Af­ter Di­wali Fire­works, Smog Shrouds New Delhi

Fiji Sun - - Comment - Ar­ti­cle pub­lished by the Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

Those tiny par­ti­cles, called PM2.5, can travel into the lungs and get stuck there, pos­ing a se­ri­ous health risk. By Mon­day, PM2.5 lev­els had ex­ceeded 30 times the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s rec­om­men­da­tion for av­er­age daily ex­po­sure.

On Sun­day, In­dia cel­e­brated Di­wali with lamps, can­dles, feast­ing and fire­works. A day af­ter fire­works for the fes­ti­val of lights, New Delhi was choked with a thick, dark smog. The cel­e­bra­tions sharply ex­ac­er­bated the city’s per­pet­ual pol­lu­tion prob­lems — the BBC re­ports that in the wake of the fire­works, lev­els of ex­tremely small par­tic­u­late mat­ter more than dou­bled over the course of a few hours. Those tiny par­ti­cles, called PM2.5, can travel into the lungs and get stuck there, pos­ing a se­ri­ous health risk. The BBC re­ports that by Mon­day, PM2.5 lev­els had ex­ceeded 30 times the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s rec­om­men­da­tion for av­er­age daily ex­po­sure.

Photos of In­dia’s cap­i­tal be­fore and af­ter the light show for Di­wali, which lasts for five days, show land­marks first vis­i­ble through the city’s smog, then nearly erased by the spike in pol­lu­tion. Res­i­dents of New Delhi have been ad­vised to re­main in­doors Mon­day, The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports, with spe­cial cau­tions for the young, el­derly and those with health prob­lems. An­u­mita Roy­chowd­hury, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of a New Delhi-based think tank called the Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment, told The Guardian there are sev­eral rea­sons for the se­vere Di­wali pol­lu­tion. Weather plays a fac­tor — in win­ter, cooler tem­per­a­tures and slower winds pre­vent the smoke from be­ing blown away. In­dia’s Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board says wind speeds were lower for this Di­wali than they were for last year’s fes­ti­val. Then there’s the base­line smog prob­lem. “Delhi’s air re­mains so pol­luted through­out

the year that it doesn’t re­ally have room for ad­di­tional pol­lu­tion dur­ing Di­wali,” Roy­chowd­hury told The Guardian. “New Delhi’s air pol­lu­tion, among the world’s worst, spikes ev­ery win­ter be­cause of the sea­son’s weak winds and count­less garbage fires set alight to help peo­ple stay warm,” the AP re­ports.

Agri­cul­tural fires in nearby fields also con­trib­ute to the prob­lem. “New Delhi has tried to clean its air,” the wire ser­vice adds. “It has barred cargo trucks from city streets, re­quired driv­ers to buy newer cars that meet higher emis­sions stan­dards, and car­ried out sev­eral weeks of ex­per­i­men­tal traf­fic con­trol, lim­it­ing the num­ber of cars on the road.

“But other pol­lu­tion sources, in­clud­ing con­struc­tion dust and cook­ing fires fu­eled by wood or kerosene, con­tinue un­abated.” In the run-up to Di­wali, sev­eral cam­paigns called for res­i­dents to cut back on fire­works, the BBC re­ports. “Sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives in the past have got lit­tle at­ten­tion,” the net­work says. A new re­port from UNICEF says 2 bil­lion chil­dren live in ar­eas with el­e­vated air pol­lu­tion, with nearly a third of them in South Asia. The re­port also says some 300 mil­lion chil­dren are ex­posed to air pol­lu­tion lev­els that are toxic, or six times higher than WHO stan­dards. (More pic­tures visit: http://www.npr.org/sec­tions/thet­woway/2016/10/31/500046186/photos-af­ter­di­wali-fire­works-toxic-smog-shrouds-newdelhi)

Photo: Altaf Qadri (top) and Tser­ing Top­gyal - AP

Two photos show traf­fic mov­ing past the land­mark In­dia Gate mon­u­ment in New Delhi be­fore and af­ter the Di­wali cel­e­bra­tions: on Fri­day (top) and Mon­day (bot­tom). As In­di­ans woke Mon­day to smoke-filled skies from a week­end of fes­ti­val fire­works for the Hindu hol­i­day of Di­wali, New Delhi’s worst sea­son for air pol­lu­tion be­gan.

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