Pollution Current Affairs

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Polluted environment kills 1.7 million children a year: WHO report

According to recently released World Health Organisation (WHO) report titled “Inheriting a sustainable world: Atlas on children’s health and the environment”, polluted environment kills around 1.7 million children a year.

The report provides a comprehensive overview of the environment’s impact especially air pollution on children’s health, illustrating the scale of the challenge.

Key Highlights from Report 
  • Every year, environmental risks such as outdoor and indoor air pollution, unsafe water, second-hand smoke, lack of sanitation and inadequate hygiene results in quarter of all global deaths of children under five.
  • Large portion of the most common causes of death among children are diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia due to pollution.
  • Harmful exposures also increase the risk of premature birth. When infants and pre-schoolers are exposed to air pollution they have an increased lifelong risk of chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma.
  • Exposure to air pollution may also increase their lifelong risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer. Children’s developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them vulnerable pollution.

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Scientists discover 1970s banned chemicals in deep ocean fauna

Scientists for the first time have found high levels of human-made pollutants, including chemicals that were banned in the 1970s, in the tissues of marine creatures dwelling in the deepest oceans of the Earth.

These chemicals were discovered after sampling amphipods from the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana and Kermadec trenches, which are over 10 km deep and 7,000 km apart.

Key Facts
  • Researchers found presence of extremely high levels of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the organism’s fatty tissue.
  • These POPs include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) which are commonly used as electrical insulators and flame retardants.
  • These banned pollutants are invulnerable to natural degradation and persist in the environment for decades. They may have been released into the environment through industrial accidents.
  • Researchers claim that these pollutants may have found their way to deep trenches through contaminated plastic debris and dead animals sinking to bottom of ocean, where they were consumed by amphipods and other fauna.
  • These sampled amphipods contained levels of contamination similar to that found in Suruga Bay, one of the most polluted industrial zones of the north-west Pacific.
  • Thus, this research shows that the remote and pristine oceanic realm which was earlier considered safe from human impact is actually not.

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China passes law to levy environment tax to fight pollution

China’s top legislature has passed Environment Tax to levy environment tax on polluters, especially on heavy industries. It will enter into force on January 1, 2018.

The law aims to improve taxpayers’ environmental awareness, force companies to upgrade technology and shift to cleaner production.

Key Facts
  • Under the new law, companies will pay environment taxes ranging from 350 yuan ($60) to 11,200 yuan ($1870) per month for noise.
  • It set rates of 1.4 yuan on water pollutants, 1.2 yuan on stipulated quantities of air pollutants and a range of 5 to 1,000 yuan for each ton of solid waste.
  • It allows provincial-level governments to raise rates for air and water pollution by up to 10 times after approval by local legislatures.
  • Under it, lower rates can also be applicable if emissions are less than national standards. It only targets enterprises and public institutions that discharge listed pollutants directly into environment.
  • Punishments for evasion or fraud have not been specified, but it says that offenders will be held liable in line with the law on administration of taxation and the environmental law.
  • Greenhouse gas Carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the major contributors to global warming, is not included in the levying list. 
Background

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), due to its heavy reliance on coal to provide electricity to its population of 1.37 billion (world’s largest). Since 1979, China has collected a “pollutant discharge fee” which not enforced by any law. In 2015, it collected 17.3 billion yuan (about 2.5 billion dollars) from some 280,000 businesses. However, it was found that some local governments were exploiting loopholes and exempting pollution enterprises.

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