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Air Pollution In North India Drops Significantly To A 20-Year Low – NASA

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According to satellite data published by US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), air pollution over northern parts of India plunged to a 20-year-low for this time of the year.

Airborne Particle Levels Plummet in Northern India

 

India accounts for the highest pollution-related deaths in the world with more than 2 million fatalities every year, according to a December 2019 report by the Global Alliance of Health and Pollution.

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The US space agency’s satellite sensors observed aerosol levels at a 20-year low after PM Modi’s decision to impose a pan-India lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The data published with maps show aerosol optical depth (AOD) in 2020 compared to the average for 2016-2019. Aerosol optical depth is a measure of how light is absorbed or reflected by airborne particles as it travels through the atmosphere.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

If aerosols are concentrated near the surface, an optical depth of 1 or above demonstrates very hazy conditions. An optical depth, or thickness, of less than 0.1 over the entire atmospheric vertical column is considered “clean.”

The data were retrieved by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Aerosols are tiny solid and liquid particles suspended in the air that reduce visibility and can damage the human lungs and heart

India was brought under a strict lockdown on March 25 to curb the spread of the deadly virus. Due to the lockdown, there was a massive decline in activities at factories and industries and with flights and trains canceled and offices, schools and universities shut, there was a substantial reduction in pollution.

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Every year, aerosols from anthropogenic (human-made) sources contribute to unhealthy levels of air pollution in many Indian cities.

Pawan Gupta, a scientist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center said,’’ We knew we would see changes in atmospheric composition in many places during the lockdown but I have never seen aerosol values so low in the Indo-Gangetic Plain at this time of year.’’

Gupta also studied the aerosol levels after the showers and March 27 and was surprised to see aerosol levels not rising as they normally do.”After the rainfall, I was really impressed that aerosol levels did not go up and return to normal. We saw a gradual decrease and things have been staying at the level we might expect without anthropogenic emissions,” Gupta said.

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Apart from the improvement in air quality, rivers in India seem to have a breath of fresh life in them. India’s pollution monitoring body said the water in river Ganga had even become fit for bathing in some areas, according to real-time monitors placed along the 2,575-kilometer (1,600-mile) long river.

A recent analysis by the Delhi Pollution Control Board found that the quality of the Yamuna River flowing along New Delhi has also improved during the lockdown. The report stated a decrease in runoffs from 28 industrial clusters and reduced garbage dumpings.

Although northern India has shown improvements in aerosol levels, in south India the situation is not the same. In fact, data shows aerosol levels have not yet decreased to the same extent, and levels seem to be slightly higher in comparison to the past four years.

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The reasons remain unclear but could be caused due to recent weather patterns, agricultural fires, winds, or other factors. Robert Levy, program leader for NASA’s MODIS aerosol products also spoke about the lockdown and its effects and called it a ‘’ model scientific experiment.’’

He added, ‘’We have a unique opportunity to learn how the atmosphere reacts to sharp and sudden reductions in emissions from certain sectors. This can help us separate how natural and human sources of aerosols affect the atmosphere.”

Despite the positive news, experts have warned that improvement in air and water quality might be shortlived as the government eventually ends the lockdown, and the economic activity return to normal.

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Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at the Center for Science and Environment, suggests that companies should support work from home after the end of the lockdown to reduce their contribution to air pollution.

While this may be feasible, it would be impossible to run factories and industries without workers, the latter being poor and naturally prioritizing a meager salary to make ends meet over clean air and water. As their logic goes, clear air does not feed an empty stomach.

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Iran-India Chabahar Port Deal: Iran Kicks-Out India from Chabahar Rail Project citing funding delays

Iran-India Chabahar Port Deal: The railway project was meant to be part of India’s vow to the trilateral deal between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop an alternate trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing a hostile Pakistan.

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The Iran-India Chabahar port deal had run out fuel. Iran has reportedly expelled India from the Chabahar rail project according to a report by The Hindu.

According to the report – four years after India and Iran signed a deal to construct a rail line from Chabahar port to Zahedan, Tehran has decided to proceed with the project by itself citing delays from New Delhi.

