Air pollution cuts life expectancy by more than two years — study

A worker burns stubble after harvesting pulse crop in a field at Hoshangabad district of India's Madhya Pradesh state on June 12, 2022. (AFP)
A worker burns stubble after harvesting pulse crop in a field at Hoshangabad district of India's Madhya Pradesh state on June 12, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2022

Air pollution cuts life expectancy by more than two years — study

A worker burns stubble after harvesting pulse crop in a field at Hoshangabad district of India's Madhya Pradesh state.
  • Residents of South Asia lose an estimated five years of life as a result of smog, the study said, with India accounting for around 44 percent of the world’s increase in air pollution since 2013
  • Not a single country managed to meet the WHO’s 5-microgram standard in 2021, according to a survey of pollution data published earlier this year

SHANGHAI: Chronic air pollution cuts average global life expectancy by more than two years per person, a study published on Tuesday showed, an impact comparable to that of smoking and far worse than HIV/AIDS or terrorism.
More than 97 percent of the global population lives in areas where air pollution exceeds recommended levels, the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute (EPIC) said in its latest Air Quality Life Index, which used satellite data to measure levels of PM2.5, hazardous floating particles that damage the lungs.




Trash piles up in the heavily polluted Litani River, in Saghbin, Bekaa valley, eastern Lebanon. (AP)

It said that if global PM2.5 levels were reduced to the five micrograms per cubic meter recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), average life expectancy would rise by an average of 2.2 years.

HIGHLIGHTS

• 97% of world lives in areas where pollution exceeds safe levels

• South Asians lose 5 years of life due to smog

• No country met WHO's air-quality standard in 2021

Air pollution has been neglected as a public health issue, with funding to address the problem still inadequate, the study warned.
“Now that our understanding of pollution’s impact has improved, there’s a stronger case for governments to prioritize it as an urgent policy issue,” said Christa Hasenkopf, director of EPIC’s Air Quality Life Index.




Smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant in Hejin in central China's Shanxi Province. (AP)

Residents of South Asia lose an estimated five years of life as a result of smog, the study said, with India accounting for around 44 percent of the world’s increase in air pollution since 2013.
Residents of China could live an average of 2.6 years longer if WHO standards were reached, though life expectancy has improved by around two years since 2013, when the country began a “war on pollution” that cut PM2.5 by around 40 percent.
EPIC’s calculations were based on a previous study showing that sustained exposure to an additional 10 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 would reduce life expectancy by nearly a year.
Not a single country managed to meet the WHO’s 5-microgram standard in 2021, according to a survey of pollution data published earlier this year.


After 5 years in no man’s land, last group of Rohingya enters Bangladesh

After 5 years in no man’s land, last group of Rohingya enters Bangladesh
Updated 12 min 29 sec ago

After 5 years in no man’s land, last group of Rohingya enters Bangladesh

After 5 years in no man’s land, last group of Rohingya enters Bangladesh
  • When hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Myanmar in 2017, some remained on border with Bangladesh
  • Recent clashes in the area raised security concerns, with Bangladeshi authorities moving to register about 4,000 refugees

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities on Saturday began registering thousands of Rohingya refugees who entered the country after spending the past five years in no man’s land.

Although Bangladesh is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it has hosted and provided humanitarian support to 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims, most of whom fled neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017.

A majority of the refugees live in squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar district, a coastal region in the country’s southeast and the world’s largest refugee settlement. But one group settled in no man’s land near the hilly Bandarban district neighboring Myanmar.

After fleeing their country of origin, more than 4,000 members of the group remained in the area, hoping that they would be able to return home. But as the situation in Myanmar failed to improve and Bangladesh in 2019 decided to stop receiving more Rohingyas, they were trapped, living in makeshift tents they raised in the unowned territory.

Earlier this month, most of the shelters were burnt down during armed clashes that triggered security concerns and a decision by Bangladeshi authorities to register the group’s members.

“Our committee has started the verification process for these people who sheltered at the Naikhyangchari border area,” Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mizanur Rahman told Arab News.

The committee comprises representatives of the RRRC, police, intelligence and the Bandarban district administration, who are verifying the identity of the group’s members amid a rise in cross-border crime and drug trafficking.

“We have to identify if there are any criminals or people wanted by law enforcement agencies,” Rahman said.

“Nothing is decided yet about the relocation or shelter of these people. But it’s for sure, there will be no more new camps for these people at their current location. They should be relocated to some other places. But the place is yet to be decided.”

