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
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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.


Knox accuses media of having built false story around her

Updated 1 min 46 sec ago
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Knox accuses media of having built false story around her

  • Knox said she came back to Italy despite the fact that she was afraid of being “molested, derided, framed, that new accusations will be directed against me for telling my truth”
ROME: Taking the stage Saturday at an Italian conference on justice, Amanda Knox accused the media of having built a false narrative around her during her yearslong murder trial and appeals process, depicting her as guilty even though she was eventually acquitted.
The former exchange student from the United States who became the focus of a sensational murder case returned to Italy this week for the first time since an appeals court acquitted her in 2011 in the slaying of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher.
Knox, speaking in Italian on a panel discussion at the Criminal Justice Festival in Modena titled “Trial by media,” said she was depicted “on the global scene as cunning, psychopath, drug-addicted, whore. Guilty.”
Speaking through tears, she said the media that labelled her “Foxy Knoxy” invented a “false and baseless story, which fueled people’s fantasies and talked to their fears.”
Knox’s 2011 acquittal was part of a long legal process that saw multiple flip-flop rulings before she was definitively acquitted in 2015 by Italy’s highest court.
Knox said she came back to Italy despite the fact that she was afraid of being “molested, derided, framed, that new accusations will be directed against me for telling my truth.”
She also criticized Italian prosecutors, who described a scenario made up of “orgies and sex toys” during her first trial, even though that version of the story was toned down in the appeal.
Knox acknowledged that despite her final acquittal “I remain a controversial figure in the public opinion, especially here in Italy.”
She had been accused with her Italian boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito, and Ivorian-born Rudy Guede of killing Kercher on Nov. 1, 2007, in the university town of Perugia. After multiple rulings, Italy’s highest court definitively acquitted Knox and Sollecito in 2015. Guede is still serving a 16-year sentence.
During her speech, which was followed by a standing ovation, Knox recalled Perugia prosecutor Giuliano Mignini as the one who accused her in his search for justice.
“One day I’d like to meet the real Mignini, and I hope that when he comes, he will also see that I am not a monster, I simply am Amanda,” Knox said.
On Friday, the lawyer for Kercher’s family described Knox’s invitation to speak at the Criminal Justice Festival as “inappropriate.”
“Inviting her to a technical panel on justice was a mistake,” Francesco Maresca told The Associated Press, adding that “lawyers for both parts should have been involved.”