New Delhi half-marathon tries radio waves to beat city’s toxic smog

After medical experts urged the canceling of last year’s race, marathon organizers responded by bringing the race date forward to October. (Reuters)
Updated 21 October 2018
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New Delhi half-marathon tries radio waves to beat city’s toxic smog

  • The measures had reduced pollution by “at least” 30 percent during the race
  • Air quality at monitoring stations near the route were still rated as “very unhealthy” under international standards

NEW DELHI: New Delhi’s half-marathon race used ultra high frequency (UHF) radio waves to clear the air for the runners on Sunday, an experimental technique the organizers hope could improve the city’s notorious air quality.
India is home to the world’s 14 most polluted cities. Last year the smoke from burning crop waste and thousands of firecrackers contributed to a toxic smog that blanketed the capital of New Delhi and a large part of northern India in toxic smog.
The city’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal warned New Dehli would face the same fate this year if Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party did not do more to combat pollution.
After medical experts urged the canceling of last year’s race, marathon organizers responded by bringing the race date forward to October, away from November’s Diwali festival when the firecrackers are set off.
They also tried to dampen down the dust that hangs over the city in winter, including reagents from the mining industry to treat roads, dropping water vapor along the course from a height of 20 feet.
The techniques also included using the UHF waves to dispel pollution from particulate matter measuring only 2.5 microns, known as PM2.5, whose small size — about 30 times smaller than a human hair — allows it to lodge deep in the lungs, damaging the respiratory system.
“It was a great day with clear skies and no pollution-related incidents among our 35,000 runners,” Vivek Singh, a managing director of race promoter Procam International told Reuters.
He said the Delhi government, which last year resorted to shutting power stations and banning some cars from roads to clear the air, should look at using the UHF technology, manufactured by a Bangalore-based company Devic Earth, to mitigate pollution.
“We have shown that it works and made a point to tell the authorities,” he added.
Pictures of the event, which began at 5 a.m. (0030 GMT) showed relatively clear skies, with the early morning sun visible through a sight haze.
“I did doubt signing up, but it was just the usual morning haze, and didn’t feel hard to run in,” said Emily Jackson, a British carbon market analyst living in New Delhi who competed in the race for the first time.
“I only saw one person with a mask.”
Singh said the measures had reduced pollution by “at least” 30 percent during the race, though air quality at monitoring stations near the route were still rated as “very unhealthy” under international standards.
The women’s race was won by Ethiopian Tsehay Gemechu in a course-record time of 1:06:50, while teenage compatriot Andamalak Belihu finished first in the men’s race with a time of 59:18.


Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

Updated 23 January 2019
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Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

  • Assurances given that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants
  • The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide

KABUL: The Afghan government has launched a polio vaccination program covering 5.4 million children in high-risk areas, officials said on Tuesday.

The one-month campaign to inoculate children under 5 years old started on Monday after assurances from tribal chiefs and clerics that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants, and that families will allow their kids to get the lifetime immunization, the officials said.

The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide. Among the reasons were health workers’ lack of access due to violence, and families preventing their children from being vaccinated because of the perception that it is hazardous to their health, said Waheed Mayar, chief spokesman for the Public Health Ministry.

Some vaccinators were killed by suspected militants in past years while touring villages. “This year, we’ve received assurances from villagers, tribal chiefs and clerics that they’ll make sure vaccinators are allowed (to do their work) as vaccination is essential for their children,” Mayar told Arab News.

High-risk areas include parts of western, southeast and central Afghanistan, the Public Health Ministry said.

“We will have five vaccination campaigns for the first half of 2019. We are using this time to build immunity among our people,” Public Health Minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz said in a statement.

“We need to work together to end polio for the world… We need to help each other, open our doors, get our children vaccinated,” he added.

“Our children are innocents and rely on us to protect them from preventable paralysis. We cannot let them down.”

Parents should plan to have their children at home and available to be vaccinated during the campaign, the ministry said.

“The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and newborn children. It is very important these children get the vaccine because they have lower immunity, which makes them more susceptible to the virus,” the ministry added. “Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars.”