According to Asif Munir, a migration expert and former official of the International Organization for Migration, the Rohingya are most likely to be relocated to Cox’s Bazar or to Bhasan Char — an island in the Bay of Bengal, where Bangladesh has moved 30,000 refugees since December 2020 to take pressure from other, already overcrowded camps.

“It is unprecedented in the world that hundreds of people have been living in no man’s land for more than five years ... these Rohingya were the last batch when the Rohingya exodus began in 2017. They have been living close to the Myanmar border.

“Since they entered Bangladesh territory, considering humanitarian grounds, there is no other option except sheltering them here,” Munir told Arab News.

“Since we have noticed several incidents of clashes between armed groups in the border area in recent times, it would endanger the lives of these people.”


Space startups revolutionize India’s rocket science

Space startups revolutionize India’s rocket science
Updated 9 sec ago

Space startups revolutionize India’s rocket science

Space startups revolutionize India’s rocket science
  • India’s space industry opened the door for private players with a regulatory overhaul in 2020
  • First Indian rocket built by a private company reached outer space in November 2022

NEW DELHI: When the Vikram-S rocket was launched in November, it set a new milestone in India’s space industry — a success for the private players who recently entered a domain that for decades belonged only to the state.

The privately built rocket took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota and reached an apogee of 89.5 km, making its owners, Skyroot Aerospace, the first private Indian company to reach outer space.  

“Beyond the symbolic value of being the first, we are happy to be among the early movers in the private space start-up ecosystem which has started to demonstrate its potential,” Pawan Kumar Chandana, co-founder of the Hyderabad-based startup, told Arab News.

India opened the door to private companies in the space industry in 2020, with a regulatory overhaul and the formation of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center — a single-window autonomous agency under the government’s Department of Space. Before that, the state-owned Indian Space Research Organization was the sole arbiter of the country’s space programs. 

“Our successful launch has confirmed the domain expertise and leadership capabilities of the Indian space sector,” Chandana said. “We now focus on developing our flagship Vikram I orbital vehicle that we (will) launch in 2023.”

Skyroot Aerospace was founded by Chandana and his partner Bharath Daka in 2018. Both of them spent years working at ISRO. Chandana specializes in the mechanical aspects of rockets, and Daka in avionics — aerospace electronics.  

Skyroot is one of several private companies to have arrived on the scene since the industry opened up. When the Indian Space Association launched in December 2020, it had just five members, but, the association’s director general Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Anil Kumar Bhatt told Arab News, that number has already increased tenfold.
“The private space players’ ecosystem is growing in India ... many new start-ups are coming up,” he said.

India has been in the global space market since the 1960s, but its current share is only 2 percent, worth an estimated $9.6 billion in 2020. The country’s target is to reach $12.8 billion by 2025.

There are currently slightly more than 100 private startups in the Indian space sector and Bhatt estimates that they have, since 2020, received about $240 million from venture capitalists.

Bhatt is confident that India’s presence in the global space sector will increase greatly in the near future.

“Competition will make space exploration cheaper. Disruptive technology introduced by the private players has reduced the cost of launch by nearly one-fifth,” Bhatt said. “In 10 years, we expect (India’s share of the global space market) to reach around 10 percent.”

Dhruva Space, another successful Indian startup from Hyderabad, develops satellite platform structures and subsystems. Its CEO, Sanjay Nekkanti, welcomes the government’s support for the space industry.

“The current government has been very forthcoming in bringing about an interesting revolution where private players experience a level playing field in trying to support not just local requirements but also global requirements too,” he told Arab News.

Dhruva Space launched two radio communication nanosatellites in November, and is readying to launch satellites of up to 40 kg this year.

“As India awaits the Space Act, we will see a tremendous increase in the demand for satellites in the coming years, fueling growth for satellite-enabled services,” Nekkanti said.

“The potential for innovative space applications is immense, especially if established aerospace companies form partnerships with businesses that traditionally haven’t ventured into orbit — for example, pharmaceutical or agricultural companies. Satellites already play a vital role in the communications of everyone’s daily lives, so the imminent growth will enhance this role.”


