‘Don’t panic’ says In­dian Min­is­ter as smog cri­sis deep­ens

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

New Delhi, In­dia - In­dia’s En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter has said the coun­try’s filthy air is no cause for alarm, claim­ing only ‘rou­tine pre­cau­tions’ were needed to cope with what doc­tors have called a pub­lic health emer­gency.

Harsh Vard­han con­trasted the pol­lu­tion chok­ing large swathes of north In­dia, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal, with the 1984 gas leak in Bhopal that killed at least 25,000 peo­ple and re­mains the world’s worst in­dus­trial dis­as­ter.

Bhopal, he ar­gued was ‘ an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion where you have to panic and you have to see what you have to do’, he said in an in­ter­view pub­lished on the CNN-18 news chan­nel web­site on Tues­day.

But on the cur­rent smog cri­sis he said, “I’m not say­ing we shouldn’t do any­thing about it, ev­ery­one has to re­spond to what he is sup­posed to do. But there is no need to spread panic among the peo­ple.”

Vard­han said ‘rou­tine pre­cau­tions’ were all that were needed to cope with lev­els of dan­ger­ous pol­lu­tants in the air that have ex­ceeded World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) safety guide­lines many times over ev­ery day for the past week.

In­dia’s lead­ers have been crit­i­cised for fail­ing to do more to tackle ris­ing pol­lu­tion lev­els, which ex­perts say are wip­ing years off the lives of its cit­i­zens.

A re­cent re­port in the Lancet med­i­cal jour­nal said pol­lu­tion had claimed as many as 2.5mn lives in In­dia in 2015, the high­est in the world. In Delhi on Tues­day, lev­els of PM2.5 - the tiny par­tic­u­lates that are most harm­ful to hu­man health - were around 400 ac­cord­ing to the US Em­bassy web­site, well into the ‘haz­ardous’ cat­e­gory.

Delhi is now the world’s most pol­luted cap­i­tal ac­cord­ing to the WHO, with pol­lu­tion lev­els that reg­u­larly ex­ceed those of Bei­jing.

As the city’s air qual­ity de­te­ri­o­rated the In­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion de­clared a pub­lic health emer­gency and urged ad­min­is­tra­tors to ‘curb this men­ace’.

Au­thor­i­ties tem­po­rar­ily closed schools, banned con­struc­tion, and re­stricted trucks from en­ter­ing the city.

But cam­paign­ers say longterm mea­sures are needed to tackle the cri­sis.

I’m not say­ing we shouldn’t do any­thing about it, ev­ery­one has to re­spond to what he is sup­posed to do Harsh Vard­han


Chil­dren wear­ing masks hold plac­ards dur­ing a protest against air pol­lu­tion, in New Delhi on Tues­day

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