Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Diwali Triggers Delhi's "Severe" Pollution Warning

India's capital Delhi has the dubious distinction of being the world's most polluted city and Diwali fireworks are making its air pollution even worse. The smog will be particularly dangerous on Nov. 12 and 13, with the concentration of pollution-related particles — PM2.5 and PM10 — projected to increase by 148% and 170% respectively, according to Indian media reports.

News headlines said US President Obama's 3 day visit to New Delhi last year cut his life expectancy by 6 hours. Why? Because Delhi has the highest level of the airborne particulate matter, PM2.5 considered most harmful to health, with 153 micrograms per cubic meter, 15 times higher than the 10 micrograms per cubic meter considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).

World's Dirtiest Cites

Delhi is not alone; Other cities in India claim 13 spots among the top 20 dirties cities in the world. Not far behind  Delhi's 153 micrograms is another Indian city, Patna with 149 micrograms. Other Indian cities among the world's dirtiest are: Agra (88 ug/m3), Allahabad (88 ug/m3), Ahmedabad (100 ug/m3), Amritsar (92 ug/m3), Firozabad (96 ug/m3), Gwalior (144 ug/m3), Khanna (88 ug/m3), Kanpur (93 ug/m3), Lucknow (96 ug/m3), Ludhiana (91 ug/m3) and Raipur (134 ug/m3).  Pakistani cities of Karachi (117 ug/m3), Peshawar (111 ug/m3) and Rawalpindi (107 ug/m3) also count among the world's most polluted.

India's pollution problems are not entirely due to poorly controlled industry and transport. The early winter problems are significantly exacerbated by the burning of the fields by farmers after harvest.

With a score of just 3.73 out of 100, India ranks as the worst country for the ill effects of toxic air pollution on human health among 132 nations, according to a report presented at the World Economic Forum 2012. India's neighbors also score poorly for toxic air pollution, but still significantly better than India. For example China scores 19.7, followed by Pakistan (18.76), Nepal (18.01) and Bangladesh (13.66).

In the overall rankings based on 22 policy indicators, India finds itself ranked at 125 among the bottom ten environmental laggards such as Yemen, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iraq while Pakistan ranks slightly better at 120. The indicators used for this ranking are in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, boidiversity, and forest management.

These rankings are part of a joint Yale-Columbia study to index the nations of the world in terms of their overall environmental performance. The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia's Center for International Earth Science Information Network have brought out the Environment Performance Index rankings every two years since 2006.

The Yale-Columbia study confirms that environmental problems in South Asia are growing rapidly. The increasing consumption by rapidly growing population is depleting natural resources, and straining the environment and the infrastructure like never before. Soil erosion, deforestation, rapid industrialization, urbanization, and land and water degradation are all contributing to it.

It's important to remember that Bhopal still remains the worst recorded industrial accident in the history of mankind. As India, Pakistan and other developing nations vie for foreign direct investments by multi-national companies seeking to set up industries to lower their production costs and increase their profits, the lessons of Bhopal must not be forgotten.

It is the responsibility of the governments of the developing countries to legislate carefully and enforce strict environmental and safety standards to protect their people by reversing the rapidly unfolding environmental degradation. Public interest groups, NGOs and environmental and labor activists must press the politicians and the bureaucrats for policies to protect the people against the growing environmental hazards stemming from growing consumption and increasing global footprint of large industrial conglomerates.

There will be severe health consequences for all Indians unless the Modi government acts to legislate and regulate various sources of pollution in the country. Pakistan government, too, needs to act to prevent severe harm to public health by rising pollution.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India's Air Most Toxic

Pak Entrepreneur Recycles Trash into Energy and Fertilizer

Bhopal Disaster

Environmental Pollution in India

Rising Population, Depleting Resources

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia


Shankar Goel said...

NEW DELHI—India’s government on Tuesday eased local-sourcing requirements for international retailers looking to set up shop in the country, lifted foreign-investment limits in a handful of industries and announced a series of other measures aimed at attracting capital from overseas.

The new measures, some quite technical, were announced on the eve of India’s biggest Hindu holiday, Diwali. They covered businesses from construction to palm-oil plantations. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said they were meant to “facilitate more money coming into the country.”

Syed Qasim Abbas said...

My Hindu countrymen should enjoy Diwali and may every caste,creed and religion enjoy peace ....happy Diwali

Riaz Haq said...

#India could push world into climate change danger zone, warn scientists. #climatechange #Modi http://gu.com/p/4e532/stw

India’s growth in emissions could tip the world over the threshold to dangerous climate change, experts have said.

The alert comes as the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, prepares to visit the UK on Thursday for talks on issues including the environment.

