In­dia’s cap­i­tal grap­ples with toxic win­ter air pol­lu­tion

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Even for a city con­sid­ered one of the world’s most pol­luted, the In­dian cap­i­tal hit a new low this past week. Air so dirty you can taste and smell it; a gray haze that makes a gen­tle stroll a se­ri­ous health haz­ard.

Ac­cord­ing to one ad­vo­cacy group, gov­ern­ment data shows that the smog that en­veloped New Delhi was the worst in the last 17 years. The con­cen­tra­tion of PM2.5, tiny par­tic­u­late pol­lu­tion that can clog lungs, av­er­aged close to 700 mi­cro­grams per cu­bic me­ter. That’s 12 times the gov­ern­ment norm and a whop­ping 70 times the WHO stan­dards.

The Delhi win­ter, once a glo­ri­ous time of clear - crisp days that meant hol­i­days and week­ends spent pic­nick­ing in its many pub­lic parks - is now a time of an­nual health woes. As mil­lions strug­gle with hack­ing coughs and burn­ing eyes, many schools across the city have ei­ther shut down or ended all out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. Doc­tors have asked peo­ple to stay in­doors dur­ing the worst days.

No ac­tion taken

Yet many of the prob­lems that turn Delhi’s air so toxic con­tinue un­abated. Peo­ple still set off mas­sive amounts of fes­ti­val fire­works, piles of garbage burn all night and dust from the con­struc­tion projects that dot the city is unchecked. And at the start of ev­ery win­ter, farm­ers in the states bor­der­ing the city be­gin burn­ing straw from their rice paddy crop to clear the fields for plant­ing wheat.

“Sources of pol­lu­tion in Delhi and out­side of Delhi have ex­po­nen­tially in­creased in the last cou­ple of days,” said Po­lash Muk­er­jee, a re­search as­so­ciate with the Cen­tre for Science and En­vi­ron­ment, a Delhi-based re­search and lob­by­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion.

He said that wind di­rec­tion is blow­ing to­ward Delhi from all di­rec­tions, es­pe­cially from Pun­jab and Haryana, “where there are large in­ci­dences of crop fires that we are de­tect­ing even to­day.”

Over the last two years, the gov­ern­ment has tried a slew of mea­sures to con­trol air pol­lu­tion, in­clud­ing stricter emis­sion norms for cars and a tax on diesel-fu­eled trucks that en­ter the city. New Delhi also has at­tempted to limit the num­ber of cars dur­ing the win­ter months, when air qual­ity is at its worst. Twice the city im­posed a two-week pe­riod in which cars were al­lowed on the roads only on even or odd days, de­pend­ing on the ve­hi­cle’s li­cense plate num­ber. — AP

NEW DELHI: A thick layer of smog cov­ers Con­naught Place yes­ter­day. — AP

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