Friday, August 19, 2022

India’s top court orders halt to stubble burning as Delhi chokes

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India’s top court has ordered a complete halt to stubble burning around Delhi, a major contributor to lethal smog that on Tuesday kept the metropolis of 20 million people choking in air rated “very poor”.

The Supreme Court said the capital’s residents were “losing precious years” of their lives, adding “people are dying, this just cannot happen in a civilised country”.

In a ruling following petitions filed by activists, the court’s judges ordered an immediate halt to the practice of farmers burning crop stubble in the states surrounding the capital.

They warned that the entire administrative and police hierarchy — all the way down to local officers — would be held responsible if the practice continued.

Burning stubble is already illegal, but many hard-up farmers say they have no choice.

Each winter, smog hits northern India as cooler air traps the stubble smoke, car fumes, factory emissions and construction dust close to the ground, creating a noxious cocktail that burns eyes and makes breathing difficult.

On Sunday, pollution shot up, with levels of particulates measuring less than 2.5 microns — so tiny they can enter the bloodstream — approaching 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter of air, the worst in three years.

The World Health Organisation’s recommended safe daily maximum is just 25.

Flights were diverted and hospitals reported a surge in patients with respiratory complaints.

Concentrations of the tiny particles — which can be lethal with long-term exposure — fell on Tuesday, with the government monitoring agency Safar rating the air “very poor”, down from “severe” a day earlier.

According to the AirVisual website, Delhi remained the most polluted city in the world on Tuesday ahead of Kolkata in eastern India and Lahore in Pakistan. Beijing was in sixth place.

 

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