Smog Digest

January 2013

Air pollution in Indian cities

Report raises alarm over Jaipur’s air quality: With nearly 400 vehicles being added to the city's burgeoning fleet of private cars and commercial vehicles, the level of air population has sharply gone up along with a corresponding rise in the number of people suffering from respiratory problems. In an alarming report prepared by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the air pollution I n Jaipur has reached a critical level. The report also highlighted the deteriorating air quality of Jaipur, and stated that the pollution level is 2.8 times higher than the normal. A citizen's survey conducted by CSE found out that nearly 88% residents of Jaipur believe that the city's air pollution levels have increased. Nearly 94% said the cases of respiratory diseases are on the rise. The data was part of the CSE survey report which was released on Tuesday at a meet to address the city's rising air pollution level and transportation challenges.
Source: The Times of India, Jaipur, October 10, 2012.

Pollution level up, visibility dips: The city experienced shallow fog for the third consecutive day on Wednesday as still air and high moisture levels arising from Cyclone Nilam resulted in low visibility conditions almost through the day. Between 11am and 4pm, the average visibility was 600m at Palam and 500m at Safdarjung. The environment department also officially announced winter after pollution levels showed a rise due to low temperatures. The rise in air pollution, which is most severely felt in the winter months, is a significant contributor to the increase in fog hours. Met officials say the average fog duration per day has increased by eight hours since 1989, and Delhi is especially affected as high pollution and aerosol levels impact visibility. "The concentration of particulate matter (PM) went up at several places between 8pm and 9 this morning. This is an annual affair in Delhi during winter," said a government official.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, November 1, 2012.

Delhi enveloped in smog, back to pre-CNG levels: Delhi's air pollution has reached alarming levels. For proof, just look out of the window. The grey-white 'haze' that has been covering the city since October 28, say experts, is actually smog that is linked to the rapid rise in particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide levels. The smog got thicker on Friday and blotted out the sun through the day. It was described by one expert as a "toxic cocktail of poisonous gases". Not coincidentally, Friday's air pollution levels were actually worse than the air quality recorded on Diwali last year (see graphic). In 2001, alarmed by Delhi's rapidly deteriorating air quality, the judiciary had ordered the conversion of   all public transport vehicles to the cleaner CNG. It can now be officially said - based on government data on nitrogen oxide and particulate matter (see graphic) - that gains in air quality made due to the CNG switch have now been squandered away.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, November 3, 2012.

Slew of measures mooted to curb air pollution in Delhi: A slew of short and long-term measures including ban on entry of commercial vehicles not bound for Delhi, restriction on use of diesel generator sets during social functions, imposition of Rs.2,000 fine on polluting vehicles and expediting the construction of the eastern and western peripheral expressways and rapid increase in the public transport network have been suggested for ameliorating the air pollution situation in Delhi. The issue of air pollution in Delhi was discussed threadbare on the eve of Diwali by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit with chairman of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority Bhure Lal, director of Centre for Science and Environment Sunital Narain in the presence of Chief Secretary P. K. Tripathi, Commissioner (Transport) Rajendra Kumar and Secretary (Environment) Sanjeev Kumar among others.
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, November 13, 2013.

Particle peril in city air: If you are breathing heavy, blame it on your hot wheels. A recent survey carried out by the regional office of Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) in the city and Adityapur has revealed alarming levels of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) in ambient air. It has also held diesel-run vehicles and industrial units responsible for the health hazard. For the second time since it began the annual air survey in 2001, the JSPCB used a special gadget —the respirable dust sampler — to measure pollutants less than 10 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3).  The equipment was installed at Golmuri, Bistupur and Adityapur for a 24-hour test — in shifts of eight hours each — earlier this month. The residential pocket of Golmuri recorded RSPM of 200.0µg/m3, while the count in Bistupur — an upscale residential-cum-commercial area hosting Tata Main Hospital, nursing homes and several educational institutions — was 190µg/m3.
Source: The Telegraph, Kolkata, November 30, 2012.

