promotion of liquefied petroleum gas and incentives for better industrial efficiency. These are good global measures that will take some time to trickle down. But more importantly, the faster we act on implementing these developments, the faster we will move towards having cleaner air.
  7. Installing more monitors to control pollution. Measuring pollution is not controlling pollution. Nonetheless, official statements continue to claim this step of air quality management as a control strategy. Though we do need more data and nothing beats an informed decision, generating information is not controlling pollution.
  8. Pollution can be controlled with air filters. This is more like avoiding the problem and diverting attention away from the problem than solving it. Emissions should be controlled at the source. If you are in a room with one door, it makes perfect sense to filter the air; but what sense does it make if there are no walls altogether?
 Read the full commentary on this topic @ the Wire