India’s capital city faces alarming level of smog

Updated 10 November 2017
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India’s capital city faces alarming level of smog

NEW DELHI: Thick toxic smog has engulfed India’s national capital for the last three days. As a result, the government has been forced to reintroduce the odd-even scheme in order to contain the escalating air pollution. Introduced from Monday for the next five days, the scheme requires vehicles with odd and even numbers to run on alternate days.
This step is one among a series of emergency measures that have been adopted by local government since Thursday.
Some 6,000 schools in Delhi have been asked to shut down for a week. The government has banned the entry of heavy vehicles into the city as well as stopping all construction activity in the capital.
The tiny particulate matter known as PM 2.5 showed a reading of 612 on Thursday afternoon, according to the Air Quality Index (AQI). PM 2.5 is a particulate matter which, if inhaled in large quantities, can cause heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer.
“The number of patients has increased alarmingly this year because of the high pollution level in the city,” Dr. Vivek Nangia, a well-known respiratory specialist at the Delhi-based Fortis Hospital, told Arab News.
“This is a health emergency and we need urgent measures to control the situation,” he said, and advised people “to avoid outdoor activities as much as possible.”
Delhi resident Rajeev Sharma, a 46-year old jogger and cyclist, complained of breathlessness. “I have been jogging and cycling regularly for the last 15 years but I have never felt this kind of uneasiness while doing morning exercise. Normally I run 6 to 7 km but now I cannot even run 2 km,” he told Arab News.
The pollution has affected his preparation for the Delhi Half Marathon which is due within a couple of weeks.
However, politicians are not willing to take responsibility for the crisis and point fingers in order to shift the blame.
On Wednesday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called Delhi “a gas chamber” and blamed the deteriorating situation in the city of 20 million people on the failure of neighboring states to control the burning of waste paddy crops or crop stubble.
Talking to Arab News, Delhi Transport Minister K. Gahlot held the northern states of Haryana and Punjab responsible for the pollution in Delhi.
“We cannot be held solely responsible for this pollution; we are collectively responsible and we should all handle it together rather than playing the blame game,” said Gahlot.
Shambhavi Shukla of Center for Environment and Science (CES), a New Delhi-based think tank working in the area of environment and development studies, said: “This is not a city-specific problem but a regional problem and the neighboring local governments should work together to address the alarming situation.”
She is, however, critical of government in Delhi for failing to develop a public transport system in the national capital as an alternative to increased vehicles on the road.
“In the last three years, the number of buses has gone down from 6,000 to 4,000 and their ridership has also decreased by 9 percent,” said Shukla.
Talking to Arab News, she welcomed the introduction of the odd-even scheme in Delhi but feels that “this is a short term measure and can give relief only for a brief period. When all measures fail, the government resorts to the odd-even scheme in panic.”


Philippines’ Duterte loses patience, orders trash shipped back Canada

Updated 6 min 57 sec ago
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Philippines’ Duterte loses patience, orders trash shipped back Canada

  • Canada says the waste, exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, was a commercial transaction not backed by the Canadian government
  • Canada has since offered to take the rubbish back

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered his government to hire a private shipping company to send 69 containers of garbage back to Canada and leave them within its territorial waters if it refuses to accept the trash, his spokesman said on Wednesday.
“The Philippines as an independent sovereign nation must not be treated as trash by other foreign nation,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo told a media briefing.
Canada says the waste, exported to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014, was a commercial transaction not backed by the Canadian government.
Canada has since offered to take the rubbish back and the two countries are in the process of arranging the transfer.
But Canada missed a May 15 deadline set by Manila to take back the shipment, prompting the Philippines to withdraw top diplomats from Canada last week.
“Obviously, Canada is not taking this issue nor our country seriously. The Filipino people are gravely insulted about Canada treating this country as a dump site,” Panelo said.
The Canadian embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Philippines has made several diplomatic protests to Canada since a 2016 court ruling that the garbage be returned.
The consignments were labelled as containing plastics to be recycled in the Philippines but were filled with a variety of rubbish including diapers, newspapers and water bottles.
The issue is not the only one to strain ties between the two countries.
Last year, Duterte ordered the military to cancel a $233 million deal to buy 16 helicopters from Canada, after Ottawa expressed concern they could be used to fight rebels.