Vehicles drive up air pollution level in city: The growing number of vehicles in the city may be proving to be a traffic hazard and causing shortage of parking space. However, there is another hazard, not visible to the eyes that is affecting the city: the pollution level in Chandigarh has been measured to be more than the permissible limit. The data by the Chandigarh Pollution Control Committee (CPCC) reveals that the air pollution level has been increasing over the past few years. CPCC measures the pollution level at five locations in the city: Sector 17, Industrial Area, Punjab Engineering College, IMTECH, Sector 39, and Kaimbwala village. The aim is to cover residential, educational, commercial and industrial areas. The annual average of the pollution level compiled by CPCC indicates that the pollution level has been increasing over the past few years.
Source: The Indian Express, Chandigarh, December 4, 2012.

Thought Beijing air was bad? Delhi's no better: Beijing's air pollution made international news over the weekend when fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the city air rose to an 'out-of-index' level of 755 mg/cu m. Pictures showed Beijing residents wearing masks amid advisories that they should stay indoors. Meanwhile, it was business as usual in Delhi on Monday when despite a clear windy day, the PM2.5 levels ranged from 130 to 565 mg/cu m. According to World Health Organization, the safe level of PM2.5 is 20 mg/cu m. The Indian standard for this pollutant that can cause respiratory illnesses and worsen heart ailments is 60 mg/cu m. On Monday, the highest value of 565 mg/cu m considered very hazardous was recorded at R K Puram for about two hours. But even the lowest reading at this site was 191 mg/cu m, more than three times the Indian standard.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, January 15, 2013.

Health impacts

“Smog, pollution multiply health risks”: Delhiites never seem to have had it so bad, health-wise that is. Still grappling to get dengue, malaria, chikungunya and viral fever that have been plaguing the city since this past September under control, the thick smog that has enveloped the city for over a week now has forced many – especially those with asthma, high blood pressure, heart condition and infants and older persons – to make a beeline for the hospitals. Delhi’s air has registered a sharp deterioration in quality, according to Centre for Science and Environment executive director Anumita Roychowdhury. “The smog and existing pollution level in the city exceed the standard level of killer particles by five to six times and are associated with significant increases in health risks. High exposure is known to lead to increased hospitalisation for asthma, lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and heart damage.
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, November 11, 2013.

Air pollution has emerged a major killer, according to latest report: Air pollution has emerged a major killer, according to the latest Global Burden of Disease (GBD) count, a global initiative involving the World Health Organisation. Going by the report, in South Asia, air pollution is ranked as the sixth most dangerous killer. It is now ranked fourth, with indoor air pollution occupying the second-highest killer attribute in the region. The latest GBD results have been produced by a rigorous scientific process involving over 450 global experts and partner institutions including the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, the World Health Organization, the University of Queensland, Australia, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University and the Health Effects Institute. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, has expressed shock at this revelation, saying that it is a dangerous trend at a time when most of economic growth and motorization is yet to happen in India.
Source: The Times of India, Bangalore, December 14, 2012.

Citizens launch dust-free Varanasi campaign: A group of citizens started a campaign aimed at ridding Varanasi of the dust that is finding its way into the bodies of lakhs of people living here. The campaign was launched at Lanka, Varanasi. The participants who attended the launch of the initiative also got examined by a team of doctors led by Dr Shailesh Gupta, to assess their lung capacity. "Though there has been an alarming increase in the health related cases due to air pollution and dust, little has been done to curb it. Absorption of dust into the blood through the lungs, has potentially toxic effects. Dust particles may contain various metals like mercury, arsenic or cadmium, hazardous to human health. Diseases of the lungs, including cancer as particles that penetrate into the lungs may be permanently lodged, resulting in diseases of the lung. Long term negative effect on lung function causing marginally increased death rates," said Gupta.
Source: The Times of India, Varanasi, January 16, 2013.

