The likelihood of at least 600,000 deaths being caused annually in India by fine particulate matter pollution in the air is cause for worry, even if the data released by the World Health Organisation are only a modelled estimate.
The conclusion that so many deaths could be attributed to particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in size is, of course, caveated, since comprehensive measurement of PM2.5 is not yet being done and the linkages between pollution, disease and deaths need further study.
What is not in doubt is that residents in many urban areas are forced to breathe unhealthy levels of particulates, and the smallest of these — PM10 and less — can penetrate and get lodged deep in the lungs.
The WHO Global Burden of Disease study has been working to estimate pollution-linked health impacts, such as stroke and ischaemic heart disease, acute lower respiratory infection and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Data on fine particulates in India show that in several locations the pollutants come from burning of biomass, such as coal, fuel wood, farm litter and cow dung cakes.
In highly built-up areas, construction debris, road dust and vehicular exhaust add to the problem.
The Prime Minister launched an Air Quality Index last year aimed at improving pollution control. The new data, which the WHO says provide the best evidence available on the terrible toll taken by particulates, should lead to intensified action.
A neglected aspect of urban air pollution control is the virtual discarding of the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, notified to sustainably manage debris that is dumped in the cities, creating severe particulate pollution.
The Environment Ministry has highlighted the role that debris can play as a resource. Municipal and government contracts are, under the rules, required to utilise up to 20 per cent materials made from construction and demolition waste, and local authorities must place containers to hold debris.
This must be implemented without delay. Providing cleaner fuels and scientifically designed cookstoves to those who have no option but to burn biomass, would have a big impact on reducing particulate matter in the northern and eastern States, which are the worst-hit during winter, when biomass is also used for heating.
Greening the cities could be made a mission, involving civil society, with a focus on landscaping open spaces and paving all public areas to reduce dust. These measures can result in lower PM10 and PM2.5 levels. Comprehensive measurement of these particulates is currently absent in many cities, a lacuna that needs to be addressed
Darknet, also known as dark web or darknet market, refers to the part of the internet that is not indexed or accessible through traditional search engines. It is a network of private and encrypted websites that cannot be accessed through regular web browsers and requires special software and configuration to access.
The darknet is often associated with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services, although not all sites on the darknet are illegal.
Examples of darknet markets include Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Dream Market, which were all shut down by law enforcement agencies in recent years.
These marketplaces operate similarly to e-commerce websites, with vendors selling various illegal goods and services, such as drugs, counterfeit documents, and hacking tools, and buyers paying with cryptocurrency for their purchases.
Anonymity: Darknet allows users to communicate and transact with each other anonymously. Users can maintain their privacy and avoid being tracked by law enforcement agencies or other entities.
Access to Information: The darknet provides access to information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable or censored on the regular internet. This can include political or sensitive information that is not allowed to be disseminated through other channels.
Freedom of Speech: The darknet can be a platform for free speech, as users are able to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.
Secure Communication: Darknet sites are encrypted, which means that communication between users is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties.
Illegal Activities: Many darknet sites are associated with illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services. Such activities can attract criminals and expose users to serious legal risks.
Scams: The darknet is a hotbed for scams, with many fake vendors and websites that aim to steal users’ personal information and cryptocurrency. The lack of regulation and oversight on the darknet means that users must be cautious when conducting transactions.
Security Risks: The use of the darknet can expose users to malware and other security risks, as many sites are not properly secured or monitored. Users may also be vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks.
Stigma: The association of the darknet with illegal activities has created a stigma that may deter some users from using it for legitimate purposes.
AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and understanding natural language.
Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are examples of virtual assistants that use natural language processing to understand and respond to users’ queries.
Recommendation systems: Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to recommend movies and products to their users based on their browsing and purchase history.
Efficiency: AI systems can work continuously without getting tired or making errors, which can save time and resources.
Personalization: AI can help provide personalized recommendations and experiences for users.
Automation: AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more complex tasks.
Job loss: AI has the potential to automate jobs previously performed by humans, leading to job loss and economic disruption.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data they are trained on, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
Safety and privacy concerns: AI systems can pose safety risks if they malfunction or are used maliciously, and can also raise privacy concerns if they collect and use personal data without consent.