Pollution above WHO limits
Despite widespread air quality improvements during 2019 and 2020, air pollution continues to be dangerously high, the annual data ‘World Air Quality Report, 2020’, compiled by IQAir, has revealed. Bengaluru recorded an average 15.6% dip in PM 2.5 levels. However, the pollution levels were above the WHO’s prescribed limit on 46.7% of the days. The IT city’s annual average stands at 27.5 µg/m3, nearly three times the prescribed limit. Also, Bengaluru’s PM 2.5 levels in December 2020 surpassed the January 2020 levels, indicating that ‘better air quality’ has already faded away. South Indian cities recorded relatively better air quality, though they remained above the daily WHO limit of 25 µg/m3 for most parts of 2020.
Major sources of air pollution, according to the report, include transportation, biomass burning for cooking, power generation, industry, construction, waste burning, and episodic agricultural burning. The transportation sector is one of the major contributors to India’s PM 2.5 emission across cities.
Source: The Hindu
Sharp rise in COVID ICU patients
As Covid cases rise, Bengaluru accounts for more than 72 per cent of the total active cases in the state at present. War rooms are expected to begin operations as they did last year. The state government has decided to reopen three Covid Care Centres, which will be operational by Monday next week. The CCCs will be set up at Haj Bhavan, near Hegde Nagar, Koramangala Indoor Stadium and a centre funded by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
About 1,000 beds in government hospitals would be set aside for novel Coronavirus infections. On March 17, there were 7,344 active patients being treated at government and private hospitals. The government hospitals that will reserve beds include Victoria Hospital, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases, Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, Jayanagar General Hospital, CV Raman General Hospital and KC General Hospital.
There has been an increased demand for ICU for Covid-19 patients, especially at Victoria Hospital. While a majority of ICU cases were senior citizens, about 30 per cent were people between 25 and 45 years. The number of symptomatic cases is roughly between 10 to 15 per cent. At present, there are 61 ICU beds and 49 ICU beds with ventilators across seven government hospitals where Covid-19 ICU admissions are happening. Out of these, 34 beds are vacant. Anticipating a spike, the BBMP has asked the state government to increase the number of ICU beds.
The health and family welfare department has revised testing targets to one lakh per day from the present 70,500 tests. Currently, civic officials are tracing an average of 4.5 contacts for every positive case, but efforts are being made to increase contact tracing.
A family which flouted home quarantine regulations has now contracted COVID-19 and is at the heart of a new cluster found in the Yelahanka zone, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike disclosed on Thursday. The BBMP has found two more clusters in the zone. One involves a family of seven who attended a marriage in RT Nagar on March 2. The last cluster was found at another duplex in Chikkabommasandra.
Source: The Indian Express, Deccan Herald, The Hindu, The Times of India
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Marriage halls seek tax benefits
Wedding hall owners are jittery that business will take another massive hit as people are cancelling bookings made for April and May due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. The Karnataka Marriage Halls Welfare Association has submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister seeking exemption from paying property taxes and trade licence renewal fees, besides a discount on the fixed charges of Bescom and BWSSB. The association has also sought relaxation of stringent rules to resume marriage and other spiritual activities in these halls.
Source: The Times of India, Deccan Herald
Trains to KIA have few passengers
To increase ridership for its trains to the Kempegowda International Airport, the South Western Railway is making changes to schedules depending on the requirement of air passengers and those employed at the airport. Since March 1, barely 50 passengers have been travelling from the city to the halt station at KIA every day. The return journey sees even fewer passengers at just over 30.
On January 4, SWR launched five pairs of services from KSR Bengaluru, Cantonment, Yeshwantpur and Yelahanka to KIA. However, ridership is yet to pick up. The services were temporarily suspended from February 8-24 to facilitate the commissioning of the ‘Sir M. Visvesvaraya Terminal’ at Baiyyappanahalli. Before the suspension of services, there were instances of some trains running empty. The few commuters who use the train believe that altering the schedule or increasing the frequency of the service could increase ridership.
Source: The Hindu
Read more: What citizens must do to speed up Commuter Rail
HC: Are transformers on footpaths safe?
The High Court of Karnataka hoped that the heads of the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd. and BBMP would evolve a plan to permit installation of electricity transformers on footpaths without compromising the safety of pedestrians. It directed the Managing Director of Bescom to file an affidavit on whether it can install transformers on footpaths without consent or approval of the BBMP.
The court clarified that the question is not about the removal of transformers from footpaths but whether transformers can be installed at a height of 6-7 feet on footpaths — that are the property of the BBMP — without consent from the authority.
Source: The Hindu
Read more: BESCOM transformers poorly maintained, can disrupt power supply: Study
Trash burning for two months
In Varthur Kodi, even two months after residents complained to the civic authorities, nauseating smoke from burning garbage has engulfed residential areas around the waterbody. Ashes and smoke from burnt materials are getting blown into homes, said residents. The civic body had acknowledged the problem and promised immediate action but has not done anything. Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, BBMP, has again promised to look into the problem.
Source: Deccan Herald
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[Compiled by Revathi Siva Kumar]