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A Choking City: What the Ongoing Toxic Week in Delhi Means for its People

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A joke on the morbidity of New Delhi is circulating among Delhiites (people from Delhi) that while the lives of the citizens were disrupted in November last year due to ‘note-bandi’ (ban on currency), November of this year presents an even tougher test for the people with ‘saans-bandi’, a ban on breathing. The receding autumn or advent of winter was a once beloved season of a good number of people in the city who welcomed the change with a complete revamp of their wardrobes with colourful woollens. It is now characterized with bleak skies, an air of gloom and a little bit of grey in everything you see outside of your house.

For the past three days, I have been acutely aware of the air I am breathing, felt unproductive and apprehensive in spells for no good reason, and felt the need to confine myself to my house for as long as possible. These are some of the less apparent effects of the thick blanket of smog that has engulfed the national capital region. As a number of people donned with different types of masks on the roads and on Snapchat serve as a constant visual reminder of how the city is choking, a flurry of articles and news updates have presided over my feed. One of them included a horrifying viral video recording of vehicles ramming into each other due to poor visibility on the Noida-Agra Expressway as people scrambled to get themselves and their children out of the way, while some other articles argued about how currently breathing in Delhi for a day is the equivalent of smoking twenty cigarettes.

A sudden state of emergency

Less than two days ago, when the air quality in Delhi visibly worsened, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal likened the city to a ‘gas chamber’. The PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels in different parts of the capital have rocketed above the levels that are considered safe, and the Safar (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research) has declared the air quality as ‘severe’ for at least the next three days after which the level may drop to a not so safe either ‘very poor’ level. In some parts of the city, the AQI (air quality index) was detected on monitors at 999, the highest possible reading, which suggests that the level might be even higher. The visibility during the early hours has also dropped to very low levels. Among the different reasons for the observed level of pollution in Delhi, slow winds at this time of the year have been identified as the prime contributor along with stubble burning by farmers in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana. Combined with the dust particles present in the air, omissions from vehicles that plague the roads in the region throughout the day, and those from factories and construction activities, these factors dictate a recipe for creating uninhabitable conditions.

Making amends: A scramble for order

The Indian Medical Association on 7th November declared Delhi to be in a state of public health emergency, urging the Delhi government and other bodies to take adequate steps to ensure minimum risk to citizens, especially young children and the elderly, who are most likely to suffer from the effects of pollution. After a worsening situation, the government has ordered all schools in the capital to remain shut till Sunday, and has rolled out plans to implement the odd-even scheme for vehicles in the city from next week. Parking fee throughout the city has also been increased fourfold and the prices for travel by the metro have been substantially reduced for the time being to promote the use of public transport. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also banned all construction and industrial activities till November 14 in a bid to provide the citizens of Delhi a breath of better quality air. Mr. Kejriwal has also approached his counterparts from Punjab and Haryana over the issue of stubble burning by the farmers but it remains to be seen how the move plays out in the coming days.

As the government battles against the situation, the public is taking measures to protect themselves in whatever way they can. An increasing number of doctors and specialists on the matter have advised people not to go out for morning walks or outdoor activities so as to not inhale excessive quantities of toxic pollutants. Some doctors have even advised their patients to leave the city for the time being if possible. Air purifiers for houses and masks for travelling outside have seen a huge rise in sales as nearly everyone has become an expert on the subject of filters and N95 and N99 have become trending words from pharmacies to WhatsApp conversations.

A year ago, while New Delhi wrestled with more or less the same conditions, UNICEF had called on the rest of the world to consider the situation as a wake up call. “It is a wake up call that very clearly tells us: unless decisive actions are taken to reduce air pollution, the events we are witnessing in Delhi over the past week are likely to be increasingly common”, it had said in a statement. If we are doing better than last year, it is still not enough, and all one needs is less than a minute in the open to be convinced of that. As the world battles with the effects of climate change, India’s bid to have a major global footprint in the coming decades is bound to take a serious hit if so many of its cities, and especially its capital follow a trend of being unlivable for a chunk of time at the end of every year.

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A student of economics with a keen eye for developments in the geopolitical sphere, Manak is a curious individual with a penchant for writing about anything that makes him ponder long enough.

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How To Save Water At Work

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When you’re at home, you know how to save water and do better for your house. Living in a green way is easy at home, but what about at work? When you are not the owner of a business premises, it’s not always easy to be green. However, there are things that you can do as a business that will ensure that you are analyzing your water efficiency and you can then reduce the water use in your workplace.

Below, we’ve put together some of the best ways that you can conserve water in your workplace. You can continue your green efforts in the workplace this way!