India is due to ask the UK and other rich nations to share breakthroughs in renewable energy and other “clean” technology, and for help financing a huge expansion in efficiency and solar and wind power. It is unclear whether British officials will pressure Modi to consider a tougher emissions target.

Before the UN climate summit in Paris in December, India has pledged to increase carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions more slowly than the economy grows. The latest analysis of India’s plan calculates that if it expands as it hopes – by more than 8.5% a year – emissions will reach 9bn megatonnes by the end of the next decade.

This is about one-fifth of the total annual emissions that scientists calculate the world can emit in 2030 and still have a more than a 50% chance of avoiding the global temperature rising more than 2C, considered a dangerous threshold. Although India would rank second behind China for total emissions, unlike China and other large emitters it has not set a date by which they would peak, while new coal-fired power and other new infrastructure would commit the country to relatively high pollution levels for decades.

Delhi warns against Diwali fireworks to safeguard air quality
Read more
“If India’s plans to burn coal go ahead, it will make it hard for us to make the two degree target,” said Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham institute on climate change and the environment, at the London School of Economics, which carried out the study. “The chances are growth will be lower, but it’s hard to imagine we’ll get down to a pattern consistent with two degrees.”

Further pressure has been put on India by the International Energy Agency, which on Tuesday published it’s annual report on global energy use, and considered the Indian case to be so critical that it devoted several chapters to the country’s rapidly rising use of coal and oil in particular. “Meeting India’s energy needs requires … constant vigilance as to the implications for energy security and the environment,” the IEA said.

Although India has so far failed to meet its hopes for growth, its population is expected to rise from 1.2 billion to 1.5 billion by the middle of this century – overtaking China as the world’s largest – and it is pursuing aggressive expansion of industry and energy production to lift an estimated 300 million people out of poverty.

“It is estimated that more than half of [the] India of 2030 is yet to be built,” the government has said, citing “exponential” growth in demand for housing, energy, transport, water and waste disposal. The risks posed by India’s rapid growth are at the heart of ongoing tension between rich and poor nations, with developing and emerging economies arguing that countries that have already become rich on fossil fuel energy should make deeper cuts in emissions rather than curb poorer countries’ growth.

India’s emissions per person are 1.7 metric tons a year, compared with nearly 17t in the US and more than 7t in both China and the European Union.

Narendra Modi retains core support at home as world tour reaches UK
Read more
“India’s argument is that they have development challenges which must take priority, and currently the cheapest route to development is through high-carbon infrastructure,” said Diarmuid Torney, author of a new book on China and India’s climate policies. “They don’t have time to wait for the cost of renewable energy to fall

“But if India’s emissions increase at the projected rate and developed country emissions don’t decline rapidly over the short to medium term, then the maths does get us into trouble.”

Riaz Haq said...

From Foreign Policy's South Asia Daily: Delhi air pollution spikes in Diwali

Air pollution in the Indian capital of Delhi hit dangerous levels on Wednesday during celebrations of the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali (BBC, HT, TOI). Diwali festivities include setting off massive amounts of fireworks, which release significant amounts of hazardous particulate matter into the air. On Wednesday night, the levels of toxic particulate matter, known as PM10 particulates, increased to 2,000 micrograms per cubic meter, 40 times the limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Many areas near the capital were also found to have elevated levels of sulfur dioxide, which can cause a host of respiratory symptoms. Levels of PM10 particulates have increased in Delhi by 47 percent from 2000 to 2011, and a WHO survey rates Delhi as the most polluted city in the world. The Hindustan Times reported that on Wednesday night, air pollution levels were as much as 23 times higher than Delhi’s average levels in the most polluted areas of the city. According to the WHO, air pollution is a leading cause of premature death in India, as about 620,000 Indians die each year from pollution-related diseases.

Anonymous said...

This WHO report has some serious data issues. First it does not includes chinese cities such as Xingtai and it under-reports PM2.5 levels in Baoding. A recent ranking by GreenPeace shows that a number of Chinese cities are actually worse than Indian Cities. Infact the whole chinese cities missing from top 20 is rather makes the quality of this report doubtful. Infact this report includes second class cities in India such as Gwalior while misses those of china casts a doubt at varacity of this report. May be prepared by some chinese?


Xingtai 155
Baoding 127

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: " A recent ranking by GreenPeace shows that a number of Chinese cities are actually worse than Indian Cities"

Really? Check out this piece by Greepeace:

India air pollution: Delhi’s smog is (still) worse than Beijing’s


Anonymous said...

Particulate matter is important but not the complete story. Weather, geography and wind conditions etc play into it too. For example Los Angeles is a valley with mountains that block air dispersion. During the summer even a little particulate matter becomes unhealthy. Absence of rain adds to that. Fortunately for Delhi, unlike Beijing, asthma is prevalent but less incidence of cancer.