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The report writes – The Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister — Mohammad Eslami inaugurated the track-laying process for Chabahar-Zahedan line, which will be extended to Zaranj in Afghanistan. Iranian officials told The Hindu that the complete project would be finished by March 2022 and that Iranian Railways will proceed without India’s support, using nearly $400 million from the Iranian National Development Fund.

The railway project was meant to be part of India’s vow to the trilateral deal between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop an alternate trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing a hostile Pakistan.

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In May 2016, during PM Modi’s visit to Iran to sign the Chabahar pact President Rouhani and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, IRCON had signed an MoU with the Iranian Rail Ministry. The MoU was to construct the Chabahar-Zahedan railway as “part of transit and transportation corridor in a trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan”.

However, according to the Hindu, despite several site visits by IRCON engineers, India never commenced the work, apparently due to worries that these could attract U.S. sanctions. The U.S. had provided a sanctions waiver for the Chabahar port and the rail line to Zahedan, but it has been difficult to find equipment suppliers and partners due to worries they could be targeted by the U.S., said officials. India has already “zeroed out” its oil imports from Iran due to U.S. sanctions.

 

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Iran wanted India to accelerate the acquisition of heavy equipment and expedite work on a railway link to the Afghan border to boost the economic viability of the Chabahar port, according to experts.  As per earlier reports, – there was a written assurance from the US that will make it easier for banks to provide funds for the procurement of heavy equipment” said an expert.

In late 2018, the US had approved a waiver for Chabahar and the construction of a railway line from the port to the Afghan border from sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012. However, banks had been reluctant to provide loans for buying heavy equipment due to US sanctions.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had earlier raised the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link at a meeting with Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar in Tehran and asked India to expedite work on it to “benefit regional trade relations”. During that visit, India and Iran had agreed to boost Chabahar’s economic viability, including steps such as providing higher subsidies to merchant shipping using the port.

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Modi unleashed the Indian Army against China while Congress kept a tight grip – Experts

India and China saw the worst face off in the last 45 years on the border. After the troops of the two neighbouring countries clashed on the LAC in the Galwan valley leaving 20 Indian troops dead and an unknown number of Chinese casualties

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After the India-China clash last month that killed 20 Indian soldiers in a border skirmish, several anti-China protests erupted around the country. Protestors burned effigies of Chinese President Xi Jinping and called for an “economic war” against China.

Analysts have said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aggressive approach fits the mood of the public but it doesn’t go as far as wanting a full-blown war with its nuclear-armed, economically mighter neighbour.

As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, India and China saw the worst face off in the last 45 years on the border. After the troops of the two neighbouring countries clashed on the LAC in the Galwan valley leaving 20 Indian troops dead and an unknown number of Chinese casualties.

The efforts to defuse border tensions were somewhat resolved after a telephonic conversation between India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and through other diplomatic channels.

PM Narendra Modi paid a surprise visit to troops near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) where he made a veiled comment on China saying “age of expansionism is over”. “History is witness that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back,” Modi said addressing soldiers in Ladakh’s Nimo.

“Modi would not let the nationalist fervour lead India into a war with China. He wants to use this nationalist sentiment, but he is also scared of the blowback it might cause,” said Liu Zongyi, secretary-general of the South Asia and China Centre at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

Analysts have also argued that after the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) came to power, Modi has given a freer rein to the army since taking power in 2014. According to S. Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Congress party sought better relations with China after the brief border war in late 1962, which meant keeping the military on a tight leash.

“Congress was always very persuasive and would ask the military not to do this or that along the border because it would aggrieve China,” Kondapalli said.

Sumit Ganguly, a professor of political science at Indiana University explained that Modi and the BJP represent a Hindu-centric ideology, away from the secular and pluralistic nationalism that defined the country for more than half a century.

In August of last year, India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir which had granted the northern Muslim-majority province a significant autonomy. Ganguly said the BJP’s Hindu-centric nationalism influences India’s approach to the issue with China because the contested border is in Kashmir.

He further said that Modi and the BJP justified the removal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by pointing to separatist Muslim insurgents in the region supported by neighbouring rival Pakistan.

Ganguly argued that because of the large Muslim minority in India, and Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims, it is easy to whip up a degree of nationalist fervour by painting Muslims as fifth columnists of Pakistan.

“Whereas with China, it’s much more difficult to whip up a similar kind of nationalism because the Chinese community in India is so minuscule, but that doesn’t mean Modi isn’t trying,” he said.

