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Public health emergency declared in Delhi due to severe air pollution
by BBC, Down to Earth, agencies
Nov. 2019
Public health emergency declared in Delhi due to severe air pollution
Delhi on November 3, 2019 was shrouded in toxic haze as air pollution levels were completely off the charts. Alarmingly, the level of particulate matter (PM) in the air was at least seven times more than the prescribed World Health Organisation (WHO) standard.
In fact, Delhiites breathed the season’s worst PM2.5 on Sunday morning. These ultrafine particles are capable of entering the respiratory system and reach the bloodstream through human lung and blood tissues.
While overall Air Quality Index (AQI) according to SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) website, under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, was recorded at 625 on Sunday morning, the concentration of harmful pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 were at 648 and 475 microgramme per cubic metre (ug/m3) respectively.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’, and 401-500 ‘severe’. Above 500 is ‘severe-plus or emergency’ category. The prescribed standard for PM10 and PM2.5 is 100 and 60 ug/m3 respectively.
The readings at monitoring stations across the town showed hazardous air quality levels At 11 AM, the real time AQI was 999 at monitoring stations at many places including Bawana, Major Dhyan Chand Stadium, Narela, Alipur, Patparganj, Punjabi Bagh, Mandir Marg, Pusa, Shahdara, Sriniwaspuri, and Anand Vihar.
On the 4 November the Supreme Court held an emergency hearing on Delhi air pollution.
After around 150 hours of severe air pollution crisis in Delhi, the Supreme Court on November 4 conducted an emergency hearing on bringing an ‘immediate solution’ to the crisis. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta heard the matter after the national Capital tuned into a gas chamber the previous day.
Citing the Right to Life as of utmost importance, Justice Mishra expressed displeasure at the Centre and Delhi governments blaming each other. The Court issued a series of directions calling for immediate action; see link below.
31 Oct. 2019
Indo-Gangetic Plain residents live 7 years less than other Indians, new study reveals.
This is because air quality in the region fails to meet the WHO’s guidelines on particulate pollution.
The average life expectancy of those living in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) is seven years shorter than those in other regions in India. Blame the air quality: Particulate pollution in the area was twice as much as in the rest of the country, found an analysis of Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).
Air pollution soared 72 per cent from 1998 to 2016 in these northern plains where 40 per cent of India’s population live. The level didn''t meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline for fine particulate pollution.
In 1998, the impact on people’s lives would have been half of what it is today, with residents losing an average 3.7 years in life expectancy.
The states and Union Territories affected by higher pollution include Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
If 1998 levels of pollution had continued over a lifetime, residents living outside of the IGP region would have lost an average of 1.2 years of life expectancy. Because of a 65 per cent increase in pollution, sustained exposure in 2016 is cutting short life expectancy by 2.6 years, relative to the WHO guideline.
That number is also worsening but is much more modest than what has taken place in the IGP, said the report.
In 2019, India launched its National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The programme, which aims to reduce particulate pollution by 20-30 per cent nationally, will be implemented over the next five years.
If India is successful in meeting its goals under NCAP and sustaining pollution reductions of about 25 per cent, the AQLI shows that such improvements in air quality would extend the life expectancy of the average Indian by 1.3 years. Those in the IGP would gain about two years onto their lives.
* Down to Earth is published by the Centre for Science and Environment in New Delhi.


Hurricane Dorian: Devastation in Northern Bahamas
by IFRC, Reliefweb, agencies
4 Sep 2019
Humanitarian agencies have sent out an urgent call for help for the Bahamas after the northernmost islands in the archipelago were hammered by Hurricane Dorian.
Thousands of residents of Grand Bahama and Abaco islands are without shelter, stranded by flooding and are likely to suffer shortages of food, water and medicine that will worsen without quick action by the international community, according to messages from the United Nations and local officials.
“We are in the midst of a historic tragedy,” said the Bahamian prime minister, Hubert Minnis. “The devastation is unprecedented and extensive.”
The dimensions of the humanitarian disaster began to emerge after the slow-moving storm, which took about 36 hours to cross the Grand Bahama, finally left the country on Tuesday afternoon.
Minnis announced that the death toll had risen to 43, with more deaths expected, and predicted that rebuilding would require “a massive, coordinated effort”.
“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Minnis told a news conference.
The storm hit Abaco island on Sunday as a category 5 hurricane with wind gusts of up to 220mph – making it the strongest Atlantic storm ever to make landfall.
The dramatic consequences were visible from the air over Abaco and Grand Bahama islands on Tuesday. Video footage showed lakes of seawater instead of streets, blasted debris where homes once stood, boats thrown inland like discarded toys. In many areas, life on the islands appeared to have simply been erased.
“It’s total devastation. It looks like a bomb went off,” Lia Head-Rigby, who helps run a local hurricane relief organization, told the Associated Press. “It’s not rebuilding something that was there; we have to start again.”
Emergency access was threatened by flooding at the Freeport international airport, where runways lay under 2 metres of water. The main Freeport hospital was also flooded, and an estimated 70,000 people left homeless.
Flooding drove residents on to roofs, with water lapping over second-story windows.
