Pollution Current Affairs

14 of Indian cities figure in World’s 20 most polluted cities list: WHO

According to Global Urban Air Pollution database released by World Health Organisation (WHO), 14 Indian cities have figured in list of world’s 20 most polluted cities in terms of particulate matter PM2.5 levels in 2016. These 14 cities include Delhi, Varanasi, Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur. They were followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem (Kuwait) and few cities in China and Mongolia. In terms of PM10 levels, 13 cities in India figured among the 20 most-polluted cities.

Background

The database measured levels of fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) from more than 4,300 cities in 108 countries. It estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrate deep into lungs and cardiovascular system. WHO recognises air pollution is critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) as it causes diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia. Since 2016, over 1,000 additional cities are being added to WHO’s database, showing that more countries are measuring and taking action to reduce air pollution than ever before.

Key Facts

Pollution related Deaths: According to WHO database, ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016 across the globe, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies has caused 3.8 million deaths in same period. It shows that 9 out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

Global Scenario: More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (including India), mainly in Asia and Africa. It is followed by low-and middle-income countries of Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and Americas. More than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits. While all regions of world are affected, populations in low-income cities are most impacted.

South Asia region: It alone accounts for 1.5 million (40%) deaths by household air pollution and 1.3 million (30%) global deaths due to ambient air pollution. Member-countries in Southeast Asia Region need to aggressively address double burden of household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution.

Lack of clean fuel: Around 3 billion people (more than 40% of the world’s population) still do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution.

Since 2016, over 1,000 additional cities have been added to WHO’s database, which shows more countries are measuring and taking action to reduce air pollution than ever before.

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Scientists identify four bacterial strains to remove sulphur from fossil fuels

Scientists from CSIR-Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (CSIR-IMMT) have found four bacterial strains that remove sulphur from fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal. Sulphur is one of the major pollutants emitted during the combustion of fossil fuels.

Key Facts

The four bacterial strains are Rhodococcus rhodochrous, Arthrobacter sulfureou, Gordonia rubropertinita and Rhodococcus erythropolis. They use dibenzothiophene, an organic sulphur compound which is major contaminant of fossil fuel as energy source thereby getting rid of sulphur.

They were selected from 10 bacterial strains with dsz genes to find novel bacterial strains that can selectively eliminate this organic sulphur. The dsz genes are central to sustainable bio-desulfurization (a non-invasive process of sulfur removal from fuels by means of living organisms). The selected bacteria were grown in medium supplemented with dibenzothiophene and other nutrients required for growth.

It was found that four bacteria were able to use almost 99% of sulphur compound in just 10 days. Researchers were also able to identify process of bio-desulfurization of these bacterial strains through specific pathway (4-S pathway).

The process of bio-desulfurization using these four bacterial strains is also eco-friendly and economical. These bacterial strains can be potentially used on commercial scale for removal of sulphur from fossil fuels on commercial scale.

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