Kiran said...

Pollution is overrated. Life expectancy of shanghai(supposeldy very polluted) in china is 83 same as switzerland(supposedly cleanest).

Hopewins said...

Dr. Haq, this is for your personal reading. Would you please do a blog article on which is the best way to tackle this serious problem?



Riaz Haq said...

Hopewins: "Dr. Haq, this is for your personal reading. Would you please do a blog article on which is the best way to tackle this serious problem?"

I don't see this as problem. In fact, I expect it to be a blessing for Pakistan and the world of an "empty cradle".

Here's a piece I wrote on it:

Pakistani women's fertility rates have declined significantly from about 4.56 in 2000 to 2.86 babies per woman in 2014, a drop of 37% in 14 years. In percentage terms, Pakistan population growth rate has come down from 2.3% in 2000 to 1.6% in 2014, a decline of about 30%. It is being driven drown by the same forces that have worked in the developed world in the last century: increasing urbanization, growing incomes, greater participation in the workforce and rising education. Pakistan now ranks 65 among 108 countries with TFR of 2.1 (replacement rate) or higher.

Countries, most recently China, are finding that it is far more difficult to raise low fertility than it is reduce high fertility. The countries in the European Union are offering a variety of incentives, including birth starter kits to assist new parents in Finland, cheap childcare centers and liberal parental leave in France and a year of paid maternity leave in Germany, according to Desert News. But the fertility rates in these countries remain below replacement levels.

Excerpt: Overzealous Pakistani birth control advocates need to understand what countries with sub-replacement fertility rates are now seeing: Low birth rates lead to diminished economic growth. "Fewer kids mean fewer tax-paying workers to support public pension programs. An "older society", noted the late Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker, is "less dynamic, creative and entrepreneurial."


Majumdar said...

Prof sb,

Why are your tallel than mountain fliends using Chinese labour at the CPEC corridor projects than using plentiful, cheap and skilled Paki labour?


Riaz Haq said...

Majumdar: "Why are your tallel than mountain fliends using Chinese labour at the CPEC corridor projects than using plentiful, cheap and skilled Paki labour?"

Not true across the aboard. There are many Chinese companies and China funded projects employing Pakistanis. A nephew of mine works in a senior position for a Chinese energy company in Karachi where most of the employees are Pakistanis.

Rajesh said...

I think rather than worry about Diwali, you should focus on the mindless cruel slaughter of millions of innocent animals in the most brutal way and eating them up by Muslims in the name of "sacrifice"!

What a travesty and a foolish, primitive way to "Sacrifice". Even the Jews and Christians who actually believe in the prophet Abraham don't do it, only the people who appropriated their mythology do it.

If you really want to "sacrifice", kill yourself, not an innocent animal in the most cruel way to eat it up. That too on the roads and create nuisance and filth all over the place.

From there, blowing up in marketplaces is only a step away.

Riaz Haq said...

Rajesh: "Even the Jews and Christians who actually believe in the prophet Abraham don't do it, only the people who appropriated their mythology do it."

Have you ever looked up who ears the most meat in the world per capita? Is it Muslims? Or Christians? Or Jews? Where does all that meat come from? How many millions of animals are slaughtered ever week to feed them?

We have Thanksgiving coming up. Do you know Americans consume 46 million turkeys on each Thanksgiving Day?


Now that you have learned this, go kill some plants to eat...they too are living things like animals that you talk about, you ignorant hateful bigot!!!

Riaz Haq said...

A Huge Noxious #Garbage fire in #India's biggest city #Mumbai was so bad you could see it from space #NASA http://wpo.st/83A91

Last week, a fire in the largest landfill in Mumbai sent smoke across the Indian coastal metropolis. It burned for four days, cloaking parts of the city in a thick, noxious smog. Some 70 schools were forced to close out of public health fears. Fourteen firetrucks and eight bulldozers were needed to bring the fire under control.

NASA's Earth Observatory captured the blaze from space. A more zoomed-out picture shows the extent to which the fire, streaming out of a teeming eastern suburb, was singularly discernible.

"Fires in landfills are often particularly difficult to extinguish because they burn through methane, plastic, and other highly flammable substances," NASA noted on its website.

The cause of the fire is as yet undetermined, but local authorities suspect youthful miscreants may have set it off intentionally.

It highlights the disastrous lack of adequate waste management in Mumbai, India's biggest city, with a population of 21 million. The Deonar landfill receives a third to as much as three-quarters of all of Mumbai's garbage, yet it doesn't have a proper waste treatment facility.