Marvin Dames, the Bahamas’ minister of national security, said that more casualties were expected. “This was a crisis of epic proportions,” he told reporters. “The reality of it all is, unfortunately, we will see more deaths. I can’t see any way out of it.”
One local radio station said it had received more than 2,000 distress messages, the Associated Press reported.
Red Cross spokesman Matthew Cochrane said 45% of the homes on Grand Bahama and Abaco, were believed to have been destroyed. UN officials said more than 70,000 people on the hard-hit islands will need food, and the Red Cross said over 60,000 people will need clean drinking water.
“What we are hearing lends credence to the fact that this has been a catastrophic storm and a catastrophic impact,” Cochrane said.
Over 1,500 people are registered as missing.
Sep. 2019 (UN News)
Following the “terrible devastation” of parts of the northern Bahamas in the Caribbean caused by Hurricane Dorian, Secretary-General António Guterres has said he “remains deeply concerned” for those thousands impacted by the giant storm.
The UN chief said he was especially concerned “for the tens of thousands of people affected in Grand Bahamas and Abaco. He offerred his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the disaster and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.”
Mr. Guterres said: “People who have lost everything urgently need shelter, safe drinking water, food and medicine”, calling on donors to provide emergency funding for the humanitarian response and recovery efforts, “as soon as the requirements are known.”
Rescuers have now begun to reach the worst hit parts of the archipelago, which consists of around 700 islands stretching across more than 100,000 square miles of ocean, after Dorian made landfall at the weekend as a Category 5 hurricane.
The UN relief chief who heads up the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Mark Lowcock, travelled to the Bahamas on Wednesday to help assess what is needed from the international community. Speaking to reporters from the Bahamas Mr. Lowcock said that the damage was on an “enormous scale” causing “vast devastation” and leaving around 70,000 in need of life-saving aid on the two islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco.
He said access was “still very limited” to the islands for the rescue and humanitarian relief effort, and noted the scale of the disaster was unprecedented, for what is, essentially, a prosperous country.
“It’s very unusual, for 20 per cent of the population of a country to be very severely impacted by a single event like this… The Bahamas has certainly never seen anything on the scale”, he said, adding that the most comparable recent disaster was the near total destruction of the Caribbean island of Dominica, by Hurricane Maria, in 2017.
“It’s true that the numbers of people, given the overall scale of emergencies we deal with around the world is not as big as in some other places, but a disaster of such epic proportions on a single country in a single incident is very very unsual.”
* 14.09.2019: UN Secretary-General António Guterres saw for himself the deadly power of Hurricane Dorian on the shattered islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama on Saturday, describing it as more like a “Category Hell” disaster, than the official Category 5 designation used by meteorologists. Dorian was “Category Hell”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, “We have always had many hurricanes, but now they are more intense, and more frequent, and they are powered by climate change.”
He said it was key for the international community to learn two things from the monster storm which struck on 1 September, killing at least 50 people, while around 1,300 are still reported missing: “We need to stop climate change, we need to make sure that we reverse the present trend when climate change is running faster than we are, and second, that countries like The Bahamas that do not contribute to climate change - but are in the first line of the devastating impacts of climate change - deserve international support, to be able to fully respond to the humanitarian emergency, but also for the reconstruction and the building resilience of the communities on the islands.”
He said that the destruction he had witnessed was “a demonstration of how dramatic natural disasters are becoming, increasing in intensity and in frequency.. It is clear that this acceleration is very much linked to human activity, triggering climate change''.
Sep. 2019
Hurricane Dorian crystallizes existential threat posed to small island developing states by climate emergency says UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, has expressed her condolences to the people of The Bahamas following the reported loss of life as a result of Hurricane Dorian, an unprecedented storm which battered the Bahamas.
In a statement Ms. Mizutori said: “This is the fourth consecutive year that we have witnessed an extremely devastating Atlantic Hurricane Season including Category Five hurricanes like Dorian. The sequence cannot be divorced from the fact that these last five years have been the hottest ever recorded because of the continuing rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
“Within the past few years, The Bahamas has been seriously affected by at least three major hurricanes—all category four storms or above. The impact of Hurricanes Joaquin (2015), Matthew (2016), and Irma (2017) on The Bahamas has been reported by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean to cost approximately 820 million dollars.
“The Bahamas has been responding well to the challenge of climate change. In the last ten years it has established a state-of-the-art National Emergency Operations Centre. The political commitment to reducing disaster risk is evident from the strengthening of building codes. Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has been very much to the fore in encouraging people to evacuate in a timely manner and there is no doubt that preparedness measures have saved many lives.
“There are fears of further loss of life and in the long term this storm will have very severe consequences on the country’s economy with catastrophic levels of damage to infrastructure and huge property losses for the public from destroyed or damaged homes and offices to flooded cars. Public utilities such as water, sanitation and power supply are likely to suffer significant disruption.
“Hurricane Dorian crystallizes the existential threat posed to small island developing states by the ongoing climate emergency. This is an unprecedented humanitarian and development challenge for The Bahamas. I am hopeful that the Climate Action Summit will take on board the increasing incidence of these events and result in real action to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

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