Air quality sinks to ‘severe’ in haze-shrouded New Delhi

The smoke from fields mixes with vehicle emissions and construction dust, making New Delhi the world’s most-polluted capital. (AP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Air quality sinks to ‘severe’ in haze-shrouded New Delhi

  • The air quality index reached about eight times the recommended maximum
  • The smoke from fields mixes with vehicle emissions and construction dust, making New Delhi the world’s most-polluted capital

NEW DELHI: A thick gray haze blanketed India’s capital on Tuesday, with authorities attempting to reduce the pollution by sprinkling water to settle dust and banning some construction.
The air quality index exceeded 400, considered “severe” and about eight times the recommended maximum, according to the state-run Central Pollution Control Board.
Buildings and monuments in New Delhi were largely obscured by the haze and residents complained of health effects.
“We can’t breathe properly. My eyes are burning,” said Urmila Devi, who lives in Ghaziabad, one of the capital’s most polluted areas.
Favorable winds had briefly halved the level of pollutants, but winds blowing from the northwest carried air-borne particles from burning crops in Punjab and Haryana states to New Delhi, leading again to high levels of pollution, according to the government’s air quality monitoring system, SAFAR.
Air pollution in northern India peaks in the winter due to smoke from agricultural fires. Farmers say they are unfairly criticized and have no choice but to burn stubble to prepare their fields for the next crop.
The smoke from fields mixes with vehicle emissions and construction dust, making New Delhi the world’s most-polluted capital.
Rising pollution levels have also irked foreign visitors, with some saying they plan to cut short their trips because of health concerns.
“We are in the capital of India. The government should put more effort into tackling this problem,” said Rijil Odamvalappil of Abu Dhabi, who was visiting New Delhi with his wife.
Some residents say the pollution is so bad that it should be the most important issue for the government.
Pollution controls have been imposed, such as sprinkling water from high-rises and banning some construction to settle or avoid dust, but the capital’s poor air quality has continued amid calls for the government to do more to address the root causes.
Restrictions on private vehicles meant to reduce emissions were relaxed on Monday and Tuesday for the 550th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.
Doctors in the city of 20 million people say many of their patients are complaining of ailments related to the filthy air they breathe.
New Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, has made fervent appeals on Twitter and in newspaper advertisements for residents to help tackle the pollution problem.
India’s top court last week asked the city government, its neighboring states and the federal government to work together to improve air quality.
World Health Organization data released last year showed India had 10 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities.


Bali’s drugged, smuggled orangutan headed back to the wild

Updated 57 min 46 sec ago

Bali’s drugged, smuggled orangutan headed back to the wild

  • The case made headlines in March when suspicious authorities stopped Russian trafficker Andrei Zhestkov
  • Zhestkov was later sentenced to a year in prison in July

BALI, Indonesia: A baby orangutan that was drugged by a Russian trafficker in a failed bid to smuggle it out of Bali will be released back into the wild.
The case made headlines in March when suspicious authorities on the Indonesian holiday island stopped Andrei Zhestkov, who was flying back to Russia, and opened his luggage to find a two-year-old orangutan sleeping inside a rattan basket.
Zhestkov, sentenced to a year in prison in July, had packed baby formula and blankets for the orangutan. He was also carrying two live geckos and five lizards inside the suitcase.
On Monday, conservation authorities in Bali rolled out a big fruit plate for fuzzy-haired Bon Bon as he prepares to move to a conservation center in Sumatra — one of just two places where the critically endangered species is found in the wild.
Bon Bon’s caretaker, Ketut Diandika, confessed to being a little bit sad at the ape’s departure.
“I actually want Bon Bon to stay here so that I can still take care of him,” he said.
The Southeast Asian archipelago’s rainforests boast some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world and it is a key source and transit point for animal trafficking.
In a separate case at the weekend, officials in Sumatra’s Riau province said they arrested two men, allegedly part of an international trafficking ring, who were attempting to smuggle four lion cubs and a baby leopard from Africa, along with dozens of tortoises.