Report Reveals Alarming Air Pollution Crisis: Asia Bears Brunt, Urgent Action Needed Worldwide

A recent report has shed light on the alarming state of air pollution worldwide, particularly in Asia. The findings reveal that of the 100 cities grappling with the worst air quality, almost all were located in Asia, indicating a profound crisis that imperils the health of billions of individuals globally.

The report, conducted by IQAir, an organization dedicated to tracking air quality on a global scale, underscores the severity of the situation. It discloses that a staggering 83 out of these 100 cities were situated in India alone, surpassing the air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO) by more than tenfold.

Specifically focusing on the presence of fine particulate matter known as PM2.5, the study highlights its pervasive and hazardous nature. PM2.5, originating from various sources such as the combustion of fossil fuels, dust storms, and wildfires, poses severe health risks upon inhalation, penetrating deep into lung tissue and even entering the bloodstream. The consequences include a heightened susceptibility to asthma, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and cognitive impairments, particularly in children.

Frank Hammes, the CEO of IQAir Global, emphasizes the far-reaching impacts of air pollution on human lives, stating, “We see that in every part of our lives that air pollution has an impact.” He notes that in heavily polluted countries, individuals may be losing up to six years of their lives due to air pollution-related ailments, highlighting the urgent need for improved air quality.

India, in particular, faces a dire situation, with cities like Begusarai in Bihar state ranking as the most polluted globally, with PM2.5 concentrations exceeding WHO guidelines by 23 times. Across the country, a staggering 1.3 billion people, constituting 96% of the population, are exposed to air quality levels far surpassing WHO recommendations.

The report identifies Central and South Asia as the worst-performing regions globally, with countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Tajikistan ranking among the most polluted. Notably, South Asia stands out, with nearly all of the 30 most polluted cities located in India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.

Addressing the root causes of this crisis, Hammes emphasizes the necessity for significant changes in energy infrastructure and agricultural practices to mitigate pollution levels effectively. He also underscores the interconnectedness of outdoor and indoor air pollution, stressing that actions like cooking with dirty fuel exacerbate indoor air quality issues.

The report’s global analysis reveals a bleak reality, with a staggering 92.5% of locations worldwide exceeding WHO’s PM2.5 guidelines. Only a handful of countries and territories, including Finland, Estonia, and New Zealand, boast healthy air quality levels.

Tragically, air pollution-related health issues claim millions of lives annually. The burning of fossil fuels alone leads to the premature deaths of 5.1 million individuals annually, while combined ambient and household air pollution accounts for 6.7 million deaths yearly, according to WHO.

The report underscores the pivotal role of the climate crisis in exacerbating air pollution levels globally. Changing weather patterns, intensified wildfires, and prolonged pollen seasons contribute to worsening air quality, with vulnerable communities bearing the brunt of these environmental shifts.

While North America grapples with the aftermath of devastating wildfires, Asia experiences a resurgence in pollution levels, with China witnessing a reversal in declining pollution trends. Despite previous efforts to curb pollution, Chinese cities experienced a resurgence in smog, underscoring the challenges in sustaining clean air initiatives.

Southeast Asia also faces escalating pollution levels, with Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand registering significant increases. Thailand, in particular, grapples with toxic smog, prompting authorities to implement measures such as remote work arrangements to mitigate health risks.

However, amidst these dire circumstances, there are glimmers of hope. The report highlights growing civic engagement and pressure from various stakeholders to monitor and address air quality issues, signaling a promising shift towards prioritizing environmental health.

As Frank Hammes aptly summarizes, “Ultimately that’s great because it really shows governments that people do care.” This collective effort is crucial in driving meaningful change and safeguarding the health and well-being of communities worldwide.

Climate Change Will Cause 62 Million South Asians To Be Forced To Migrate From Their Homes By 2050

