Through a Smog, Darkly
Smog is an annual phenomenon in northern India during the winter months. This year, however, it has descended much earlier than usual and is also surprisingly thick, especially at night.
What caused it:
The severity of the smog is being attributed to Cyclone Nilam which hit the southern states in end-October. The vertical motion of south-eastern winds, a result of the cyclone, has prevented pollutants from rising high in the atmosphere as they usually do, causing the smog. The Delhi government has also attributed it to the burning of rice husk and stalks by farmers in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Vehicular pollution does not help either.
Motorists have to battle visibility problems. It is also a health hazard. There has been a spurt in cases of upper respiratory tract infections and flu. Doctors feel that sustained exposure to the smog can lead to asthma attacks even in people who never suffered from them before.
States in north India, particularly Delhi, need to curb vehicular pollution, so that fewer pollutants are released, irrespective of whether they rise or not. Delhi already has 5.6 million registered vehicles and adds more than 1,100 new vehicles a day. The city administration has adopted advanced emission norms for vehicles, and has also been promoting the use of compressed natural gas as a clean alternative to petrol and diesel, but clearly this is not enough.
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Tales of letters in India taking a long time to reach addressees were often heard in the preemail era. It is some comfort to learn that this country is not alone. A letter sent by one Gundrun Rentrope from Bonn, Germany on March 13, 1963, finally reached Derek Lewis in Berkshire, Britain on October 29 this year. The postal services of both countries have no clue to how this happened.Offtrack
An acute fund crunch has indefinitely delayed a host of major railway bridge projects in Bihar. Scheduled for completion by 2007, these are still in the 'construction phase'. Some have been in this phase for over 10 years. The delays have led to huge cost overruns. For instance, the cost of the Sonpur-Digha Rail cum Road project has soared almost seven fold to `3,000 crore. The railway ministry says it hopes to infuse funds into these projects next fiscal year, but no one need hold his breath.Heady Mix
At an astronomical 5,500 pounds per glass it is the most expensive cocktail in the world. Master bartender Salvatore Calabrese mixes it at his bar in the Playboy Club in Mayfair, London. According to The Spirits Business, the 'Salvatore Legacy' has cognac, Kummel liquer and orange curacao with a dash of Angostura bitters - some of which date back to the French Revolution.
- Compiled by Basudha Das