China’s pollution readings rise 5 percent in January to February

The government has previously blamed unfavorable weather conditions for the poor air quality over the period. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 March 2019
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China’s pollution readings rise 5 percent in January to February

  • China forced smog-prone northern cities to implement special emissions restrictions from October 2018 to March 2019
  • The ministry has promised to crack down on regions that fail to meet targets

SHANGHAI: China’s average concentrations of lung-damaging particles known as PM2.5 rose by 5.2 percent in the first two months of the year, the environment ministry said on Thursday, casting doubt over the country’s ability to meet winter targets.
The nation’s average PM2.5 readings came in at 61 micrograms per cubic meter for January and February, according to a Ministry of Ecology and Environment survey of 337 cities, with only 83 reaching the national standard of 35 micrograms.
Levels of PM2.5 at 28 cities in the key pollution control region of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei soared 24 percent over the two-month period from the same time a year ago to an average of 108 micrograms, more than 10 times 10 micrograms recommended as safe by the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, PM2.5 levels in the 11 cities of the Fenwei Plain, another major smog control zone, surged by 26.6 percent over the period, hitting an average of 119 micrograms.
China forced smog-prone northern cities to implement special emissions restrictions from October 2018 to March 2019 in order to offset rising levels of coal combustion from state heating systems during the winter.
But Reuters calculations based on official data showed that PM2.5 readings in the 39 key northern cities still rose 13 percent over the October-February period.
The 39 cities are under pressure to make year-on-year PM2.5 cuts of around 3 percent from October to March, but Reuters calculations show that only three — Changzhi and Luliang in Shanxi province, and Jining in Shandong — were on course to meet their targets at the end of last month.
The government has previously blamed unfavorable weather conditions for the poor air quality over the period, saying that “a weak El Nino effect” and a subsequent increase in temperature and humidity has made it harder to disperse emissions.
The ministry has promised to crack down on regions that fail to meet targets, regardless of weather conditions, but it remains unclear what punishments they will face.
The provinces of Hebei and Shanxi, where eight of China’s smoggiest cities were located in 2018, have established a “punishment and reward system” in which the worst-performing districts pay fines to regions that have performed the best.
On Wednesday, Hebei published a list of 14 districts that failed to meet 2018 targets, including major industrial zones in Tangshan, China’s biggest steel-producing city.
Communist Party bosses from each of the 14 districts were summoned to the provincial environmental protection bureau to receive public criticism, the provincial government said in a notice.


Indian minister steps up calls to deport illegal immigrants

Updated 37 min 37 sec ago
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Indian minister steps up calls to deport illegal immigrants

  • National Register of Citizenship will be extended across country, says Amit Shah

NEW DELHI: New Delhi will deport all illegal immigrants found in the country, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament on Wednesday.

The warning signaled a heightening of a campaign that some critics say is “aimed at alienating the Muslim minority.”

The minister’s statement comes as the state of Assam is set to release its final list of the National Register of Citizenship (NRC), an exercise to identify illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. The Supreme Court demanded that the NRC should submit its report at the end of this month.

Of the state’s 31 million residents, almost 4 million were missing from the NRC’s report last year. Most were poor Muslims. Illegal immigration was a core election issue for the ruling right-wing party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)

“The government will identify illegal immigrants living in every inch of the country’s soil and will deport them in line with international law,” said Shah.

He added that the NRC would be extended across the country. 

Shah, a Hindu hard-liner and the second most powerful figure in the Narendra Modi government, has been belligerently opposed to illegal Muslim immigrants, who he recently described as “termites.”

Critics have questioned the need for the NRC throughout the country.

The BJP does not want to clarify what it truly means because that is part of their politics, but the opposition leaders are also silent.

Hilal Ahmad, Academic

“This is a witch hunt of the minority under the false concern of illegal immigration,” said SubHajjit Naskar of Jadavpur University.

“The way the NRC is being implemented in Assam is damaging for our secular and democratic values.”

Naskar told Arab News: “The register is part of the broader majoritarian agenda to make India a Hindu state where minority Muslims will be treated as second class citizens.” 

Dr. Hilal Ahmad, associate professor at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies, said: “The substantial part of Shah’s statement is that NRC is not entirely about Muslims. It also claims that it’s an institutional process with legal support and it’s not at all concerned with Muslims.”

Ahmad added: “The BJP does not want to clarify what it truly means because that is part of their politics, but the opposition leaders are also silent. They are also trying to consolidate the impression that the NRC is anti-Muslim.”

Suhas Chakma, director of the Rights and Risks Analysis Group, said that “Shah’s plans are not practical.”

“How you are going to identify illegal migrants? Have you spoken to Bangladesh about the deportation? What the BJP government is trying to do is not implementable. It is a recipe for chaos,” said Chakma.

Sabber Ahmad, from the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative, a New Delhi-based group serving the persecuted minority community from Myanmar, said the “Indian government’s stance on illegal migrants creates panic among the small Rohingya community living here.”

“I fled Myanmar in 2012 and India gave me a new lease of life. New Dehli should show some humanity in dealing with people like us,” Ahmad told Arab News.

“India has a history of sheltering persecuted minorities from around the world. They must continue this proud tradition,” Ahmad added.