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.”


Duterte asks why critical ex-police officer ‘is still alive’

Updated 16 min 21 sec ago
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Duterte asks why critical ex-police officer ‘is still alive’

  • More than 5,000 drug suspects have been killed in what police say were gunbattles that ensued during drug raids under Duterte’s crackdown, alarming Western governments and human rights groups
MANILA, Philippines: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday accused a dismissed police colonel, who had publicly criticized him and his deadly anti-drug campaign, of criminal involvement and said he wanted to know why the former officer “is still alive.”
In a late-night televised speech, Duterte condemned dismissed Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto, who told reporters over the weekend that the president had been repeatedly photographed with two Chinese men involved in drug trafficking.
Duterte defended one of the two Chinese men, saying he had accompanied China’s premier on a visit to the Philippines and was a businessman who traveled to the country in 1999 to sell Chinese-made cellphones.
Acierto, a veteran anti-narcotics officer before his dismissal by an anti-graft agency last year, said he submitted a report to top police officials and Duterte’s office about the two Chinese to warn the president of their background. But he said he was never informed if the two were ever investigated.
“In my investigation, I discovered that our president ... is often accompanied by two people deeply involved in illegal drugs,” Acierto told a news conference late Sunday in Manila, adding that he was later accused by authorities in a criminal complaint of involvement in drug smuggling instead of the Chinese men.
Duterte said Acierto was the only police official who has made the allegations against the two men. He said Acierto was an “idiot” allegedly involved in corruption, drug smuggling, kidnappings of Chinese nationals and the killing of a South Korean man.
“Don’t ever believe specially this Acierto,” Duterte said in a speech in southern Koronadal city. “What if I ask the military and the police, ‘Why is this son of a bitch still alive?“
Acierto denied any wrongdoing.
The president mentioned Acierto while talking about his efforts to combat corruption, including corrupt policemen. He also criticized and ridiculed opposition senatorial candidates running in mid-term elections in May.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino told The Associated Press on Monday that he received Acierto’s report and sent it to Duterte’s office, adding that both his office and that of the president took steps to validate the allegations against the two Chinese. He said the two were not on any list of drug suspects.
Aquino played down the photographs showing Duterte with the two Chinese men, saying officials often get approached by all sorts of people for group photographs without being able to rapidly check their background. He questioned the credibility of Acierto, who he accused of being linked to drug smuggling.
Profiles of the two Chinese provided by Acierto to reporters said they were involved in the “manufacturing, financing, the importation, transhipment and local distribution of meth or shabu,” referring to the local name for methamphetamine, a stimulant.
Acierto said he initially welcomed Duterte’s passion to combat illegal drugs. But he said he later realized that the president’s deadly crackdown took a wrong approach by targeting mostly poor drug suspects instead of going after powerful drug lords and traffickers.
More than 5,000 drug suspects have been killed in what police say were gunbattles that ensued during drug raids under Duterte’s crackdown, alarming Western governments and human rights groups.