Res­i­dents throng oxy­gen bar for a 15-minute fix as New Delhi strug­gles to catch its breath

▶ New con­cept turns a profit as it makes the most of city’s wors­en­ing air qual­ity, writes Taniya Dutta

The National - News - - NEWS WORLD -

With a can­nula strapped to his nose, Vikas Ban­gar in­haled lemon­grass-scented oxy­gen at a tiny bar in a swanky mall in New Delhi.

The 30-year-old rookie film pro­ducer landed in the cap­i­tal from Mum­bai and rushed to an oxy­gen bar to breathe in the gas as the air qual­ity dropped to record lows in the past two weeks.

“When you are in Delhi, this ses­sion is a must,” Mr Ban­gar said. “I landed here at 6am to­day. At first, I thought it was foggy but soon I re­alised it was pol­luted air. Ev­ery­thing out­side was blurry. My eyes were burn­ing, even in­side the air­port.”

Mr Ban­gar is one of many who read­ily spend $4 (Dh14) for a hit of un­pol­luted air for 15 min­utes at the Oxy Pure oxy­gen bar. Delhi is bat­tling its worst pol­lu­tion cri­sis since 2016 when Air Qual­ity In­dex lev­els were five times the level con­sid­ered safe by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

About 46 mil­lion res­i­dents of the city have been gasp­ing for fresh air with AQI lev­els hov­er­ing in the emer­gency to haz­ardous lev­els since Novem­ber 3.

On Thurs­day, the cri­sis be­came so se­vere that the state gov­ern­ment shut all pri­mary schools for the sec­ond time this month.

Au­thor­i­ties were forced to an­nounce a public health emer­gency and launch a con­tro­ver­sial ve­hi­cle-ra­tioning pro­gramme for 10 days after lev­els of PM 2.5 – the par­tic­u­late mat­ter that pen­e­trates through the lungs into the blood­stream – in the air sur­passed 999 mi­cro­grams in many lo­ca­tions this month.

The WHO places the safe limit at 25 mi­cro­grams.

“I am feel­ing lighter. I can feel the aroma in my body,” Mr Ban­gar said after his ses­sion was over.

At Se­lect Ci­ty­walk, an up­mar­ket shop­ping mall in south Delhi, cu­ri­ous shop­pers gazed at four flu­o­res­cent bub­bling beakers in the win­dow of the Oxy Pure bar.

De­spite giv­ing a fresh shot of healthy air in the style of an in­ten­sive care unit com­plete with a nasal can­nu­lae and staff in white coats, the small bar does not feel like a clinic.

It has bright lights, a floor-to­ceil­ing garden in­stal­la­tion and wa­ter foun­tain.

“I wanted it to be a fun ex­pe­ri­ence for peo­ple and not have a clinic vibe,” Aryavir Ku­mar, 26, the man behind Oxy Pure, told The Na­tional.

At the bar, cus­tomers in­hale clean, aro­matic oxy­gen through a can­nula con­nected to an oxy­gen con­cen­tra­tor that spins oxy­gen pu­ri­fied from the air around it.

They are given seven op­tions of fra­grances and they in­clude laven­der, orange, eu­ca­lyp­tus, and cin­na­mon. The ex­pe­ri­ence is only for adults be­tween 18 and 65 years of age.

Cap­i­tal­is­ing on the wealth of news cov­er­age on Delhi’s de­te­ri­o­rat­ing air qual­ity, the bar of­fers a pol­lu­tion spe­cial – five ses­sions for the price of four.

“The ma­chine pu­ri­fies the air around us into 95 per cent oxy­gen while the air we breathe has 21 per cent oxy­gen. This is why the ses­sion is for 15 min­utes, it could be harm­ful oth­er­wise,” Mr Aryavir said.

The busi­ness­man, whose fam­ily owns a hospi­tal­ity com­pany, opened the bar with his friend, Mar­garita Ku­rit­syna, 25, from Ukraine, in May this year after a visit to an oxy­gen bar in Las Ve­gas.

