India launches new bid to battle dirty air

Toxic air was responsible for 1.24 million premature deaths in India in 2017 according to a study published last year in Lancet Planetary Health. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019
0

India launches new bid to battle dirty air

  • Environmental groups autiously welcomed the announcement
  • ‘The plan was long overdue and is a great step forward but we need to have clarity on targets and accountability’

NEW DELHI: India has launched a new campaign to improve air quality in more than 100 of its pollution-stricken cities, although an environment group said it lacked detail and the legal backing to ensure it is enforced.
Air quality in the country of more than 1.25 billion people has deteriorated to critical levels in recent years, with the capital New Delhi and 13 other Indian cities in the top 15 of a UN list of the world’s most polluted cities.
Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said late Thursday the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) will cover 102 cities and aim to cut levels of the most dangerous particles under 10 microns in diameter by 20 to 30 percent by 2024.
The particles are blamed for growing numbers of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease in Indian cities.
The government has allotted three billion rupees ($42 million) to implement the plan which aims to plug the main pollution sources — industrial and traffic emissions, the mass burning of agricultural waste and construction — without setting out how this will be done.
Vardhan said only that the NCAP would carry out “comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.”
Environmental groups, who have long accused the government of dragging its feet in the battle against pollution, cautiously welcomed the announcement.
“The plan was long overdue and is a great step forward but we need to have clarity on targets and accountability,” Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner for Greenpeace India, said.
“We hoped it would be much stronger in providing sector wise targets, specific targets for cities and mention strong legal backing to take action for non-implementation.”
The initiative will also increase pollution monitoring and raise public awareness of the dangers.
India only has around 40 real-time pollution monitoring stations across the country, leaving huge blank spots where the population is unaware of any potential air pollution.
Toxic air was responsible for 1.24 million premature deaths in India in 2017 according to a study published last year in Lancet Planetary Health, which also said tens of millions of people face serious heath risks.
Delhi’s 20 million inhabitants suffer an annual blanket of poisonous smog in winter months when farmers in neighboring regions burn rice and wheat stubble.


One third of UN workers say sexually harassed in past two years

Updated 32 min 40 sec ago
0

One third of UN workers say sexually harassed in past two years

  • The online survey was completed by 30,364 people from the United Nations and its agencies
  • More than half of those experienced sexual harassment said it happened in an office environment

UNITED NATIONS: One third of UN staff and contractors experienced sexual harassment in the past two years, according to a report released by the United Nations on Tuesday.
The online survey, carried out by Deloitte in November, was completed by 30,364 people from the United Nations and its agencies — just 17 percent of those eligible. In a letter to staff, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the response rate as “moderately low.”
“This tells me two things: first — that we still have a long way to go before we are able to fully and openly discuss sexual harassment; and second — that there may also be an ongoing sense of mistrust, perceptions of inaction and lack of accountability,” he wrote.
The survey comes amid the wider “Me Too” movement around the world against sexual harassment and assault.
According to the report, 21.7 percent of respondents said they were subjected to sexual stories or offensive jokes, 14.2 percent received offensive remarks about their appearance, body or sexual activities and 13 percent were targeted by unwelcome attempts to draw them into a discussion on sexual matters.
Some 10.9 percent said they were subjected to gestures or use of body language of a sexual nature, which embarrassed or offended them, and 10.1 percent were touched in way that made them feel uncomfortable.
More than half of those experienced sexual harassment said it happened in an office environment, while 17.1 percent said it happened at a work-related social event. Two out of three harassers were male, according to the survey.
Only one in three people said they took action after experiencing sexual harassment.
Guterres said the report contained “some sobering statistics and evidence of what needs to change to make a harassment-free workplace real for all of us.”
“As an organization founded on equality, dignity and human rights, we must lead by example and set the standard,” he said.
The United Nations has tried to increase transparency and strengthen how it deals with such accusations over the past few years after a string of sexual exploitation and abuse accusations against UN peacekeepers in Africa.
The head of the UN agency for HIV and AIDS is also stepping down in June, six months before his term ends, after an independent panel said that his “defective leadership” tolerated “a culture of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, and abuse of power.”