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Toxic smog threatens Indian capital after six-year break

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Nov 6, 2007
Toxic smog is set to engulf India's capital once again this winter after a six-year respite because of the huge number of new cars clogging the roads, an environmental group warned Tuesday.

New Delhi is losing the environmental gains it made when it got rid of its diesel-run buses in 2000 at an "alarming rate," warned the independent Centre for Science and Environment.

New Delhi adds nearly 1,000 new cars a day to the existing four million registered in the city, almost twice as many as before 2000.

Newspapers this week declared that the smog is already back -- with front-page pictures to prove it.

"Pollution levels are on the upswing once again... up to 350 micrograms per cubic metre in 2006-2007," the head of the Centre for Science and Environment Sunita Narain told reporters.

Narain blamed the leap on the number of diesel cars in the city.

"Levels of nitrogen oxides have been increasing in the city to dangerous levels, which is a clear sign of pollution from vehicles.

"Of these it is the diesel cars that are responsible for the pollution," Narain said, demanding the government implement "second-generation reforms" to combat pollution.

Diesel-run vehicles constituted just two percent of the total number of cars on Delhi's roads seven years ago compared to more than 30 percent today and a projected 50 percent by 2010, Narain said, quoting automobile industry figures.

"This growth in personal diesel vehicles will undo all the efforts to reduce pollution by the phasing-out of diesel buses," said her associate Anumita Roychoudhry.

Diesel emissions can trigger asthma and "in the long run even cause lung cancer," she added.

Narain proposed higher taxes on diesel vehicles.

"Diesel is being increasingly used because it is a cheaper fuel. So we are demanding higher sales tax on these cars," she. "We have to act now. We only have a small window of opportunity at present."

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Massive pollution in Yangtze river can be reversed: scientists
Geneva (AFP) Nov 2, 2007
Swiss and Chinese scientists have found that pollution in China's 6,300 kilometre-long (3,915 mile-long) Yangtze river is "enormous" but still reversible, Switzerland's development agency said Friday.

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