Heavy smog has encased New Delhi, India in the last two days and has led to emergency measures to be placed upon the capital city. The high risk pollution is believed to have been caused by a combination of nearby farmers burning remnants of crops to clear their fields with the daily smoke produced by cars and trucks.
Pollution in New Delhi is not a new occurrence; the city (as well as most of India) has struggled with curbing pollution in recent years and was even named the most polluted city in 2014. However, this case is unlike any other and reaches well beyond what is considered just bad air quality. Measurements of smog in the haze-covered city have shown Air Quality Index readings of up to 999, more than fifteen times higher than the minimum safety standard of 60 set by the World Health Organization. To put things into perspective, the current air quality in New Delhi is the equivalent of smoking forty five cigarettes daily.
The deadly air can lead to long-term, severe lung diseases for those living in New Delhi. People are advised to stay indoors as much as possible and if going outdoors, to wear masks. Flights, trains and highways are delayed or backed up due to smog obstructing visibility.
In addition to New Delhi, neighboring cities such as Moradabad, Lucknow and Howrah are also facing the same, if not worse, level of air pollutants. Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of New Delhi, even went as far as to refer to the city as a “gas chamber.”
As of now, more than 6,000 schools have been shut down for the week and emergency procedure is being implemented throughout the regions affected.
Many speculate that the government’s inability to address pollution as a serious problem has led to the current state of New Delhi. Rather than look for ways to nationally push for stricter regulation of air pollution, the government has forced civilians to look for their own means, most turning to air purifiers and masks. This only allows those who can afford these to merely live with air pollution, without emphasizing any urgency to actually solve the epidemic at its roots.
This event needs to be seen as a warning sign and lead to change in the way pollution has been managed in India as a whole thus far.
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