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Delhi's air 'very poor' for 2nd consecutive day Photo: PTI – Vartha Bharati

New Delhi (PTI): Delhi’s air quality was recorded in the “very poor” category for the second consecutive day on Sunday and relief is unlikely until the end of the month, according to weather-monitoring agencies.

The city’s 24-hour average Air Quality Index (AQI) was recorded at 325, worsening from 304 on Saturday and 261 (“poor”) on Friday, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

It was 256 on Thursday, 243 on Wednesday and 220 on Tuesday.

The AQI was 286 in neighbouring Ghaziabad, 309 in Faridabad, 198 in Gurugram, 281 in Noida and 344 in Greater Noida.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”.

The city’s air quality deteriorated to the “very poor” category on Saturday due to a slow wind speed at night and a dip in temperatures.

The air quality is expected to remain very poor till the end of the month, according to the Centre’s Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi.

Earlier in the day, Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai demanded that the Centre impose a strict ban on buses operating with poor-quality diesel in the National Capital Region (NCR) areas of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

During a surprise inspection at the Kashmere Gate inter-state bus terminal, the minister found out that all buses coming to Delhi from Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are BS-III and BS-IV vehicles.

“Vehicular emissions account for a significant portion of Delhi’s air pollution. While buses in Delhi operate only on compressed natural gas (CNG) and electricity, those belonging to the neighbouring states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are BS-III and BS-IV vehicles,” Rai told reporters here.

Starting November 1, only electric, CNG and BS VI-compliant diesel buses will be allowed to operate between Delhi and the cities and towns of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan falling within the NCR, according to directions issued by the Centre’s Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM).

In an effort to reduce pollution levels, the Centre announced in April 2020 that all vehicles sold in India must comply with the Bharat Stage VI (BS VI) emission standards.

The Bharat Stage emission standards set legal limits on the amount of air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter, that vehicles in India can emit. These standards focus on improving emission control, fuel efficiency and engine design.

As vehicle manufacturers provide vehicles that meet these new norms, oil companies supply fuel that adheres to the BS-VI standards, known as the world’s cleanest fuel.

Unfavourable meteorological conditions and a cocktail of emissions from firecrackers and paddy-straw burning, in addition to local sources of pollution, push Delhi-NCR’s air quality to hazardous levels during winter.

According to an analysis conducted by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), the capital experiences peak pollution from November 1 to November 15, when the number of stubble-burning incidents in Punjab and Haryana goes up.

The Delhi government launched a 15-point action plan last month to mitigate air pollution during the winter season, with a strong emphasis on addressing dust pollution, vehicular emissions and open burning of garbage.

Special drives to check dust, vehicular and industrial pollution are already underway in the city.

In keeping with the practice of the last three years, the Delhi government last month announced a comprehensive ban on the manufacture, storage, sale and use of firecrackers within the city.

A public awareness campaign — “Patakhe Nahi Diye Jalao” — will soon be reintroduced to discourage bursting firecrackers.

The government has also prepared a mitigation plan for each of the 13 identified pollution hotspots — Narela, Bawana, Mundka, Wazirpur, Rohini, R K Puram, Okhla, Jahangirpuri, Anand Vihar, Vivek Vihar, Punjabi Bagh, Mayapuri and Dwarka.

Rai recently said the government has identified eight more pollution hotspots, in addition to the existing 13, in the national capital and special teams will be deployed at these places to check the pollution sources.

He said the government has also decided to use suppressant powder to prevent dust pollution.

Dust suppressants could include chemical agents like calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, lignosulfonates and various polymers. These chemicals work by attracting and binding fine dust particles together, making them too heavy to become airborne.
 
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Khan Younis (Gaza Strip) (AP): Two days after cellular and internet service abruptly vanished for most of Gaza amid a heavy Israeli bombardment, the crowded enclave came back online Sunday as communications systems were gradually restored.

That’s a welcome development for Gaza following a communications blackout that began late Friday as Israel expanded ground operations and launched intense airstrikes that illuminated the night sky with furious orange flashes. A rare few Palestinians with international SIM cards or satellite phones took it upon themselves to get the news out.

By Sunday morning, phone and internet communications had been restored to many people in Gaza, according to telecommunications providers in the area, Internet-access advocacy group NetBlocks.org and confirmation on the ground.

