Delhi bans trucks as world’s most polluted major city chokes

Delhi was among 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of the 20 most polluted cities across the globe this year. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Delhi bans trucks as world’s most polluted major city chokes

  • The restriction on the nearly 40,000 medium and heavy lorries that enter Delhi every day was imposed late Thursday
  • Delhi was among 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of the 20 most polluted cities across the globe this year
NEW DELHI: Delhi authorities have imposed a three-day ban on trucks entering the world’s most polluted major city as its 20 million inhabitants wheezed in the toxic annual winter smog.
With levels of air pollution classed as “hazardous,” the restriction on the nearly 40,000 medium and heavy lorries that enter Delhi every day was imposed late Thursday.
The transport ministry said that vehicles carrying food and other essentials were exempted, while appealing to private owners of diesel sports utility vehicles (SUVs) to leave their cars at home.
Delhi’s air quality typically worsens in winter, as clouds of smoke from farmers’ fires billow into the city and mix with industrial and traffic emissions to form a noxious cocktail.
On Wednesday night Delhites largely defied a court order and set off an immense barrage of smoke-spewing firecrackers to celebrate the major Hindu festival of Diwali, sending pollution levels soaring.
On Friday, levels of particulates 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, the most harmful to human health, peaked at 845, according to the US embassy website that monitors air quality independently.
The “hazardous” figure is roughly 33 times the World Health Organization safe limit of 25 and health experts advise people to stay indoors or use masks for protection.
Vehicles on Delhi roads generate roughly 20 percent of these tiny particles in air, which can be absorbed into the bloodstream and which are linked to chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease.
Authorities in the previous years have rationed private car use and imposed shutdowns on industrial units and coal-run power plants, as well as taxes on lorries to discourage them from using Delhi as a transit route.
Delhi was among 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of the 20 most polluted cities across the globe this year issued by the WHO.


Burundi schoolgirls jailed for doodling on president’s photo

Updated 8 min 30 sec ago
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Burundi schoolgirls jailed for doodling on president’s photo

  • Judges said the three girls should be ‘prosecuted for contempt of the head of state’
  • The girls are accused of defacing photographs of Nkurunziza in five textbooks belonging to their school

NAIROBI: Three teenage schoolgirls in Burundi have been sent to prison to await trial for scribbling on a picture of President Pierre Nkurunziza in textbooks, activists said Thursday.
The girls, aged 15, 16 and 17, face up to five years in prison for insulting the head of state if found guilty.
Judges said the three girls should be “prosecuted for contempt of the head of state,” and ordered them to a juvenile section of a prison in the north of Burundi at Ngozi to await trial, said FENADEB, a civil society umbrella group of 48 organizations.
The trio has been in custody since March 12, when they were arrested with three other schoolgirls and a 13-year old boy. The boy was released immediately because he was below the age of criminal responsibility, while the three girls were released without charge.
The girls are accused of defacing photographs of Nkurunziza in five textbooks belonging to their school, but teachers pointed out that the books are shared among all the pupils as there are not enough for everyone to have their own.
A judicial source, who called the case “very sensitive” and said it was overseen directly by the Attorney General, reported that the girls arrived at the prison on Wednesday afternoon.
It was not clear when they might face trial, but the father of one of the girls said they were already “too scared to eat,” according to Lewis Mudge, from Human Rights Watch (HRW).
In 2016, several schoolchildren were handed prison sentences for similar scribbles on the president’s face, and hundreds of pupils expelled, sparking an international outcry.
Burundi has been in turmoil since Nkurunziza in April 2015 sought a fiercely-contested third term in office.
The violence has claimed at least 1,200 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people between April 2015 and May 2017, according to estimates by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has opened an investigation.
“With so many real crimes being committed in Burundi, it’s tragic that children are the ones being prosecuted for harmless scribbles,” HRW’s Mudge added.
“Authorities should focus on holding perpetrators of serious rights violations to account instead of jailing schoolchildren for doodles.”