Merkel urges New Delhi to go green amid smog emer­gency

Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

New Delhi, In­dia - Ger­many’s Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel urged greater ef­forts to clean up New Delhi’s toxic air as she pledged one bil­lion eu­ros to help In­dian cities switch to green trans­port.

Merkel be­came a rare for­eign leader to speak out on In­dia’s smog cri­sis af­ter be­ing ex­posed to the cap­i­tal’s air on Fri­day, when au­thor­i­ties said the pol­lu­tion had reached ‘emer­gency’ lev­els.

Schools were or­dered closed un­til Tues­day and all con­struc­tion halted, while Delhi au­thor­i­ties started dis­tribut­ing mil­lions of anti-pol­lu­tion masks to chil­dren.

Merkel went on a cer­e­mo­nial pa­rade in the city with Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi on Fri­day as the smog in­ten­si­fied.

Nei­ther leader wore masks de­spite au­thor­i­ties telling res­i­dents to stay in­doors to avoid the haze.

Merkel said that Ger­many would spend one bil­lion eu­ros on ‘green’ ur­ban trans­port projects in In­dia over the next five years, in­clud­ing € 200mn to re­place diesel buses in Tamil Nadu state.

“These diesel buses are to be re­placed by elec­tric buses and any­one who saw the pol­lu­tion in

Delhi yes­ter­day would find very good ar­gu­ments for re­plac­ing even more of these buses,”

Merkel said in the widely re­ported speech.

Merkel on Fri­day thanked

Modi for the ‘very warm and gra­cious wel­come’ as the two sides signed a se­ries of agree­ments in agri­cul­ture, mar­itime tech­nol­ogy, ‘green ur­ban mo­bil­ity’ and even yoga.

She and Modi also agreed to ‘deepen ef­forts to restart ne­go­ti­a­tions’ on a free-trade deal be­tween the Eu­ro­pean Union and In­dia, with talks stuck since 2013.

Much of the new peak in the most dan­ger­ous PM 2.5 pol­lu­tants - par­tic­u­lates smaller than 2.5 mi­crons that get into the lungs and blood­stream - has been blamed on fires lit by farm­ers to burn off wheat crop residues out­side of the cap­i­tal.

Higher winds im­proved air qual­ity on Satur­day but pol­lu­tion re­mained ‘se­vere’, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment mon­i­tors.

Delhi has faced a mount­ing pol­lu­tion cri­sis over the past decade. Four­teen In­dian cities in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal are among the world’s top 15 most pol­luted cities, ac­cord­ing to the UN.

Ac­cord­ing to one study, smog kills a mil­lion In­di­ans pre­ma­turely ev­ery year.

(AFP)

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel (left) and In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, in New Delhi on Fri­day

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