Only God can save us, say officials as BJP, AAP, Cong spar over Delhi smog

An estimated $600 mn is needed to provide farmers with alternatives, but the BJP of PM Narendra Modi and Opposition parties in power in New Delhi and nearby Punjab are squabbling over who will pay

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As pollution level climbed to 12 times above the recommended limit this week in India’s capital, government officials said they knew what was needed to control the smoky haze, but nothing would be done, at least this year.

A major source of the smog at this time of year across northern India, including New Delhi, is farmers burning the stubble of the previous crop to prepare for new plantings in November.

An estimated $600 million is needed to provide farmers with alternatives, but the Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition parties in power in New Delhi and nearby Punjab states are squabbling over who will pay, said three federal government officials who have been briefed on the situation.

“Nothing more is likely to happen this year,” said one of them. “We’re now praying. Only God can save us.”

The official said he had bought pollution masks for his family and installed air purifiers at his home in New Delhi, now the most polluted city in the world, according to the Brookings Institute. The city is home to more than 20 million people.

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No-cracker Diwali to cleaner fuel: What Kejriwal govt can do to tackle Delhi pollution

Real policy is not defensive short term emergency measures but something proactive spanning multiple years

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Every Diwali, a billion people in India wake up to the news of smog-ridden cities in the aftermath of celebratory fireworks. And much like the hangover after a night of drinking, we promise ourselves, never again!; that moderation will be the key next time around!, etc. Yet, we once again find ourselves in a similar (if worse) situation. And in 2016 again, a year after three infants challenged the Supreme Court to curb air pollution from firecrackers (one of the families has since migrated away from Delhi), we are faced with yet another hangover.

For the first time, more than 1,800 schools have been closed in the national capital region in response to high Delhi Air Pollution levels originating from a complex mix of emissions: from the Diwali fireworks burning, stubble burning in Indo-Gangetic states, wintertime meteorological changes and the ever-present urban emissions (vehicles, cooking, lighting, waste burning, industries and power plants). Starting with a bang during Diwali, the situation usually deteriorates till the height of winter.

The question that usually follows is what we can do now. The short answer: literally nothing. Perhaps stay indoors with air filters (for those who can afford them) or, better yet, vote with your feet and move away. There is nothing that one can do in two or three weeks short of clamping down on every industry and power plant, banning vehicles from all streets and avoiding all fires for burning – for warmth or to rid of waste.

That said, there are in fact measures that we can take over a medium to longer time-frame, especially if done with thought and sincerity, and that could begin to have an impact before Diwali in 2017. An earlier article spoke about the myths and the myopia of policymakers. Now, let’s take the long view, exemplified by the question: what is it that we can do to really make a difference in the coming years? These are real solutions that are not gimmicks and some of them are straightforward (which should not be confused for easy) and, more importantly, need some time to manifest their results over subsequent months and years. It is a basic human right to breathe clean air, so let’s discuss where we can start.

1. Public transportation has to improve

2. Support cycling and biking

3. Link parking fees with the air quality index

4. Pave and maintain the roads

5. Use cleaner fuel in all vehicles

6. Improve garbage collection

7. The city needs heating solutions

8. Adoption of cleaner technology for industries

9. A no-cracker Diwali

10. Find a solution for stubble burning

11. Clean power generation

12. Enforce construction debris norms

13. Address governance issues

Read More

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Mexico to plant 18 million trees against pollution

Mexico to plant 18 million trees against pollution

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Authorities will plant 18 million trees in Mexico City and its surrounding suburbs as part of efforts to combat air pollution, the government said.

Environment Minister Rafael Pacchiano dubbed it a “historic reforestation” to reinforce the “green belt in the megalopolis.”

The greater Mexico City area was hit by the worst air pollution in more than a decade in March, prompting authorities to restrict traffic for the 5.4 million vehicles that circulate daily.

Pacchiano said yesterday that the lack of wind and record high temperatures in March contributed to an increase in ozone levels.

Other new measures announced by Pacchiano include replacing 1,000 taxis that are more than 10 years old with hybrid cars and stepping up a program to renew cargo and passenger transport vehicles.

Anti-pollution rules will also be tightened in industry.

The government imposed temporary car restrictions between April and June 30, forcing all vehicles to stay home at least once a week. Normally, older vehicles and those that fail emissions tests have traffic restrictions.

Last month, the environment ministry unveiled new rules to prevent corruption at emission inspection centers that have allowed polluting cars to remain on the road. Read More