Fuel and vehicle technology

Anti-pollution body wants green tax on cars: In an effort to curb the rapid dieselisation, the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) has called for a proposal to impose both a one time green tax on new cars and also reintroduce the system of owners paying an annual tax on diesel cars. The EPCA describes this as “an annual environment compensation charge amounting to 2 per cent of the purchase value of a petrol car and 4 per cent of the purchased value of a diesel car.” The second tax they want levied is an “environment compensation charge of 25 per cent of the sale value of the diesel car to be collected by the dealers at the time of the sale.” This proposal has the active support of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) who has also been pushing for an annual road tax to be levied on both diesel and petrol cars in order to put a break on the 1,400 new vehicles being added to the NCR region on a daily basis.
Source: The Asian Age, New Delhi, December 24, 2012.

Environmentalists welcome diesel price hike: Even while Opposition BJP and key UPA allies - the BSP and the DMK - went ballistic against the government’s decision on diesel price hike, the attempt to gradually bring down the differential between diesel and petrol seems to have earned it a few brownie points from environmentalists. Terming it a step in the right direction, they now want the government to take the process of “un-dieselisation” of economy further by targeting the small and medium car segment (where sale of diesel models is said to be as high as 50 to 75 per cent) in the next Budget. According to CSE’s Anumita Roychowdhury, the 50-paise hike every month is not sufficient to deter “rich people” to stop buying diesel cars. Plus, it is also a long process. Therefore, what the government can do is go for higher taxes on diesel cars, particularly in the small and medium range, to control their numbers on the roads, she says.
Source: The Tribune, New Delhi, January 20, 2013.

Alternative Fuels

Agartala to be a green city soon: Plans are afoot to turn Tripura's capital into a green city by fitting, within two years, thousands of vehicles running on petrol or diesel with CNG kits and providing city households with piped natural gas connections, a senior official said Wednesday. "While issuing vehicle permits, priority is given to those running on CNG (compressed natural gas). This is not only cheaper but also very environment-friendly. Our target is to make the capital Agartala a green city," Tripura Industrial Development Corporation (TIDC) Chairman Pabitra Kar told IANS. Agartala, a city of about 400,000 people, has little over 200,000 of various types of vehicles and the authorities would 'convert within the next two years over 100,000 vehicles into CNG ones'. Kar said about 4,500 auto-rickshaws and over 1,000 of various other types of vehicles have already been fitted with CNG technology.
Source: The Times of India, Agartala, December 26, 2012.


State to have CNG stations soon: The state will soon have Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) filling stations in 12 cities including Jaipur. A meeting between the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) and state government officials took place on May 12 where the directions were given to the company to expedite the process. A feasibility study has been conducted by the GAIL which is already running a CNG station at Kota through its subsidiary GAIL gas network. In the meeting, the company officials apprised the government about the 12 proposed locations which have been identified at Jaipur, Udaipur, Dungarpur, Jodhpur, Jhunjhunu, Bikaner, Sriganganagar, Ajmer, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Chittorgarh and Bhilwara. "In our meeting, we requested the company officials to expedite the process of city gas distribution network project in other cities. But it has to be done through the approval of Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB). We hope that the identified cities will soon have CNG stations," said Sudhansh Pant, secretary, and mines & petroleum.
Source: The Times of India, Jaipur, May 27, 2012.

Transportation and traffic

Delhi to buy 625 low-floor buses: The Delhi Government will soon float global tender for procurement of 625 low-floor buses for Delhi Transport Corporation at a cost of Rs.330 crore. The proposal to procure the buses was cleared by Delhi Cabinet last month. “We will soon float the global tender. We are planning to get the first batch of the bus inApril next year,” Delhi Transport Minister Ramakant Goswami said. The addition of the new fleet will take the number of low-floor buses of DTC to 4,406 from current 3,781. The buses are being procured to replace DTC’s old buses which have completed their prescribed mileage of five lakh kilometres. Currently, DTC is running 1,742 old buses. Officials said each of the low-floor buses would cost around Rs.52 lakh. They said supplier of the vehicles will have to carry out their maintenance for 7.50 lakh kilometers run or 12 years’ operations, whichever is later.
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, October 19, 2012.