The Wall Street Journal describes how grim the situation is there:

Experts say the landfill needs an underlying layer of clay to prevent toxic materials seeping into the soil and polluting the groundwater. The waste also needs to be alternated with a layer of soil to allow it to decompose properly.

Tatva Global Deonar Environment Ltd., the contractor in charge of the Deonar dump, said [Mumbai's city government] had not provided the material necessary despite agreeing to do so.

The municipal body also dumped more than 6,000 tons of waste a day in the landfill, more than double the agreed amount, a spokesman for the contractor said in an email.

A journalist at the Times of India publicized a letter written by a 6-year-old to local authorities, pleading for something to be done.

Riaz Haq said...

The country with the world's worst air #pollution is #India, not #China http://wpo.st/CJ5F1

It’s a never-ending debate in Asia -- whose air quality is worse, China’s or India’s? A new study by Greenpeace released Monday is trying to answer that question.

Analysts looked at NASA satellite images and found that measurements of particulate matter -- the microscopic particles that invade your lungs and can cause cancer and heart disease -- improved impressively in China over the past few years while air quality in India has worsened, with 2015 ranking as India’s most polluted year on record.

The satellite images showed that the levels of PM2.5 particles decreased by 17 percent in China from 2010 to 2015 and 15 percent in the United States while rising 13 percent in India, the study found.

For the first time, Greenpeace found, the average Indian citizen was exposed to more particulate matter than the average Chinese.

The study also found that the average annual PM2 level for India's capital, New Delhi, was also higher than in Beijing -- an average of 81 for Beijing, 128 for Delhi and 12 for Washington, D.C.

China has made a concerted effort to address its air pollution problem in recent years after widespread public outcry over filthy air that put pressure on the government to release better pollution data. The Greenpeace study credits China’s national pollution action plan launched in 2013 for its “impressive” improvement. That included tightening emission standards for coal-fired power plants and heavy industry and increasing emissions monitoring and enforcement.

However, the study notes that pollution levels in China remain “alarmingly high.”

Meanwhile, in India, public outrage has only just begun to coalesce around the problem. Indian newspapers have run high-profile series on air pollution in recent months and the Delhi government has instituted an odd-even day driving plan this winter to control the worsening air.

The study suggests that India should put in place a pollution action plan that sweeps from Punjab to West Bengal in the northern part of the country, where pollution is the worst, enforce compliance for coal-fired power plants and institute air quality monitoring systems for all major urban centers. India has a dearth of online monitoring systems in place in its cities -- only 39 such stations compared to 1,500 in China, 770 in the United States and 1,000 in Europe, the study found.

Riaz Haq said...

The cultural politics of shit: class, gender and public space in India

Full text HTML
Free access
Assa Doron & Ira Raja
pages 189-207

In this article we seek to interrogate the cultural, political and economic conditions that generate the crisis of sanitation in India, with its severe implications for the poor and the marginalized. The key question we ask is how to interpret and explain the spectre of ‘open defecation’ in India's countryside and its booming urban centres. The discussion is divided into three parts. Part one examines the cultural interpretation of ‘shitting’ as symbolic action underpinned by ideas of purity, pollution and ‘the body politic’. Part two takes the political economic approach to gain further insights into contemporary discourse, performance and cultural politics surrounding toilets and open defecation in India. Part three examines civil society activities, state campaigns and media accounts of open defecation to explore the disruptive potency of everyday toilet activities, and how these interplay with issues of class, caste, and gender. Drawing on interviews and a review of ethnographic work, we seek to interrogate the idiom of modern sanitation, with its emphasis on cleanliness, progress and dreams of technology, as a constitutive idea and an explanatory force in Indian modernity.


Riaz Haq said...

WHO: 4 of the top 10 dirtiest cities are in #India. #climatechange #airpollution http://on.wsj.com/1YnFLsG via @WSJ

The World Health Organization’s latest study showed that many of the world’s most polluted cities were located in fast-developing nations. The worst levels of small particulate matter were recorded in the eastern Iranian city of Zabol, which is regularly hit by seasonal dust storms, with a so-called PM2.5 reading of 217

That city was followed by Gwalior and Allahabad in India, and Riyadh and Al Jubail in Saudi Arabia. India’s Patna and Raipur were the sixth and seventh most polluted, according to the report by the WHO, .

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter that is smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. The pollutants, which come from dust, soot and smoke, can penetrate deep into the lungs, increasing the risk of heart and lung diseases including asthma and lung cancer, the WHO said.

Delhi, India’s capital, tied with another Indian city, Ludhiana, for 11th worst in the world for air pollution, with a PM2.5 measurement of 122, according to the WHO study. Beijing tied for 36th with a PM2.5 reading of 85. Delhi has recently tested out measures the Chinese capital has used to restrict the number of cars on its roads.