“China’s military power is nearly four times that of India. Even after the deaths of the Indian soldiers on June 15, Kondapalli said the BJP had never thought of taking the dispute into anything beyond the defence of a few kilometres of land along the border with China.

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Stealth vs Thrust: Why Indian Air Force needs American jets instead of Russian aircraft?

For the US and much of the world, the stealth fighter jets – F-22s and F-35s indicate US air dominance and prowess. However, with the arrival of ‘highly manoeuvrable’ SU-57, the Russians are confident that they can challenge US dominance

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The Indian air force is in the process of a major overhaul. Recently, at the height of India-China border conflict, Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh flew to Russia and signed a $2.3 billion deal for Russian jets which included 21 MiG-29s and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKIs.

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Many experts have questioned whether the Russian jets operated by the Indian air force can overwhelm Chinese planes which are mostly modelled on Russian technology?

According to Nitin J Ticku an expert with the EurAsian Times, the difference between the US and Russian jets lies in two fundamentally different approaches to aerial combat and New Delhi needs to make a pick.

In conversation with the EurAsian Times, Nitin J Ticku argue that compared to US fighter jets, the Russian Air Force fighter planes usually have a higher thrust and, as a result, better manoeuvrability.

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The Russians still consider mid-range or short-range air combat relevant, so their basic concept is to make their jets competent in super-manoeuvrability, a role that might be overrated.

For instance, if the most advanced Russian jets like Su-57 or Indian air force operated Su-30MKI gets detected by enemy radars or is unable to detect stealth or semi stealth enemy jets, the thrust or manoeuvrability factor is of no use, Ticku argues.

US Stealth vs Russian Thrust

For the US and much of the world, the stealth fighter jets – F-22s and F-35s indicate US air dominance and prowess. However, with the arrival of ‘highly manoeuvrable’ SU-57, the Russians are confident that they can challenge American dominance.

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In fact, the Russian are so confident that they named the ‘SU-57’ because it combines the best of both F-22 and F-35 and if you add the suffix for both the planes you get 57.

As expected, Russia has kept the details of the aircraft under wraps but leaked reports on the internet do give some interesting insights. Experts believe the SU-57 is an evolution of the SU-27 Flanker’s shape, modernized for low radar observability but also even greater manoeuvrability.

Aviation author Piotr Butowski claims that its high static instability makes it more manoeuvrable than any modern fighter plane. The blended wing design increases internal volume for avionics, fuel and weapons.

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The major component of the SU-57’s performance is its two engines. The Saturn izdeliye 30 engines are each meant to generate between 24,054 and 35,556 pounds of thrust, with the high end in the same territory as the F-22’s F119 engines.

These are meant to drive the fighter to speeds of up to Mach 1.5 in supercruise. The SU-57 will equip with the N056 Byelka (“squirrel”) radar system and the L402 electronic countermeasures suite. L-band arrays will be the fighter’s primary means of detecting stealth aircraft, while at shorter ranges the 101KS Atoll electro-optical suite, including an infrared search and track system, will help the pilot track and engage targets with infrared-guided missiles.

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In comparison to the F-22 Raptor, the SU-57 has two large internal weapons bay. Each bay can carry up to 4 K-77 M and the K-74M2 missiles. The former is a beyond visual range radar-guided missile and has the capability to engage agile targets up to a 100 miles.

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Experts write that the SU-57 is thoroughly inclined towards manoeuvrability and speed while its counterparts in the US rely primarily on the stealth factor, making them almost invincible.

The US jets clearly get an advantage as they can detect ‘highly manoeuvrable’ Russian aircraft early and counter it without showing on its radar. Experts argue that if India has to counter the PLAAF (Chinese air force) India needs more western, especially US jets that can outgun any aircraft in the region.

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A tweet by Global Times read: The #US gives the green light to #Japan‘s F-35 jets purchase. Such a large-scale military expansion in Japan is worrying, especially to its neighbours. There are concerns Japan will break its peaceful constitution.

This was recently acknowledged by China after the US recently approved the sale of F-35 joint strike fighters to Japan. China, via its media, expressed serious concern of having such advanced aircraft in the region which could severely impact the security of both China and Russia.

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