Get Your Management Team On Your Side

If you are planning to start water conservation efforts at work, you need the rest of your management team on your side. They need to be happy to work with you and ensure that your water conservation efforts are successful. If you’re working as one team, you’re far more likely to save the planet a little aggravation and you can successfully prevent flooding, too.

Research 

You need to know the best ways to conserve water, and we’re willing to bet that you haven’t looked at whether you can get permission from your landlord about installing water tanks from  watertankfactory.com.au/water-tanks-dalby/. You need to research what you can and cannot do in terms of saving water in any way possible. 

Put Together A List

You need to know why you are saving water and what it will be for. Filtering rainwater for free, drinkable water in the office is a genius way to keep employees cool. You can also use it for the external garden of your business, as a way to flush the toilets and you can also use it to clean the floors. 

Know How You Already Use Your Water

How does your business consume water? Where is it mostly used through the working week? If you can ensure that you are using your water properly, you will be able to encourage your staff to do the same thing. Conservation only works when everyone is on board!

Bring In The Experts

Do you have leaky faucets? Are you dealing with pipes that are broken or cracked in any way? Any of these things can cause your water payments to shoot right up. Bringing in the experts to assess your current water systems and evaluate your pipework is the best way to ensure that you are saving water. You can stop the waste when you have someone in to assess what you are dealing with.

Save It

By buying rainwater tanks and saving the rainfall, you can use less of the water from the faucets and the pipes in the building. You can add a good filtration system and this will help you to get rid of the nasties in the water and reduce the contaminants that you could be facing.

Water conservation is not just for your house. And now you know how to get it right!

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Ten Totally Awesome Ways To Save Water

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Living on a planet that’s mostly made up of water means that water is our biggest commodity here on Earth. We use it every single day whether we are showering, washing dishes or clothes, watering the garden or even using the toilet. In our homes, we use a lot of water and we rarely think about what we’re using. Most countries using water are fortunate enough not to have to worry about how much they are using each day, while there are other places in the world that do everything that they canfor the tiniest possible drop of water. 

In fact, half of the world’s global population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water, so it’s our responsibility to save as much water as possible and not waste it. Water waste depletes one of our biggest resources, and it makes sense to save water – and money – as much as we can. When you are running a home, the amount of water that you use has to be a concern for you as you are paying for the service of clean water piped into your home. Much in the way you wouldn’t stand there switching the light on and off to waste electricity, you need to learn how you can save as much water as possible. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at ten awesome ways you can do just that. 

Switch It Off

Such a simple thing to do, and yet it’s one of the things that people find hardest to do! Leaving faucets running while brushing teeth is not ideal and you can save tanks of water every year by switching the faucet off until you need it again. It’s the same as running the shower for too long when you are waiting for it to warm up and you to get in – give it five seconds and get in! You should also think about limiting the time that you spend in the shower to conserve the water you are running. If you see a water source running, turn it off and you’ll be saving energy, too.

Use Composting For Food

If you have leftover food, don’t throw it down the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal wastes a lot of water and you can save yourself the money and the water waste by throwing the old food scraps on the compost pile and giving the rest to the dog. The garbage disposal relies on water running to break down the food, so you are going to be making a big difference by switching it off.

Wrap Your Pipes

While it’s helpful to purchase slimline water tanks to catch any dripping water, you can save a lot of water by insulating your pipes. In the cooler weather, pipes have a tendency to crack and split, which makes them leak water all over the place. It also takes hot water a lot longer to flow through the pipes because they’re too cold to manage. So, if you insulate your pipes properly, you can prevent these two ways to waste water. By all means, get those water tanks regardless: you could always use new ways to save water!

Repair Cracks

We just mentioned that colder weather can make the pipes crack, and it’s true that this happens easily. Instead of wasting both water and money on this, why not start looking at getting those leaks repaired? It’s not just pipes, either. Leaky garden hoses, faucets, shower heads and broken toilets can all cause leaks in the system. Bring in an expert if you can’t fix it yourself!

Don’t Do Half Measures

Washing the clothes in the house can be time-consuming, but if you’re constantly putting on half-loads of laundry, you are going to waste an awful lot of water. It’s’ not just clothes: half-loads for dishwashers are just as detrimental to the water supply in your home. Wait until the loads are full before you run them, and you’ll be able to save a ton of water. 

Embrace Handwashing

Believe it or not, you don’t need to keep the water running when you wash dishes and clothes. You can fill a sink with water and submerge whatever you’re washing in the soapy water. All you need is a plug, and you can make sure that the sink doesn’t drain out while you are washing up. There’s no need to run a whole dishwasher just for one or two items.