BMC to study 3 roads for BRTS: To give a push to the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in the city, the BMC has decided to finance a traffic and space survey on three major roads-Eastern Express Highway, Western Express Highway and Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR). The BMC plans to implement BRTS on these three roads initially. In a move to push the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) ahead, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to finance a traffic and space survey on three major roads in the city-the Eastern Express Highway, Western Express Highway and the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR). The BMC is planning to implement the BRTS model on these three roads initially. According to civic officials, information about traffic and space inventory is necessary to implement BRTS. At a recent meeting of an empowered committee, headed by the chief secretary, it was decided to gather this information from the Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU), appointed by the state government to undertake this project.
Source: The Times of India, Mumbai, January 2, 2013.

Civic bodies to start intelligent transport project: The state government has asked civic bodies in the state to implement the Intelligent Transport System Project (ITSP) to overcome road congestion and other traffic-related problems. The ministry of Urban Development has initiated the sustainable urban transport project (SUTP) with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the World Bank and United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It aims to foster a long-term partnership between the Union government and state/local governments in the implementation of a greener environment under the ambit of the National Urban Transport Project (NUTP). As a part of this initiative, a number of projects have been undertaken by the Ministry in the country. The state government has directed the civic bodies in the state to implement the ITSP seeking the Union government assistance.
Source: The Times of India, Pune, January 2, 2013.

Only 3 out of 55 state transport undertakings making profit: Only Maharashtra, Karnataka and Bangalore, out of 55 state road transport undertakings (SRTUs) are making profit. Sources said five corporations in West Bengal, SRTUs in Bihar and the north-east are going through a bad financial patch. Madhya Pradesh recently wound up its transport corporation. These are tell-tale signs of how government-run public transport is becoming unsustainable even as both states and the Centre claim that they are pushing for reliable and safe public transport system. STUs run at least 1.47 lakh buses, and carry about 70 million passengers daily. "We want the Centre to restore the equity infusion to upgrade capital investment in SRTUs. At least 70% of their operations are in rural areas, including on non-profitable routes," said ARSTU executive director U Sudhakara Rao.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, January 4, 2013.

Bus karo! Cars hog 85% of Mumbai roads: If you are sick of Mumbai's perennially clogged traffic, it is perhaps time to demand a better public bus network. After all, private vehicles hog more than 85% of road space during peak hours though they ferry only a few more people than buses which occupy not more than 7% of roads. This is true for both the city and suburbs, shows an ongoing analysis conducted by the Mumbai Environmental Social Network (MESN) which is among the transport organizations demanding that buses be given priority on Mumbai's roads. The group observed traffic flows at peak hour across 19 spots in the city. The Kalanagar junction, the converging point for traffic from the eastern and western suburbs is a case in point. During peak hours, there were 48 times more private vehicles (cars, taxis, autorickshaws and bikes) plying the road than buses.
Source: The Times of India, Mumbai, January 7, 2013.

Pune Municipal Corporation gives another push to cycle scheme: A pilot project of an eco-friendly 'share and ride public bicycle' scheme has once again been planned by the Pune Municipal Corporation. The corporation, in the last three years, did not get any response from private agencies for implementing the scheme. It is now making a fresh attempt by relaxing some conditions for private parties. In the first phase, the civic body has proposed to put 300 cycles on roads. The PMC officials say the public bicycle scheme will be convenient and economical for short distance travelers, especially to and from railway and bus terminals, markets, work places and educational institutions. The corporation, which floated tenders recently for implementing the scheme, has said there will be 25 cycle stands or stations, which will be located within 300 meters of one another.
Source: The Times of India, Pune, January 8, 2013.

New Delhi Municipal Council to hike parking rates: The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) is all set to increase surface level parking rates in areas under its jurisdiction. The civic agency is planning to implement the rates that were discussed in a special meeting chaired by Delhi government chief secretary in October last year. A proposal is likely to be tabled in the council's meeting on January 31. NDMC chairperson Archna Arora confirmed that the civic agency is working on a new tariff structure. "We are going to increase the surface level parking rates in NDMC areas. We are preparing a proposal which in all probability will be tabled in the forthcoming council meeting,'' said Arora, who refused to divulge the tariff details. The civic agency has been mulling an increase in parking rates for a long time, but has not been able to finalize it.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi, January 15, 2012.