More than 62 million South Asian people will be forced to migrate from their homes due to climate disasters by 2050, a new study revealed on Friday
According to the study conducted by ActionAid International and the Climate Action Network South Asia, political failure to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius, as per the Paris agreement goal, is already driving 18 million climate migrants from their homes in 2020.
The analysis estimates climate migration will treble in South Asia alone, a region badly affected by climate disasters, including floods, droughts, typhoons and cyclones.
The research was undertaken by Bryan Jones, one of the authors of the inaugural Groundswell Report on internal climate migration in 2018.
The new research released this International Migrants Day has broadened the analysis to incorporate new drivers of climate migration, which include loss of biodiversity and up to date scenarios of sea level rises and global warming.
The report, “Costs of climate inaction: displacement and distress migration” assesses climate-fuelled displacement and migration across five the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and calculates a devastating likelihood of more than 60 million people being homeless and displaced by 2050 in South Asia alone.
This is almost as many people as are forced from their homes globally due to war and conflict, raising the alarm that climate can no longer be overlooked as a major factor driving displacement.
Climate migration could easily surpass conflict as a driving force of displacement if political leaders continue to renege on their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
Communities can be resilient to climate change, slow onset climate disasters, such as sea-level rise, drought, failed harvests and loss of biodiversity, but this takes money and political will.
The report by ActionAid and partners Climate Action Network South Asia and Bread for the World, calls for strong leadership and ambition from developed countries to cut emissions and support for developing countries to adapt to climate change and recover from climate disasters.
It recommends a holistic approach that places the onus on rich countries to provide support and urges developing countries to scale up efforts to protect people from climate impacts.
South Asia is particularly prone to climate disasters and has some of the highest levels of climate-fuelled displacement.
Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at ActionAid, told IANS: “We are facing melting glaciers in Nepal, rising seas in India and Bangladesh, cyclones and inhospitable temperatures. Climate change is increasingly forcing people to flee their homes in search of safety and new means to provide for their families.
“Rich countries need to take greater responsibility to reduce their emissions and support South Asian countries in cutting emissions and dealing with climate impacts. The human cost of inaction is too high.”
The research reveals that in all five countries, women are left dealing with the negative fallout from climate migration. They are left behind to take care of household chores, agricultural activities, look after children and elderly and manage livestock.
Women who migrate to urban settlements are often then forced to take up work in precarious settings where workers’ rights violations are rife.
Sanjay Vashist, Director, Climate Action Network South Asia, said: “South Asia is geographically vulnerable to climate disasters and is regularly lashed with floods and cyclones, but poverty and environmental injustice are also determining factors in this climate migration crisis.
“South Asian leaders must join forces and prepare plans for the protection of displaced people. They must step up and invest in universal and effective social protection measures, resilience plans and green infrastructure to respond to the climate crisis and help those who have been forced to move.”
Bryan Jones, Assistant Professor, Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College said: “The work we have done here represents a deeper dive of the type Groundswell was meant to inspire, focusing the attention on to specific locations that are likely to experience major climate related disasters.
“The impact of sea-level rise, coupled with drought and heat-extremes will almost certainly drive families to consider alternative work, and our results suggest that for many this means moving to cities.
“The combination of environmentally sensitive livelihoods, population growth, and urbanization, in my opinion, will make South Asia one of the most active regions in terms of climate-induced migration.
“Additionally, because many of the largest and most important urban centres in the region lie in particularly vulnerable coastal areas, it is imperative that policy makers prepare for the likely influx of migrants.”

UN Urges World Leaders to Declare ‘Climate Emergency’ at Virtual Climate Summit

Global climate leaders took a major stride towards a resilient, net zero emissions future today, presenting ambitious new commitments, urgent actions and concrete plans to confront the climate crisis.

World leaders should declare a “climate emergency” in their countries to spur action to avoid catastrophic global warming, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in opening remarks at a climate summit on Saturday.

On the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris Agreement, more than 70 world leaders are due to address the one-day virtual meeting in the hope of galvanizing countries into stricter actions on global warming emissions.

Guterres said that current commitments across the globe did not go “far from enough” to limit temperature rises. “Can anybody still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency?” Guterres said. “That is why today, I call on all leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached.”

The summit showed clearly that climate change is at the top of the global agenda despite our shared challenges of Covid-19, and that there is mutual understanding that the science is clear.

Climate destruction is accelerating, and there remains much more to do as a global community to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, the summit showed beyond doubt that climate action and ambition are on the rise. The announcements at or just before the summit, together with those expected early next year, mean that countries representing around 65 per cent of global CO2 emissions, and around 70 per cent of the world’s economy, will have committed to reaching net zero emissions or carbon neutrality by early next year.

These commitments must now be backed up with concrete plans and actions, starting now, to achieve these goals, and the summit delivered a surge in progress on this front.

The number of countries coming forward with strengthened national climate plans (NDCs) grew significantly today, with commitments covering 71 countries (all EU member states are included in the new EU NDC) on display. As well as the EU NDC, a further 27 of these new and enhanced NDCs were announced at or shortly before the summit.

