Beijing’s Bad Air Would Be Step Up for Smoggy Delhi

Discussion in 'Subcontinent & Central Asia' started by amoy, Jan 27, 2014.

  1. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/26/world/asia/beijings-air-would-be-step-up-for-smoggy-delhi.html
    By GARDINER HARRISJAN. 25, 2014

    NEW DELHI — In mid-January, air pollution in Beijing was so bad that the government issued urgent health warnings and closed four major highways, prompting the panicked buying of air filters and donning of face masks. But in New Delhi, where pea-soup smog created what was by some measurements even more dangerous air, there were few signs of alarm in the country’s boisterous news media, or on its effervescent Twittersphere.

    Despite Beijing’s widespread reputation of having some of the most polluted air of any major city in the world, an examination of daily pollution figures collected from both cities suggests that New Delhi’s air is more laden with dangerous small particles of pollution, more often, than Beijing’s. Lately, a very bad air day in Beijing is about an average one in New Delhi.

    The United States Embassy in Beijing sent out warnings in mid-January, when a measure of harmful fine particulate matter known as PM2.5 went above 500, in the upper reaches of the measurement scale, for the first time this year. This refers to particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which is believed to pose the greatest health risk because it penetrates deeply into lungs.
    But for the first three weeks of this year, New Delhi’s average daily peak reading of fine particulate matter from Punjabi Bagh, a monitor whose readings are often below those of other city and independent monitors, was 473, more than twice as high as the average of 227 in Beijing. By the time pollution breached 500 in Beijing for the first time on the night of Jan. 15, Delhi had already had eight such days. Indeed, only once in three weeks did New Delhi’s daily peak value of fine particles fall below 300, a level more than 12 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

    “It’s always puzzled me that the focus is always on China and not India,” said Dr. Angel Hsu, director of the environmental performance measurement program at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy. “China has realized that it can’t hide behind its usual opacity, whereas India gets no pressure to release better data. So there simply isn’t good public data on India like there is for China.”

    Experts have long known that India’s air is among the worst in the world. A recent analysis by Yale researchers found that seven of the 10 countries with the worst air pollution exposures are in South Asia. And evidence is mounting that Indians pay a higher price for air pollution than almost anyone. A recent study showed that Indians have the world’s weakest lungs, with far less capacity than Chinese lungs. Researchers are beginning to suspect that India’s unusual mix of polluted air, poor sanitation and contaminated water may make the country among the most dangerous in the world for lungs.

    India has the world’s highest death rate because of chronic respiratory diseases, and it has more deaths from asthma than any other nation, according to the World Health Organization. A recent study found that half of all visits to doctors in India are for respiratory problems, according to Sundeep Salvi, director of the Chest Research Foundation in Pune.

    Clean Air Asia, an advocacy group, found that another common measure of pollution known as PM10, for particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter, averaged 117 in Beijing in a six-month period in 2011. In New Delhi, the Center for Science and Environment used government data and found that an average measure of PM10 in 2011 was 281, nearly two-and-a-half times higher.

    Perhaps most worrisome, Delhi’s peak daily fine particle pollution levels are 44 percent higher this year than they were last year, when they averaged 328 over the first three weeks of the year. Fine particle pollution has been strongly linked with premature death, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. In October, the World Health Organization declared that it caused lung cancer.

    The United States Embassy in Beijing posts on Twitter the readings of its air monitor, helping to spur awareness of the problem. The readings have more than 35,000 followers. The United States does not release similar readings from its New Delhi Embassy, saying the Indian government releases its own figures.

    In China, concerns about air quality have transfixed many urban residents, and some government officials say curbing the pollution is a priority.

    But in India, Delhi’s newly elected regional government did not mention air pollution among its 18 priorities, and India’s environment minister quit in December amid widespread criticism that she was delaying crucial industrial projects. Her replacement, the government’s petroleum minister, almost immediately approved several projects that could add considerably to pollution. India and China strenuously resisted pollution limits in global climate talks in Warsaw in November.

    Frank Hammes, chief executive of IQAir, a Swiss-based maker of air filters, said his company’s sales were hundreds of times higher in China than in India.