Adjust Garden Hoses & Sprinklers

Whether you are working on a commercial garden or on your own, you need to adjust the hoses and sprinklers to ensure that you aren’t wasting any water. Put them all on automatic timers so that you can ensure that they turn off after the right time and not just keep watering! There’s no need to waste more money on watering the garden than necessary

Know Where The Shut-Off Is

Sometimes, you can make all the adjustments in the world and still find a leak in the house. You need to know where the water shut-off switches and valves are so that in the event of a leak that you cannot find or control, you can stop the flow of water. The last thing that you need is a street full of water and a flood threatening your basement. So, work out how to turn off the water and you can save yourself a lot of money and waste at the same time.

Go For Low Maintenance

If your garden is fully lawned and landscaped, you need to look at how you can make it more low maintenance. It’s lovely to have a lot of greenery but if you are going to be risking needing to water the garden almost continuously, then you could swap to artificial grass that doesn’t need your attention as often. There are plenty of plants who don’t use as much water, either. These are the plants you want to have in your garden if you are looking at saving water.

Choose Low-Flow

Low-flow toilets and faucets can help you to save water without even trying. You can even change your showerhead to a slow-flow option and ensure that you are saving water without any of the impact on your daily activities.

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Nuclear Power and Other Power Sources: How Do They Stack Up?

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Most everyone dreads the idea of nuclear war because of the abject devastation it would inflict on planet Earth. Yet few connect the dots between nuclear weapons and nuclear power — the same energy that makes atomic bombs and nuclear missiles so threatening is also harnessed to power electrical grids and other forms of infrastructure. When properly contained, nuclear power is the cleanest and most abundant energy source available. With all the concern over climate change and environmental degradation, it begs a huge question: why is the United States of America not generating more — much more — nuclear energy?

Capital Investment vs. Production Costs

Looking at it from one angle, a larger nuclear energy capacity is a no-brainer. Making electricity from nuclear sources is cheaper than using coal, gas or petroleum, i.e. fossil fuels. On average, using 2011 cash value, electricity cost 21.56, 3.23 and 4.51 cents per kilowatt-hour from petroleum, coal and natural gas, respectively. Nuclear power came in at 2.10 cents per kW according to data received by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Yet these simple ongoing production costs fail to tell the full story.

To up the power generating capacity of nuclear sources, additional plants are necessary. Some argue that the savings in electricity production means the nuclear utilities pay for themselves. What, though, are they paying for…and how long until the payoff? Engineering and constructing a nuclear power plant is very expensive. In fact, 74 percent of the cost of nuclear-sourced electricity is in the capital costs of creating the physical facility and technology for that purpose. Some estimates range drom six-billion to nine-billion dollars. Others estimate over $5,300 per kW before it begins paying for itself…in 20 to 30 years. These figures make the prospect cost-prohibitive to many decision makers in government and business.

Plentiful Energy at Low Costs without Nuclear Power

Were we living back during the oil shocks and embargoes of the 1970s, the urgency factor would be much higher concerning nuclear power in the US. The abundance of discoveries and advancement of technology have made fossil fuels more available at modest prices. Coal and petroleum are each low compared to their peaks. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” natural gas is ever more accessible and affordable. Though people may worry about the environmental effects of burning these substances, they are likely to continue usage to maintain a decent househild cash flow.

Still, even the renewable alternatives to traditional fuels are dropping in price. In terms of sheer volume, wind turbines and solar panels — for instance — have yet to match the output of fossil fuels, much less the overwhelming energy yield of nuclear. Nevertheless, their contribution to production in the United States is growing while their financial outlays are shrinking. Added to the two aforementioned renewable sources, hydro-electric power, biomass and geothermal each come in under 10 cents per kW. According to Forbes magazine, this makes them highly competitive with oil and gas financially.

Lack of Knowledge

The absence of urgency mentioned above relates to a third factor about why Americans are not expanding their nuclear production capacity. Generations have passed that are not well-informed about the potential and reality of nuclear power. A dangerous accident at Pennsylvania’s Three-Mile Island facility in the 1970s scared public officials and policy makers into backing off of a pro-nuclear agenda. The improvements and replication found in today’s safety protocols have been ineffective in re-booting a national conversation. Granted, the United States operates 97 nuclear reactors, more than any other country. Yet only four more are under design and/or construction compared to 20 for China.

Furthermore, France relies on nuclear for three-quarters of its electricity; several eastern European nations, half; South Korea, in excess of 30 percent; while the U.S. can claim around 20 percent. Clearly, the public knowledge regarding how clean and abundant atomic energy is meager; awareness of past accidents — including the Fukushima Daiichi and Chernobyl meltdowns of recent decades were, by contrast, reported widely by media outlets.

Advocates of nuclear power have work to do to bring Americans on board. Otherwise, dirtier, cheaper sources will continue to reign.

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