Now Delhi Is Challenging Beijing For Pollution Crown Too

Indian pedestrians walk near smog enveloped government offices on Rajpath in New Delhi on December 1, 2015. India's capital, with 18 million residents, has the world's most polluted air with six times the amount of small particulate matter (pm2.5) than what is considered safe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The air's hazardous amount of pm2.5 can reach deep into the lungs and enter the blood, causing serious long term health effect, with the WHO warning India has the world's highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases. India, home to 13 of the world's top 20 polluted cities, is also the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the United States and China. Rich countries should not force the developing world to abandon fossil fuels completely, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the UN climate summit in Paris on December 1. Almost a third of India's population remains in severe poverty with limited access to electricity, and its government sees little chance of boosting their prospects without turning to cheap and plentiful coal. AFP PHOTO / ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP / ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

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India overtook China as the world’s fastest-growing big economy to much fanfare earlier this year. Now it’s challenging its Asian neighbor for another, less desirable title.

Appalling levels of pollution in the Indian capital have prompted the nation’s highest court to mandate measures to curb noxious emissions.

Trucks more than 10 years old, and vehicles with diesel engines larger than 2000cc, will no longer be permitted to enter New Delhi, the BBC reports. The Supreme Court says it will also not be permissible to register vehicles with such large engine sizes for the first three months of next year.

Environmental charges on trucks are meanwhile being hiked and may be widened to include other kinds of diesel vehicles, while taxis will have to convert to natural gas fuels, the BBC says.

Air pollution in New Delhi is reportedly, by some measures, the worst in the world, or at the very least on a par with the notoriously smoggy Chinese capital Beijing. Unlike Beijing, however, Delhi has no system of warning residents when pollution is particularly severe.

As with China, the chief sources of pollution have a massive increase in coal-fired power generation and emissions from vehicles. India’s use of coal for power generation doubled between 2002 and 2012 and is expected to double again by 2040, by which time it will be the world’s second-largest consumer of coal after China.

India is already home to 13 of the world’s top 20 polluted cities, is also the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the U.S. and China, a status that put it center stage in this month’s climate summit in Paris. Although the country has some of the world’s most ambitious plans to roll out renewable power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country won’t be able to end poverty and raise living standards without coal-fired power for the foreseeable future.


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