After weeks of a total Israeli siege, Palestinians in Gaza felt the vise tightening. Social media had been a lifeline for Palestinians desperate to get news and to share their terrifying plight with the world. Now even that was gone. Many were consumed with hopelessness and fear as the Israeli military announced a new stage in its war, launched in a response to a bloody cross-border attack by Hamas on Oct 7, and troops crossed into Gaza.

Exhausted and afraid her link to the world could drop at any moment, 28-year-old Palestinian journalist Hind al-Khoudary said the massive airstrikes that shook the ground exceeded anything she had experienced over the past three weeks or any of the four previous Israel-Hamas wars.

“It was crazy,” she said.

Residents on Saturday darted across dilapidated neighbourhoods under heavy bombardment to check on loved ones. Medics chased the thunder of artillery and bombs because they couldn’t receive distress calls. Survivors pulled the dead from the rubble with bare hands and loaded them into cars and donkey-drawn carts.

“It’s a catastrophe,” said Anas al-Sharif, a freelance journalist. “Entire families remain under the rubble.”

Reached by WhatsApp, freelance photojournalist Ashraf Abu Amra in northern Gaza said panic and confusion surrounded him.

“It’s barely possible to send this message,” he said. “All I want to convey is that the international community must intervene and save the people of Gaza from death immediately.”

Local journalists posting daily on social media scavenged the 360-sq-km (140-square-mile) territory to find even a spotty connection. Some moved closer to the southern border with Egypt, hoping to pick up that country’s network. Others had foreign SIM cards and special routers that connected to Israel’s network.

Mohammed Abdel Rahman, a journalist in northern Gaza, kept track of Israeli airstrikes all night, noticing the raids were concentrated along the strip’s northern border with Israel.

“A new bombing is happening right now as we speak,” he said, as the roar of explosions resounded in the background. “There is an explosion, gunfire, and clashes are heard near the border.”

“We do not know if there are (dead) or wounded because of the lack of communication,” Abdel Rahman added.

When the pace of bombardment slowed Saturday morning, residents rushed to the homes of loved ones with whom they had lost touch overnight.

“People right now are walking, using their cars because there isn’t internet,” al-Khoudary said. “Everyone is checking on us, seeing us, and now we are going to check on others.”

She went directly to Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, where doctors, exhausted from operating on patient after patient with dwindling fuel and medical supplies, pressed on, despite the crowds of some 50,000 people sheltering in the compound.

The wounded poured in from Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, al-Khoudary said, where Israeli bombs wrought destruction the night before.

Health authorities in Gaza and UN agencies warned that the blackout has exacerbated Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said the communication outages had paralyzed an overwhelmed health system. As ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra addressed reporters at a press conference livestreamed by the Al Jazeera satellite network from the hospital, an older bespectacled man positioned himself just behind the podium.

While al-Qidra spoke, the man waved into the camera and pointed his hands upward to the heavens apparently hoping to reassure someone far away that he was alive.

International aid organisations, whose limited operations inside the enclave have teetered on collapse, said they couldn’t reach their staff nearly 24 hours after the blackout.

The chief of the UN Palestinian Refugee Agency, Philippe Lazzarini, penned a public letter to his staff in Gaza expressing “immense worry” for their safety.

“I am constantly hoping that this hell on earth will soon come to an end and that you and your families are safe,” he wrote. “You are the face of humanity during one of its darkest hours.”

Doctors Without Borders said the group had not communicated with its team in Gaza since since 8 pm Friday.

“We are not able to send our team to different facilities because we have no way to coordinate with them,” Guillemette Thomas, the regional medical coordinator, said from Paris. “That’s really a critical situation.”
A 40-year-old woman and her two daughters died on Sunday evening when they were run over by the Vande Bharat Express at a manned level crossing in this district while they were crossing it, police said.
East Coast Railway (ECoR) on Sunday said a human error could have resulted in the collision of two trains in Andhra Pradesh’s Vizianagaram district.
Finishing inside top seven on the ongoing World Cup table will have an added incentive to the teams as they will receive qualification for the eight-team ICC Champions Trophy 2025 alongside designated hosts Pakistan.
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