Although the busi­ness did not make much profit ini­tially, Mr Aryavir said the foot­fall at the bar had in­creased twofold in the past two weeks.

“Air pol­lu­tion is go­ing to dan­ger­ous lev­els, so peo­ple are com­ing here to breathe pure oxy­gen,” he said.

“When we opened the bar, peo­ple found it strange. They would ask if the flu­o­res­cent wa­ter in the beakers was for drink­ing. It was a new con­cept.

“We would get 15-20 peo­ple a day. Now we are get­ting 30-40 cus­tomers ev­ery day.”

Doc­tors re­ported a surge of pa­tients with se­vere res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems and chest pain in the past few weeks. But sev­eral min­is­ters triv­i­alised the is­sue, in­clud­ing In­dia’s Health Min­is­ter Harsh Vard­han who ad­vised peo­ple to eat car­rots to fight the harm­ful ef­fects of pol­lu­tion.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has yet to ac­knowl­edge the alarm­ing sit­u­a­tion de­spite sev­eral stu­dents ap­peal­ing to him to take steps to en­sure they could breathe clean air.

On Fri­day, his of­fice set up a panel to look into the sit­u­a­tion but a par­lia­men­tary meet­ing to dis­cuss air pol­lu­tion was can­celled be­cause only four of 29 of­fi­cials at­tended.

In the ab­sence of a con­crete plan to con­trol air pol­lu­tion, dis­tressed res­i­dents say they are look­ing for pre­ven­tive mea­sures such as air pu­ri­fiers, anti-pol­lu­tion masks and now the oxy­gen bar, to stay healthy.

But the ben­e­fits of in­hal­ing oxy­gen in this way have not been proven. “There is no sci­en­tific re­search to show that breath­ing pure oxy­gen for a short pe­riod of time is ben­e­fi­cial,” said Dr Vikas Mau­rya, head of the pul­monology depart­ment at For­tis Hos­pi­tal.

“As health pro­fes­sion­als, we can­not eth­i­cally or morally sup­port pro­vid­ing oxy­gen ther­apy to those who do not re­quire it. It may even be harm­ful to the pa­tient [with chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary disease] for whom giv­ing ex­tra oxy­gen can cause a loss of res­pi­ra­tory drive and re­sult in car­bon diox­ide re­ten­tion in their body, which can lead to emer­gency hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion.”

Karan­jit Singh, 40, who has lived all his life in Delhi, is shocked by the pol­lu­tion, which has dra­mat­i­cally wors­ened over the past few years.

“Look at the en­vi­ron­ment in Delhi, we are gasp­ing for pure oxy­gen. With this kind of pol­lu­tion, we re­quire more such bars in In­dia,” he said.

“When I was a kid, there were fewer peo­ple, fewer ve­hi­cles and less con­struc­tion. But now, pol­lu­tion has spiked.

“The gov­ern­ment needs to be proac­tive and need to stop farm [stub­ble] fires. They need to im­prove things oth­er­wise it is go­ing to keep get­ting worse.”

For Mr Aryavir, who is de­lighted with the sud­den pos­i­tive re­sponse to Oxy Pure, it is an op­por­tu­nity to open an­other bar at the city’s in­ter­na­tional air­port.

“Peo­ple ask me, ‘now we have to buy oxy­gen?’ But 30 years ago no one would have thought of buy­ing min­eral wa­ter.

“The bar is not re­duc­ing pol­lu­tion from the air and it is not a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to pol­lu­tion. But it is giv­ing some re­lief to the peo­ple and if we keep pol­lut­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, things like this will keep pop­ping up,” he said.

Taniya Dutta for The Na­tional

Res­i­dents in­hale healthy air in a set­ting that re­sem­bles an in­ten­sive care unit, com­plete with nasal can­nu­lae

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.