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.


Taliban kill 30 policemen in west Afghan province

Updated 1 min 58 sec ago
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Taliban kill 30 policemen in west Afghan province

  • It is the latest in a series of brutal and near-daily Taliban assaults on the military and police forces
  • The attacks have been so relentless that authorities no longer regularly provide casualty figures

KABUL: A blistering overnight attack by the Taliban on an Afghan police outpost in western Farah province killed 30 policemen, Afghan officials said Thursday.
It was the latest in a series of brutal and near-daily Taliban assaults on the military and police forces, government and other installations throughout the country. The resurgent Taliban, who in recent years have taken over nearly half of Afghanistan, did not comment on the attack in Farah.
The attacks have been so relentless that authorities no longer regularly provide casualty figures, but unofficial estimates say that about 45 Afghan policemen or soldiers are killed or wounded on a daily basis.
According to provincial council member Dadullah Qani, the overnight onslaught on the outpost in Farah’s district of Khaki Safed began late on Wednesday and continued for more than four hours.
In Kabul, lawmaker Samiullah Samim told The Associated Press that the Taliban killed all 30 policemen — members of both the national and local police force — who were deployed at the outpost, including the district police commander, Abdul Jabhar.
Retaliatory airstrikes killed 17 Taliban fighters but the insurgents still managed to get away with a large amount of weapons and ammunition, he said.
Meanwhile, fighting with the Taliban in two districts of central Ghazni province has displaced thousands of people in the past two weeks, most of them minority ethnic Hazaras, who are Shiites, said Mohammad Arif Rahmani, a lawmaker from Ghazni.
Also, about 100 Afghan policemen, local pro-government militiamen and soldiers have been killed in the bitter clashes there, Rahmani told the AP. Currently, Afghan security forces are battling insurgents in 22 of the country’s 34 provinces, he added.
Afghanistan’s protracted war has also become increasingly deadly for civilians. A United Nations report issued earlier this year said more civilians died in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when the UN mission first began monitoring civilian casualties.
“Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict in Afghanistan,” said the independent Afghanistan Analysts Network in its own report.
Security forces at outposts throughout the country routinely face shortages of weapons, ammunition and even food supplies, said military analyst Javed Kohistani, blaming government mismanagement.
More senior and experienced generals have been replaced with younger officers whose inexperience is compromising the strength of the security forces.
There are fewer and fewer recruits and in some areas, a battalion which should have 400 to 600 troops barely has 100 to 200 soldiers, he said.
“Nobody is joining the army,” he said.
Afghanistan’s Defense Minister Gen. Tariq Shah Bahrami was grilled by lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday about Taliban onslaughts in Wardak and Ghazni provinces where entire districts are under siege.
Bahrami acknowledged the security forces have a “problem” and said that reinforcements have been sent.