Delhi struggles for a breath of fresh air thanks to toxic smog, year after year

By Tenzin Norzom|5th Nov 2019
Delhi's Air Quality Index worsened to a three-year high of 494 on November 4. Although it improved a little a day later to 369, it could be too early to take a sigh of relief.
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For most of us, Diwali is synonymous with firecrackers. But for people in Delhi, thanks to its deteriorating air quality, the festival of lights means alarming levels of air pollution, followed by some tough breathing. 


This time every year, the quality of air goes down drastically in Delhi and is almost ‘choking’. Stubble burning and vehicular emissions are playing a huge role leading to the toxic atmosphere in the national capital. To combat the problem, people in the city have started carrying masks at all times.


While the city has been a blur for the past week, the Air Quality Index (AQI) as of November 4, 2019, worsened to a three-year high of 494. Although it improved a little a day later to 369, it could be too early to take a sigh of relief as the air quality has only improved from ‘severe’ to ‘very poor’ category. 


According to weather officials, Cyclone Maha and western disturbance are likely to cause rain in Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh in the next two days and will hopefully undo the layers of smoke in the national capital, reports PTI.


Delhi

Picture Credits: Ankit Verma's Twitter account



Airpocalypse and the citizen’s concern

The condition in Delhi is being dubbed ‘airpocalypse’ on various social media sites, and hashtags such as #MyRightToBreathe are gaining momentum. 


Many celebrities including Varun Dhawan, Priyanka Chopra Jonas (who is in Delhi to shoot Netflix original White Tiger), and Rishi Kapoor are voicing concern for the deteriorating environment, and are working towards building a safer environment for all. 


“I have a headache every day I wake up. It’s suffocating to breathe sometimes, and there is inflammation in the nostrils and eyes. It kind of burns,” Ankusha Kushi, a student, told AFP. 


The Delhi government has also ordered schools to remain shut till November 5. Construction activities are banned as well in view of a public health emergency declared in Delhi-NCR by a Supreme Court-mandated panel.


Further, in a tweet, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called out neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab for forcing their farmers to burn crop residues, due to which people in Delhi are facing the consequences. He also announced 50 lakh masks to be distributed through private and government schools, and urged people to ‘use them whenever needed’. 


He also asked schoolchildren to write letters to Haryana and Punjab Chief Ministers Manohar Lal Khattar and Captain Amarinder Singh, respectively. 

Battling on all fronts

The crop stubble burning contributes to Delhi’s air pollution in a big way, and the Supreme Court has taken the issue into consideration. The benches headed by justice Arun Mishra and Gupta Deepak said that no civilised country can live in this state, and that India has been too liberal.


“We are asking all states to ensure no more fires are set of. In case of any further violation, we will settle liability from the bottom to the top,” they said. 


It announced that the entire administration, including the chief secretary, commissioner, the collector, and the gram pradhans will be answerable for instances of fire burning in any state.


In Delhi, citizens have also started carpooling as a feasible solution to ensure the condition does not escalate further. Last month, the road transport ministry drafted guidelines regarding the operation of carpooling and urged to keep carpooling out of commercial interest. They said it should be on a no-profit and no-loss basis.


The Delhi government also launched odd-even scheme for four wheelers with an aim to curb domestic carbon emissions in the national capital. 



(Edited by Megha Reddy)


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