A growing number of countries (15) shifted gears from incremental to major increases. Countries committing to much stronger NDCs at the Summit, included Argentina, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Iceland, and Peru.

The leadership and strengthened NDCs delivered at the summit mean “we are now on track” to have more than 50 NDCs officially submitted by the end of 2020, boosting momentum and forging a pathway forward for others to follow in the months ahead.

Saturday’s announcements, together with recent commitments, send the world into 2021 and the road to the Glasgow COP26 with much greater momentum. The summit showcased leading examples of enhanced NDCs that can help encourage other countries to follow suit – particularly G20 countries.

Following this Summit, 24 countries have now announced new commitments, strategies or plans to reach net zero or carbon neutrality. Recent commitments from China, Japan, South Korea, the EU and niw Argentina have established a clear benchmark for other G20 countries.

Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today we have seen what can be achieved if nations pull together and demonstrate real leadership and ambition in the fight to save our planet.

“The UK has led the way with a commitment to cut emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030 and to end support for the fossil fuel sector overseas as soon as possible, and it’s fantastic to see new pledges from around the world that put us on the path to success ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

“There is no doubt that we are coming to the end of a dark and difficult year, but scientific innovation has proved to be our salvation as the vaccine is rolled out. We must use that same ingenuity and spirit of collective endeavour to tackle the climate crisis, create the jobs of the future and build back better.”

China and India vowed to advance their commitment to lower carbon pollution at the summit. President Xi Jinping was one of the first leaders to address the virtual conference and he said China will boost its installed capacity of wind and solar power to more than 1,200 gigawatts over the next decade. Xi also said China will increase its share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25% during the same period. And “China always honors its commitments,” Xi promised.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was ramping up its use of clean energy sources and was on target to achieve the emissions norms set under the 2015 Paris agreement. India, the second-most populous nation on Earth and the world’s fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, is eyeing 450 gigawatt of renewable energy capacity by 2030, Modi said.


Is Delhi, The World’s Most Air Polluted Capital In The World?

After an unexpected respite as coronavirus lockdowns stalled economic activity, air pollution has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels in Delhi, the world’s most air polluted capital city.

Last month, ahead of the usual spike in winter, the Delhi administration launched an antipollution campaign. But to win, nothing short of sustained action on multiple fronts will suffice. Other Asian capitals too have faced pollution crises. But Delhi’s is extreme because of a combination of smoke from thermal plants and brick kilns in the capital region, effluents from a congested transportation network, stubble or biomass burning by farmers in neighboring states, and the lack of cleansing winds that causes air pollution to hang over the city. Even as technical solutions are within reach, the campaign must overcome the poor policy coordination among central, city, and local governments.

Delhi’s toxic haze is a deadly health risk to its residents, particularly children, the elderly, and the ill. Particulate matter—PM2.5 and PM10—far exceeds national and World Health Organization limits and is the main culprit for Delhi’s high incidence of cardiovascular damage. The city’s toxic air also contains high quantities of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide, putting people at higher risk of strokes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure, and worsening the respiratory complications from COVID-19.

The main sources of Delhi’s particulate emissions are, in equal measure, particles from large power plants and refineries, vehicles, and stubble burning. The experiences of Bangkok, Beijing, and Singapore suggest that an ambitious but feasible goal is to cut air pollution by one-third by 2025, which, if sustained, could extend people’s lives by two to three years. The current effort is designed to confront all three sources, but strong implementation is needed.

Delhi is moving simultaneously on three fronts: energy, transport, and agriculture. In each case, East Asia offers valuable lessons.

Coal-fired plants. Delhi’s environment minister has called for the closure of 11 coal-fired power plants operating within 300 kilometers of Delhi. But policy implementation must improve: All the plants have missed two deadlines to install flue-gas desulfurization units to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Last year, 10 coal-fired power plants missed a December deadline to install pollution control devices. Beijing provides valuable lessons in cutting concentrations of PM2.5 more than 40 percent since 2013. Beijing substituted its four major coal-fired stations with natural gas plants. The city government ordered 1,200 factories to shut with stricter controls and inspections of emitters. Bangkok had success with its inspection and maintenance program.