    “In China, people are extremely concerned about the air, especially around small children,” Mr. Hammes said. “Why there’s not the same concern in India is puzzling.”

    In multiple interviews, Delhiites expressed a mixture of unawareness and despair about the city’s pollution levels. “I don’t think pollution is a major concern for Delhi,” said Akanksha Singh, a 20-year-old engineering student who lives on Delhi’s outskirts in Ghaziabad, adding that he felt that Delhi’s pollution problems were not nearly as bad as those of surrounding towns.

    In 1998, India’s Supreme Court ordered that Delhi’s taxis, three-wheelers and buses be converted to compressed natural gas, but the resulting improvements in air quality were short-lived as cars flooded the roads. In the 1970s, Delhi had about 800,000 vehicles; now it has 7.5 million, with 1,400 more added daily.

    “Now the air is far worse than it ever was,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director of the Center for Science and Environment.

    Indians’ relatively poor lung function has long been recognized, but researchers assumed for years that the difference was genetic.
    Then a 2010 study found that the children of Indian immigrants who were born and raised in the United States had far better lung function than those born and raised in India.

    “It’s not genetics; it’s mostly the environment,” said Dr. MyLinh Duong, an assistant professor of respirology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

    In a study published in October, Dr. Duong compared lung tests taken in 38,517 healthy nonsmokers from 17 countries who were matched by height, age and sex. Indians’ lung function was by far the lowest among those tested.

    All of this has led some wealthy Indians to consider leaving.

    Annat Jain, a private equity investor who returned to India in 2001 after spending 12 years in the United States, said his father died last year of heart failure worsened by breathing problems. Now his 4-year-old daughter must be given twice-daily breathing treatments.

    “But whenever we leave the country, everyone goes back to breathing normally,” he said. “It’s something my wife and I talk about constantly.”
    [​IMG]
    Malavika Vyawahare contributed reporting from New Delhi, and Edward Wong from Beijing.

    A version of this article appears in print on January 26, 2014, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Beijing’s Bad Air Would Be Step Up for Smoggy Delhi.
     
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  3. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Two things jump to mind:

    1) China and India should partner up in investing in air pollution control technology. This sort of stuff literally saves lives (and saves big healthcare bills down the road, too).

    2) While the NYT article tries dancing around the issue, it's plain that biased reporting (led by a concerted soft-power/PR campaign from the US Embassy in China) has been the main culprit behind the discrepancy in how India and China's air pollution are viewed. In this case, however, China could use all the prodding it can get - bad lungs are a vital national issue; also the Chinese government should view the PM 2.5 reporting as a gift that lets it justify cleantech investment (which pays dividends years later) without any PR.
     
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  4. PredictablyMalicious

    PredictablyMalicious Punjabi Senior Member

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    I visited Delhi last year and I didn't notice that the air quality was so bad.
     
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  5. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Everything is relative.

    PM2.5 Chart, YTD 1-21Jan, (Orange: Delhi, Beijing: Grey)
    [​IMG]
     
  6. angeldude13

    angeldude13 Lestat De Lioncourt Senior Member

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    Air in Delhi is bad.
    I am allergic to dust and pollution and furry animals.

    There is nothing wrong with me when I am in haryana but when I am back in Delhi I sneez like a mad dog.
     
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  7. cobra commando

    cobra commando Tharki regiment Veteran Member Senior Member

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  8. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

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    Beijing gets into this situation by sitting next to the world biggiest steel production area--Henan (100 milion tones annually past several years).

    What gets Delhi air so bad?
     
  9. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    Delhi has an issue with particulate matter, and its all because of dust imho.
     
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  10. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    Could be vehicle emissions, which may make a comparison between the cities difficult.

    Need to compare mobile sources vs stationary sources.
     
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  11. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    Environmental issues in Delhi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

     
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  12. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    India | International Programs | US EPA

     
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  13. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    Clean Air & Energy Projects in China | International Affairs | USEPA
     
  14. Known_Unknown

    Known_Unknown Devil's Advocate Stars and Ambassadors

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    It's not just Delhi. Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore etc, India has zero environmental standards and a trip to the country feels like a trip to a Nazi gas chamber.

