India air pollution at ‘unbearable levels’, Delhi minister says

10DE066D-AB22-4AF9-86B3-A76D33143735Worshippers braved the smog to enter the polluted River Yamuna as part of the Hindu religious festival of Chatth Puja

Air pollution in the north of India has “reached unbearable levels,” the capital Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvid Kejriwal says.

In many areas of Delhi air quality deteriorated into the “hazardous” category on Sunday with the potential to cause respiratory illnesses.

Authorities have urged people to stay inside to protect themselves.

Mr Kejriwal called on the central government to provide relief and tackle the toxic pollution.

  • How a food crisis led to Delhi’s foul smog

Schools have been closed, more than 30 flights diverted and construction work halted as the city sits in a thick blanket of smog.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain advised the city’s residents to “avoid outdoor physical activities, especially during morning and late evening hours”.

The advisory also said people should wear anti-pollution masks, avoid polluted areas and keep doors and windows closed.

How bad is the smog?

Levels of dangerous particles in the air – known as PM2.5 – are far higher than recommended and about seven times higher than in the Chinese capital Beijing.

An Indian health ministry official said the city’s pollution monitors did not have enough digits to accurately record pollution levels, which he called a “disaster”.

Five million masks were handed out in schools on Friday as officials declared a public health emergency and Mr Kejriwal likened the city to a “gas chamber”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.

“This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco,” the WHO says on its website.

How are people reacting?

Mr Kejriwal’s most recent comments are unlikely to please government officials, reports the BBC’s South Asia regional editor Jill McGivering. She said Indian politicians were blaming each other for the conditions.

On Sunday young people in Delhi came out to protest and demand action.

“You can obviously see how terrible it is and it’s actually scary you can’t see things in front of you,” said Jaivipra.

She said she wanted long-term and sustainable anti-pollution measures put in place.

“We are concerned about our futures and about our health but we are also fighting this on behalf of the children and the elderly who bear the biggest brunt of the problem here,” she said.

Some ministers have sparked controversy on social media by suggesting light-hearted measures to stay healthy.

Harsh Vardhan, the union minister for health and family welfare, urged people to eat carrots to protect against “night blindness” and “other pollution-related harm to health”.

Meanwhile, Prakash Javadekar, the minister of the environment, suggested that you should “start your day with music”, adding a link to a “scintillating thematic composition”.

“Is that the reason you have turned deaf ears to our plight on pollution?” one Twitter user responded. “Seems you are too busy hearing music that you are not able to hear us!”

What’s caused the pollution?

A major factor behind the high pollution levels at this time of year is farmers in neighbouring states burning crop stubble to clear their fields.

This creates a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide – all worsened by fireworks set off during the Hindu festival Diwali a week ago.

Vehicle fumes, construction and industrial emissions have also contributed to the smog.

Indians are hoping that scattered rainfall over the coming week will wash away the pollutants but this is not due until Thursday.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50280390

 

 

 

 

 

Migrants stuck at sea aboard rescue ship Ocean Viking for 11 days

strandedThe rescued group comprises people from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan [Stefan Dold/MSF]

More than 100 migrants and refugees are still stranded onboard a rescue ship in the central Mediterranean after being rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat 11 days ago.

On October 18, a group of 104 people, including 10 women – two of them pregnant – and 41 minors were rescued 50 nautical miles (93km) from Libya’s shores.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, the charities operating the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said they have requested permission to disembark in Malta or Italy but have not received any response despite a plan by some EU countries to resolve such cases quickly.

MSF staff onboard the Ocean Viking told Al Jazeera the Libyan Joint Rescue Coordination Center (LJRCC) assigned Tripoli as a place of safety for disembarkation.

Libya is a major departure point for African migrants trying to reach Europe. But figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in July showed at least 5,200 people are currently trapped in official detention centres, often in appalling conditions.

“A first medical assessment showed all survivors in a stable condition. A few were weak due to the exhaustion and being exposed to the sun, with no water to drink. Many were dehydrated but have recovered,” according to an MSF statement sent to Al Jazeera.

“Many were quite emotional, especially mothers with children, when they came onboard and started crying out of relief that they survived.” 

Thirty-one of the 41 minors rescued are unaccompanied, with six of those younger than 16 years. Two infants – aged two months and 11 months – were also rescued as part of the group.

The standoff comes despite a plan revealed by some EU countries earlier this month to resolve such cases quickly.

At a meeting of EU interior ministers in October, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal agreed to participate in the “fast-track” plan by Germany, France, Italy and Malta, which would screen migrants, relocate asylum seekers, and return people who do not apply or qualify for asylum, all within four weeks.

“This isn’t how you treat people who have been rescued from a boat in distress. This is adding to their anxiety, mental suffering and the mental trauma,” Jay Berger, MSF project coordinator onboard the Ocean Viking, told Al Jazeera.

“This, again, shows lack of care, lack of dignity that Europe puts on the people that are in need of rescue and care. They should be treated with dignity and respect they deserve.”

Pesticide poisoned French paradise islands in Caribbean

pest
GETTY IMAGES
Image captionBananas are a big export industry for Martinique and nearly all are shipped to France.

The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique thrive on their image as idyllic sun, sea and sand destinations for tourists.

But few visitors are aware that these lush, tropical islands have a chronic pollution problem.

A pesticide linked to cancer – chlordecone – was sprayed on banana crops on the islands for two decades and now nearly all the adult local residents have traces of it in their blood.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called it an “environmental scandal” and said the state “must take responsibility”. He visited Martinique last year and was briefed on the crisis on the islands, known in France as the Antilles.

The French parliament is holding a public inquiry which will report its findings in December.

“We found anger and anxiety in the Antilles – the population feel abandoned by the republic,” said Guadeloupe MP Justine Benin, who is in charge of the inquiry’s report.

“They are resilient people, they’ve been hit by hurricanes before, but their trust needs to be restored,” she told the BBC.

Large tracts of soil are contaminated, as are rivers and coastal waters. The authorities are trying to keep the chemical out of the food chain, but it is difficult, as much produce comes from smallholders, often sold at the roadside.

Drinking water is considered safe, as carbon filters are used to remove contaminants.

In the US a factory producing chlordecone – sold commercially as kepone – was shut down in 1975 after workers fell seriously ill there. But Antilles banana growers continued to use the pesticide.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50144261