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FROTH AND BUBBLE
Doctors say no to sport in Delhi as cricketers choke in smog
By Abhaya SRIVASTAVA
New Delhi (AFP) Dec 5, 2017


UN assembly starts drafting plan for 'pollution-free planet'
Nairobi (AFP) Dec 4, 2017 - Humans are poisoning their environment and themselves at an alarming rate, with pollution of the oceans, soil and air now the biggest killer, a UN conference heard Monday.

Urging rapid and united action from governments, businesses and individual consumers, envoys underlined that nine million people are now killed by pollution every year -- one in six global deaths.

"Pollution is the biggest killer on the planet and we need to defeat it," UN Environment Programme head Erik Solheim said at the third UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya.

Of the annual tally, nearly seven million people succumb from inhaling toxins in the air -- from car exhaust fumes, factory emissions and indoor cooking with wood and coal, according to a recent report by The Lancet medical journal.

Lead in paint alone causes brain damage in more than half-a-million children every year.

Yet, as the human toll keeps rising, so does the trashing.

"Over 80 percent of the world's waste water is released into the environment without treatment," Ligia Noronha, director of the UN Environment Programme's economy division, told journalists at the assembly.

"Close to 50 million tonnes of e-waste are produced every year."

The UNEA is the highest decision-making forum on issues concerning the natural environment, with all 193 UN member countries represented.

It gathered environment ministers and deputies from more than 100 countries in the Kenyan capital from Monday to Wednesday, to thrash out the wording of a global, political declaration entitled: "Towards a Pollution-Free Planet".

- 'A problem of human rights' -

The pact will commit UN member countries to limiting humankind's fouling of the planet with chemicals, non-biodegradable litter, and toxic smoke.

The ministers are also negotiating a number of specific anti-pollution resolutions to limit the amount of fish-choking plastic that finds its way into the ocean, for example, and to stop the use of lead in paint.

The recent report by The Lancet said welfare costs associated with pollution, including medical costs, were nearly $5 trillion (4.2 trillion euros) a year -- more than six percent of global economic output.

"It's not just a problem of health. It's not just a problem of productivity and implications to the economy, but it's also very much a problem of human rights," said Noronha.

"People have a right to live in clean environments."

The president of the UNEA meeting, Costa Rica's environment minister Edgar Gutierrez, said he had urged government representatives to set aside narrow national interests and look past contentious issues to find "common ground".

"Looking at the whole, we have done a very bad job taking care of our environment," he said.

"And the worst part of this is that we have very little room now to make mistakes."

The assembly gathered more than 4,500 participants including government representatives, NGOs, scientists and business people.

Aside from outright poisoning, pollution causes an array of deadly ailments such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Unprecedented scenes of Sri Lankan cricketers wearing face masks have reignited debate about hosting major sports in heavily polluted New Delhi, where doctors are increasingly vocal about the health risks posed by smog.

Medics on Monday urged cricket's governing body to revise its rulebook after a Test match between India and Sri Lanka went ahead in the capital despite players vomiting and wheezing for air.

International cricketers returned Monday for day three of the third Test even as air pollution at Feroz Shah Kotla stadium soared to hit 18 times the World Health Organization's safe level.

Play had been disrupted three times on Sunday as Sri Lankan players complained of illness, but umpires ruled the match would proceed.

The Indian Medical Association condemned the decision, warning that playing in such conditions put athletes' health at serious risk.

"This match should not have taken place in the first place. It is time the ICC (International Cricket Council) comes up with a policy on pollution," said IMA president K. K Aggarwal.

"You have fast bowlers, batsmen and fielders out there exposed to these very harmful pollutants over five days at a stretch. It takes a serious toll on your health in the long run."

The sport's governing body declined to comment.

India's powerful cricket board accused Sri Lanka of making a "big fuss", pointing to Indian skipper Virat Kohli who hit a record sixth Test double century despite the smog.

But the US embassy website on Monday urged Delhi residents to "avoid all outdoor exertion" as concentrations of the smallest and most harmful airborne pollutants known as PM2.5 soared to hazardous levels.

These tiny particles -- a fraction the size of human hair -- lodge deep in the lungs and are linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease.

The concentration of such particles Monday hit 448 -- compared to a maximum level of 25 considered safe by the World Health Organization over a 24-hour period.

Even limited exposure can cause shortness of breath and make the eyes weep and throat burn.

- Wake up call -

Pollution levels generally rise during the winter in Delhi and across northern India and neighbouring Pakistan, fuelled by crop burning in the region and the fact that cooler air traps particulates close to the ground.

The smog has become especially alarming in the past two years, casting doubt on the future of sports events in the sports-mad swathe of South Asia.

"This should be a wake up call for Pak. Our children are at a huge risk because of dangerous pollution levels," tweeted former Pakistani cricketer and political opposition leader Imran Khan about the India-Sri Lanka Test.

Doctors and public health campaigners have escalated their fight against sports events in Delhi in recent years.

Last month more than 30,000 runners competed in the Delhi half-marathon -- just days after smog shut schools amid a public health emergency in the capital.

Doctors warned of dire health consequences and challenged the race in court but it went ahead, with runners complaining of burning eyes and sore throats.

Greenpeace lobbied in October against India hosting the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, warning it posed unacceptable risks to the world's youngest soccer stars.

It also proceeded but schedule was adjusted to avoid Delhi at its worst.

"Others should also think about athletes health first," tweeted tournament director Javier Ceppi after images of Sri Lankan cricketers wearing face masks went around the globe.

Other events in Delhi -- like an Asian tour golf title in November and Indian Super League football matches -- attract less controversy but doctors say pose no less risk.

"Ideally, sporting events should not be scheduled in the winter months in Delhi," chest and lung cancer specialist Doctor Arvind Kumar told AFP.

"We cannot expose our athletes to inhuman levels of pollution just because a few hundred crores (tens of millions of dollars) is at stake."

The Test debacle in Delhi is not the first time cricketers have complained of air pollution in the capital, with Australia citing smoggy air following their loss to India in 1996.

FROTH AND BUBBLE
Cricketers flounder in New Delhi's hazardous smog
New Delhi (AFP) Dec 4, 2017
Indian and Sri Lankan cricketers battled through hazardous smog levels in a Test match Monday as New Delhi authorities faced scathing criticism over their lack of action to combat pollution. A day after protests by Sri Lankan players temporarily halted the third Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, the third day's play went ahead in even worse smog. The concentration of the smallest and ... read more

Related Links
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up


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