Indian capital Delhi gasps under choking smog

The reading for Delhi pollutants in the atmosphere hit 810 micrograms per cubic meter in Delhi on Sunday morning. (AFP)
Updated 03 November 2019

Indian capital Delhi gasps under choking smog

  • Every winter, the megacity of 20 million people is blanketed by a poisonous smog
  • The reading for pollutants in the atmosphere hit 810 micrograms per cubic meter Sunday morning

NEW DELHI: India’s capital New Delhi was enveloped in heavy, toxic smog Sunday — the worst levels in recent years — with flights diverted or delayed as politicians blamed each other for failing to tackle the crisis.
Every winter, the megacity of 20 million people is blanketed by a poisonous smog of car fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from stubble burning at farms in neighboring states.
Concentrations of particles measuring less than 2.5 microns hit the highest level of this season, exacerbated by light rains late Saturday, India’s state-run System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) said.
The reading for pollutants in the atmosphere hit 810 micrograms per cubic meter Sunday morning, beyond the “hazardous” zone according to the US embassy in Delhi, which independently monitors pollution levels.
The recommended World Health Organization safe daily maximum is 25.
“Pollution has reached unbearable levels,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted Sunday.
Visibility was so poor that major carriers Air India and Vistara said Sunday flights were being delayed or diverted to and from Delhi’s airports.
Some cricket players and coaches have also been training in masks ahead of the Twenty20 international between Bangladesh and India later Sunday.
“It’s actually scary — you can’t see things in front of you,” protester Jaivipra said at a rally in Delhi on Sunday calling for politicians to do more to curb pollution.
Nurses at the demonstration said they were seeing more people suffering from respiratory problems.
“Patients are coming with more lung and respiratory diseases, like more (are) affected with asthma,” Reshma C.M. said.
The conditions sparked a blame game between state and federal politicians over who was responsible for the conditions, which authorities said Friday reached “emergency” levels.
In a tweet last week, Kejriwal called on the state governments of neighboring Punjab and Haryana to take action.
“Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighboring states,” he tweeted.
Federal Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar accused Kejriwal of politicizing the issue and presenting the two states “in a bad light and as villains.”
Schools in Delhi have already been ordered closed until Tuesday, and construction halted From Monday there will be an odd/even car license plate scheme to cut traffic.
Global non-profit Vital Strategies’ senior vice president for environmental health, Daniel Kass, said while temporary curbs were helpful, they had limited impact over time.
“They are insufficient to address the most important aspect of air pollution, which is what people live with day-to-day,” Kass said.
He said a range of measures needed to be imposed at local and national levels for air quality to improve.
Apart from changing agricultural practices, he said the measures should include more public transport investment, emission controls on two-wheelers, switching electricity generation sources, and accelerating the conversion of home-heating from charcoal to natural gas.
Last year, a UN report found 14 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities were in India, with one US study saying it kills a million people prematurely every year.


Player, spectators stabbed in Sydney rugby league violence

Updated 23 min 16 sec ago

Player, spectators stabbed in Sydney rugby league violence

SYDNEY: One man has been charged and another remains under police guard in a hospital after a low-tier rugby league game in Sydney ended with one player allegedly stabbed another competitor and two spectators.
Australian Associated Press reported Monday that New South Wales state police had arrested and charged a 20-year-old man with affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The man was due to face court Monday.
Police and emergency services were called to Old Saleyards Reserve in North Parramatta on Sunday following reports of an assault after an under-20s community game between Wentworthville Magpies and Penrith Brothers.
A 19-year-old player and two spectators, aged 16 and 22, were injured during the incident and the injured men remain in Westmead Hospital.
New South Wales Rugby League chief executive David Trodden described the incident as “sickening criminal behavior.”
“Everyone who enjoys community sport at the weekend should expect to be able to do in a safe environment and it is nothing short of appalling that an incident like this has taken place in an area adjacent to where one of our matches was being conducted,” Trodden said in a statement.
NSW Ambulance Inspector Nathan Sheraton said paramedics provided life-saving treatment.
“When we arrived at the scene it was very alarming — these were brutal attacks,” he said in a statement.
Both teams have been stood from the competition down pending the police investigation.