    No one cares about it because frankly there are more pressing concerns, such as whether they can afford to eat that day.
     
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  15. kseeker

    kseeker Retired

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    We do have standards however, no one follows or it's completely overlooked by both civilians as well as authorities.

    Nazi gas chamber comparison is an exaggerated one! :D However, yes I agree that, all Metro cities and A class cities are badly polluted and there are hardly any efforts being made to control or over come the damage the pollution is causing.
     
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  16. kseeker

    kseeker Retired

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  17. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    I dont have much issue with Delhi air, ofcourse if they can make it better fine with me. Author it appears has confused with fog we have in morning with what is going on in China.

    In last 10 years quality of air has improved specially when SC directed all the buses to convert into CNG. Plus10 years old vehicles were taken off from road.

    Delhi metro also contributed to clean Delhi air.
     
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  18. kseeker

    kseeker Retired

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    Data finds Delhi air dirtier than Beijing, Centre continues to deny - Hindustan Times

    Delhi might be the most polluted city in the world but the government insists that the Capital’s air is not as bad as that of Beijing -- contrary to the real time data available in public domain.

    The air-quality monitoring wing of the ministry of earth sciences has claimed that Delhi’s particulate matter 2.5 pollution levels never crossed 350 microgram per cubic metre (m/cum) while for Beijing, it was higher than 500 microgram and even reached 650 microgram.

    The data is based on information collected from the ministry’s nine monitoring stations and doesn’t take into account records of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and Central Pollution Control Board.

    Choking to death: Delhi's air is dirtier than Beijing’s - Hindustan Times

    Had it done that, it would have found that pollution levels on January 24 at Shahdara and Mandir Marg were alarming -– more than 900m/cum during evening rush hour. On Tuesday, the levels dropped to average between 230 m/cum and 430 m/cum at places such as Mandir Marg, Anand Vihar and Punjabi Bagh.

    [​IMG]

    The World Health Organisation, which last year termed polluted air as a carcinogen, says PM2.5 at 10 m/cum is safe. India’s safety mark is 60 microgram.

    HT on Wednesday did another check on PM2.5 data and Delhi world’s most polluted city: Study - Hindustan Times. While Chinese’s capital recorded a pollution level of 275 m/cum, Delhi University’s PM 2.5 level was 500 m/cum and ITO’s 360 at 7pm.

    Moreover, the daily PM2.5 levels available for Beijing for 2013 showed that these varied from less than 50 m/cum to as high as 400 m/cum but largely remained below 250 m/cum, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said.

    But for Delhi, where air pollution is higher in winter than in other seasons, the daily average for November 2013 and January 2014 period shows that pollution has hovered around 240 m/cum -- almost four times higher than the Indian standard. It even went as high as 575 m/cum, CSE said. Even at its highest, Beijing’s winter level didn’t go beyond 400 m/cum.

    Read: Pollution control plan in limbo as Delhi gasps for breath - Hindustan Times

    The results of Yale University Environment Performance Index (EPI) giving Delhi the worst ranking may differ from India’s stations monitoring air pollution. Yale findings are more reliable as the data is collected from independent sources and environmental satellites fitted with sensors.

    Station monitoring provides correct exposure level only at a particular place, while satellite-based measurements are more universal, helping draw a clearer comparison between cities.

    Read: How air and water pollution plagues Indian cities - Hindustan Times

    Particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5 in shorthand) are fine enough to lodge deep in human lung and blood tissue and cause diseases ranging from stroke to lung cancer, the Yale study said.
     
  19. TrueSpirit1

    TrueSpirit1 The Nobody Banned

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    If you talking about air, environment etc, Delhi has getting better since last 10 years or so. Anyone denying that has a medical condition that demands attention or he has no idea.
     
  20. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    Relevant excerpts

    Delhi vs. Beijing: How to Read Pollution Statistics - India Real Time - WSJ
     
  21. PredictablyMalicious

    PredictablyMalicious Punjabi Senior Member

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    LoL whenever you think India is doing better than China on at least something, you find that India is even worse. India- a cursed nation.
     

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