Moscow says 14 killed in Ukraine strike on eastern hospital

Moscow says 14 killed in Ukraine strike on eastern hospital
Updated 28 January 2023

Moscow says 14 killed in Ukraine strike on eastern hospital

Moscow says 14 killed in Ukraine strike on eastern hospital
  • "The Ukrainian armed forces deliberately attacked the building of a district hospital”, said Russia’s defense ministry in a statement

MOSCOW: Russia’s defense ministry on Saturday accused the Ukrainian army of striking a hospital in the eastern Lugansk region, leaving 14 dead and injuring 24 others.
On Saturday morning in the town of Novoaidar, “the Ukrainian armed forces deliberately attacked the building of a district hospital” with a US-made HIMARS multiple-launch rocket system, the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry added that 14 were killed and 24 wounded among the “hospital patients and medical staff.”
It said that the hospital has been providing “necessary medical assistance to the local population and military personnel for many months.”
“A deliberate missile strike on a known active civilian medical facility is, without doubt, a grave war crime by the Kyiv regime,” the ministry said.


Two Indian military jets crash, one injured pilot found: police

Two Indian military jets crash, one injured pilot found: police
Updated 28 January 2023

Two Indian military jets crash, one injured pilot found: police

Two Indian military jets crash, one injured pilot found: police

NEW DELHI: Two Indian Air Force fighter jets crashed Saturday in an apparent mid-air collision while on exercises around 300 kilometers (185 miles) south of the capital New Delhi, police at the crash site told AFP.
Both aircraft had taken off in the morning from the Gwailor air base, around 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of where they came down.
“We have located the wreckage of one of the planes and found an injured pilot in the Pahadgarh forests,” officer Dharmender Gaur told AFP from the scene of the crash.
“The other plane has likely fallen further away from the site and we have sent teams to locate it.”
The air force was investigating whether the planes had collided in mid-air, local broadsheet the Hindustan Times reported.
The Su-30 was carrying two pilots and the Mirage jet had one on takeoff, according to the report.
“I have instructed the local administration to cooperate with the air force in quick rescue and relief work,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted.
“I pray to god that the pilots of the planes are safe.”
The crash is the latest in a string of aviation accidents involving India’s military air fleet.
Five army soldiers were killed last October when their helicopter crashed in Arunachal Pradesh state, near the country’s militarised and disputed border with China.
It was the second military chopper crash in the state that month, coming weeks after a Cheetah helicopter came down near the town of Tawang, killing its pilot.
India’s defense chief, General Bipin Rawat, was among 13 people killed when his Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter crashed while transporting him to an air force base in December 2021.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is grappling with the urgent task of overhauling India’s outdated armed forces.
Its military establishment is fretting over a growing assertiveness by China along its vast Himalayan frontier, which in 2019 sparked a lingering diplomatic freeze after a deadly high-altitude confrontation between troops of both countries.
India unveiled its first locally built aircraft carrier last year as part of government efforts to build an indigenous defense industry and reduce reliance on Russia, historically its most important arms supplier.
An effort to reform military recruitment to trim down India’s bloated defense payroll stalled last year after a backlash from aspiring soldiers, who burned train carriages and clashed with police in fierce protests.

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Senior US general warns of possible looming war with China

Senior US general warns of possible looming war with China
Updated 28 January 2023

Senior US general warns of possible looming war with China

Senior US general warns of possible looming war with China
  • “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” says US Air Mobility Command chief
  • Says Taiwan’s presidential elections next year would offer China an excuse for military aggression

WASHINGTON: A four-star US Air Force general has warned of a conflict with China as early as 2025 — most likely over Taiwan — and urged his commanders to push their units to achieve maximum operational battle readiness this year.
In an internal memorandum that first emerged on social media on Friday, and was later confirmed as genuine by the Pentagon, the head of the Air Mobility Command, General Mike Minihan, said the main goal should be to deter “and, if required, defeat” China.
“I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” Minihan said.
Laying out his reasoning, Minihan said Taiwan’s presidential elections next year would offer Chinese President Xi Jinping an excuse for military aggression, while the United States would be distracted by its own contest for the White House.
“Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025,” he added.
The memorandum also calls on all Mobile Command personnel to go to the firing range, “fire a clip” into a target and “aim for the head.”
A Pentagon spokesperson responded to an AFP email query about the memo saying, “Yes, it’s factual that he sent that out.”
Senior US officials have said in recent months that China appears to be speeding up its timeframe to seize control of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy claimed by Beijing.
China staged major military exercises in August last year, seen as a trial run for an invasion after a defiant visit of solidarity to Taipei by then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who at the time was second in line to the White House.
The United States switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but sells weapons to Taiwan for its self-defense.
A growing number of US lawmakers have called for ramping up assistance, including sending direct military aid to Taiwan, saying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscores the need for early preparation.