In Court

Fresh HC prod on rogue auto ban: Jharkhand High Court on Monday once again directed the government to free Ranchi’s roads of smoke-belching auto-rickshaws, plying within city limits without permits. The Bench of Chief Justice Prakash Tatia and Justice Jaya Roy was hearing a PIL by one Rajneesh Mishra on increasing pollution in the capital, caused primarily by these diesel-fuelled three-wheelers. The court also directed the special committee — constituted by it for the case — to find out what the required number of auto-rickshaws and buses was to streamline the city’s public transport system. The nine-member panel, formed on April 17, comprises transport secretary K.K. Khandelwal, divisional commissioner Surendra Singh, regional transport authority secretary Uday Pratap, additional advocate-general Ajit Kumar, senior advocate Sohail Anwar, advocate Delip Jerath, Ranchi deputy commissioner V.K. Choubey, Ranchi Municipal Corporation CEO Dipankar Panda and SP (traffic) C.S. Prasad.
Source: The Telegraph, Kolkata, October 9, 2012.

High Court dismisses plea to scrap BRT corridor: The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition by a non-government organisation seeking a direction to open up the dedicated 5.6. km BRT corridor between Ambedkar Nagar and Moolchand crossing in South Delhi to other motorised vehicles along with buses, saying that it would not interfere with the policy matter aimed at promoting public transport as it was neither illegal nor arbitrary and unconstitutional. Describing an argument by the petitioner Nyaya Bhoomi that road space should be allotted to motorised vehicles according to their numbers and that car owners should be provided uninterrupted driving on the carriageway along the corridor to avoid wastage of time as they created wealth for the country as elitist, a Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Manmohan Singh said: “The scattered evidence placed before us, taken together, clearly suggests that the Government has taken a conscious decision that road space should be made freely available to the entire citizenry.’’
Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, October 19, 2012.

South Asian countries

Sajha buses to ply Valley roads by mid-Feb: If everything goes as planned, residents of the Kathmandu Valley will get to commute by Sajha Yatayat (SY) buses from mid-February.  The SY cooperative, which had once earned endearment of people across the country by operating reliable and affordable transport services across the country, has already ordered 50 buses from Tata Motors of India. According to Mahendra Raj Pandeya, manager of SY cooperative, Tata Motors is likely to deliver the buses by February first week. “If we receive the buses by February first week, we will resume services by mid-February,” said Pandeya. “The new buses will be more advanced in comparison to the existing public buses.” According to Pandeya, all the buses will have fifty-five passenger seats. They will also have LCD televisions, CCTV cameras and ticket display systems. “The buses will have two separate doors for entry and exit,” said Pandeya.
Source: Republica, Kathmandu, January 2, 2013.

A city of cardiac patients if air pollution untamed: An international study has put Nepal among the three worst performing countries in the world in terms of air quality as it relates to human health. But let alone making due efforts for systematic air pollution control, it has taken the Ministry of Environment nearly half a decade just to repair the few air pollution monitoring stations set up in 2002 although the repair costs are minimal. “We have already repaired the stations at Thamel, Putalisadak, Bhaktapur and Machhegaun and the station at Bhaktapur is already up and running. It cost around Rs 300,000 to bring them back to life,” said Joint Secretary at the Ministry Shankar Adhikari. “The stations can measure the tiniest dust particles that our eyes cannot see. They basically identify the level of particulate matter and indoor air pollution, which are taken as indicators for air pollution” added the senior engineer.
Source: Republica, Kathmandu, January 17, 2013.

Beijing faces dangerous air pollution levels: The air quality in Beijing Municipality fell to dangerous levels today as smog returned to haunt the city after just a few days of respite. The weather forecast bureau has issued yellow alerts, the third highest level following red and orange, for fog and haze, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Visibility in the city’s southern region was expected to be less than 500 metres during day time. A haze with a visibility of less than 3,000 metres was expected to cover most of the city. Fog started lingering in the city since last night, taking the PM2.5 concentration to between 300 and 400 microgrammes per cubic meter of air, or Level VI, which is at a dangerous level, according to Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center statistics. PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter that are 2.5 microns or less in diameter.
Source: Business Line, Beijing, January 19, 2013.