Cleaner transport. Delhi has tried pollution checking of vehicles by mobile enforcement teams, public awareness campaigns, investment in mass rapid transport systems, and phasing out old commercial vehicles. The Delhi government’s recent push for electric vehicles shows promise, while the response of industry and the buy-in from customers will be key. Overall results in cutting pollution have been weak because of poor governance at every level. Better outcomes will be predicated on investment in public transportation, including integration of transport modes and last-mile connectivity. Unfortunately, Delhi Transport Corporation’s fleet shrank from 6,204 buses in 2013 to 3,796 buses in 2019, with most of the bus fleet aging. Delhi should look at Singapore’s regulation on car ownership and use; its improved transit systems; and promotion of pedestrian traffic and nonmotorized transport.

Better farming practices. Burning of crop stubble in Delhi’s neighboring states has become a serious source of pollution in the past decade. In 2019, India’s Supreme Court ordered a complete halt to the practice of stubble burning and reprimanded authorities in two of these states, Punjab and Haryana, for allowing this illegal practice to continue. Needed is the political will to act, as poor farmers complain that they receive no financial support to dispose of post-harvest stubble properly. Delhi’s “Green War Room” signaling the fight against the smog, is analyzing satellite data on farm fires from Punjab and Haryana to identify and deal with the culprits. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute has proposed a low-cost way to deal with the problem of stubble burning by spraying a chemical solution to decompose the crop residue and turn it into manure. Better coordination is needed. In 2013, when Singapore faced a record-breaking haze due to agricultural waste burning in neighboring countries, the Environment Agency and ministries of education and manpower together issued guidelines based on a Pollution Standards Index to minimize the health impacts of haze. Stubble burning has been banned or discouraged in China, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Delhi, projected to be the world’s most populous city by 2030, is motivated by a sense of urgency. Facing a growing environmental and health calamity, antipollution efforts are being strengthened. But to succeed, the different levels of government must harness the political will to invest more, coordinate across boundaries, and motivate businesses and residents to do their bit.

(By Vinod Thomas, a Distinguished Fellow – Asian Institute of Management, Manila and Former Senior Vice President – World Bank and Chitranjali Tiwari, an Associate Fellow – JK Lakshmipat University, Jaipur)

Has Mount Everest Grown? Nepal Will Tell Us

Well known around the globe, Everest as the tallest mountain with 29,029 feet, from sea level to summit may not be the actual height– or at least not for long. Because the mountain is changing.  Scientists say Everest is getting taller, over time, because of plate tectonics. As the Indian plate slips under the Eurasian plate, it uplifts the Himalayas. But earthquakes can reduce their height in an instant.

After a 7.8-magnitude quake in 2015 killed thousands, including climbers on Everest, scientists suspect the mountain got shorter. So China and Nepal, on whose borders Everest stands, decided it’s time to re-measure Everest.

This spring, with the climbing season canceled for COVID-19, China sent a survey team up to Everest’s summit, carrying GPS receivers. Last year, Nepal did the same. The two countries have been analyzing their findings for months, and are expected to release them any day now – possibly as early as this weekend. Calculating that number has evolved as our technology has, but the science remains complicated.

As per reports, Nepal is going to announce the new height of Mt Everest, the world’s tallest peak, very soon. A Cabinet meeting gave nod to Nepal’s Ministry of Land Management to announce the height of Everest and according to some media reports, as the peak has appeared taller than it was but no official confirmation yet.

Minister for Land Management of Nepal, Padma Kumari Aryal said that with our own resources, we have completed the measurement of the Everest and are going to announce it very soon. Nepal had started the remeasurement of the world’s tallest peak in 2017 of its own resources as a lot of concerns were emerging about the height of Mt Everest after the 2015 earthquake.

As agreed with Chinese side, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping last year, Nepal and China will jointly announce the height of the Everest in Kathmandu and Beijing simultaneously, according to Nepal’s Ministry of Land Management.

Although Nepal had planned and announced the remeasurement of the Everest height, believed to be altered by the 2015 earthquake, on its own, the two countries made an agreement in October last year to announce the height jointly. Following that, China measured the height of Everest from the northern side in May this year from Tibetan face.

Nepal and China have been at odds over the height of Everest after China unilaterally declared the height of Everest as 8,844.04 meter in 2015 against globally accepted 8,848 meter. Over the differences about the height of Everest, Nepal and China also could not sign the boundary protocol since then. The present height of Everest was declared after the Survey of India in 1954 and has been considered the same since then. After Nepal declared to remeasurement of the height of Everest, India had also put interest but Nepal rejected the offer saying that it will measure of its own resources.

As China came up with the rock height of Everest in 2015 against the globally accepted snow height, now according to Padma Kumari Aryal, Minister for Land Management, now Beijing has agreed to consider the snow height of Everest. (IANS)