India to spray New Delhi from on high to combat toxic smog

According to a 2016 World Bank report, nearly 1.4 million people died in India due to air pollution in 2013, causing an economic loss worth 7.7 percent of the nation’s GDP. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2017
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India to spray New Delhi from on high to combat toxic smog

NEW DELHI: India plans to spray water over its capital, New Delhi, to try to combat toxic smog that has triggered a pollution emergency, officials said on Friday, with conditions expected to get worse over the weekend.
Illegal crop burning in farm states surrounding New Delhi, vehicle exhaust in a city with limited public transport and swirling construction dust have caused the crisis, as they do year after year.
“Sprinkling water is the only way to bring down the dangerous pollution levels,” said Shruti Bhardwaj, the environment ministry’s senior most official in charge of monitoring air quality.
The government was finalizing the plans to spray the water from a height of 100 meters, which would be unprecedented, she said, without saying how much of the city of 22 million people would be covered.
The thick blanket of grey air and pollutants has enveloped Delhi for the past four days. A US embassy measure of tiny particulate matter, called PM 2.5, showed a reading of 523 at 9am on Friday — the outer limit of “good” air is 50.
PM 2.5 is about 30 times finer than a human hair. The particles can be inhaled deep into the lungs, causing heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and respiratory diseases.
The air has remained consistently in the “hazardous” category or beyond those levels, despite a litany of government measures: ordering a halt to all construction activities, restricting vehicular movement and raising parking charges four times to push residents to use public transport.

Commercial trucks are now banned from the city unless they are transporting essential commodities and the Delhi transport department said it re-introduced an “odd-even” scheme under which cars with license plates ending in an odd number are allowed one day and even-numbered cars the next day.
The scheme was introduced in the Chinese capital a decade ago to fight traffic and pollution with mixed success.
The Delhi high court issued an order on Thursday suggesting the city’s government consider “cloud seeding” to induce rainfall artificially, a practice also used in Beijing.
Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi, said sprinkling water will help, but it won’t solve everything.
“Each and every dust control measure has to be put in place to ensure that air quality improves as soon as possible,” she said.
Satyendra Kumar Jain, New Delhi’s health minister, said laborers living in urban slums or beneath road fly-overs were suffering the most. Government hospitals in the city, Jain said, were treating thousands of patients with respiratory ailments.
“The only solution left is that we start spraying water right at the street level, especially along heavy traffic roads,” Jain said.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of Delhi, called the capital a “gas chamber” earlier this week as his government sought urgent meetings with the federal government and neighboring states to find solutions.
Affluent residents and large private companies have been placing bulk orders for air purifiers and filtration masks.
“I have installed six air purifiers in my home, closed all the windows, but my eyes are still watering,” said Ranveer Singhal, a commodity trader living in leafy neighborhood of the city.
According to a 2016 World Bank report, nearly 1.4 million people died in India due to air pollution in 2013, causing an economic loss worth 7.7 percent of the nation’s GDP.
Organizers of music festivals and open air parties are now canceling events after the Central Pollution Control Board said air quality could deteriorate further during the weekend.
Pronab Sarkar, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, said air pollution had also hit tourism.
“Many tourists are canceling their bookings for Christmas holiday,” he said.


Suspects in Palestinian killing still in Malaysia, say police

Updated 26 April 2018
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Suspects in Palestinian killing still in Malaysia, say police

  • The suspects gunned down Palestinian engineering lecturer Fadi Al-Batsh outside his apartment building in Kuala Lumpur on April 21
  • Family and friends of Al-Batsh believe Israel’s Mossad spy agency was behind the assassination

KUALA LUMPUR: Two men suspected of gunning down a Palestinian lecturer in Kuala Lumpur are still in the country, police said on Wednesday, as they released a fresh image of one of the men.

Two men on a high-powered motorcycle fired at least 14 shots at Fadi Al-Batsh, an engineering lecturer, outside his apartment building on Saturday, killing him on the spot.

A Kawasaki motorcycle was found abandoned near a lake about nine minutes from the scene, from which police were able to trace a photo of one of the suspects, said Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun.

The suspects were believed to have entered Malaysia in late January, but their nationalities and where they had traveled from, remain unknown, said Mohamad Fuzi.

“We believe the suspects are still in the country,” he said.

“We have yet to identify them, but we suspect that they used fake identification either when entering the country or when they were here.”

Authorities had originally released computer-generated photographs of the suspects, who witnesses described as well-built and light-skinned, possibly Middle Eastern or European.

A new photo of one of the suspects shows a light-skinned man with dark, wavy hair and a prominent goatee.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Saturday the suspects were believed to be Europeans with links to a foreign intelligence agency.

Body taken to Egypt

The body of the assassinated Palestinian scientist was on Wednesday driven through the Malaysian capital accompanied by a crowd shouting “God is greatest,” as mourners accused Israel of killing him.

Al-Batsh’s corpse was set to be flown to Egypt later in the day before being transported on to Gaza for burial.

Family and friends of the 35-year-old have accused Israel’s Mossad spy agency of carrying out the killing but the Jewish state has denied the claims.

Hundreds of mourners marched through the capital under Palestinian flags accompanying a van holding the body, as they carried placards showing the victim’s face.

The remains were taken to a mosque, where prayers for the dead were performed before about 500 mourners.

“Every Palestinian who has heard of this assassination is saddened and shocked,” Muslim Imran, chairman of the Palestinian Cultural Organization of Malaysia, told the crowd.

“This crime, I believe, is another reflection of the nature of the Israeli occupation. They carry out crimes, massacres, not only in Palestine but also in the rest of the world.”

Earlier Wednesday police said they believed the two suspects accused of carrying out the hit were still in the country, and released a photograph of one of them.

It showed a man with wavy black hair, glasses and a goatee beard. Police previously released two computer-generated images of the suspects, showing two light-skinned men with beards.

Mossad is believed to have assassinated Palestinian militants and scientists in the past, but rarely confirms such operations.

Batsh’s expertise in making weapons could have made him a target — militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza regularly fire rockets at southern Israel, usually without causing casualties.

But Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has denied claims of the Jewish state’s involvement, suggesting instead that it was a “settling of accounts” between factions of a terror group.