A 2014 World Health Organization survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted in the world. Delhi’s population continues to grow rapidly as tens of thousands of migrants arrive in the capital each year. According to a New York Times report, levels of dangerous PM 2.5 particles reached 700 micrograms per cubic metre just last month, while experts claim breathing the air is as dangerous as smoking 40 cigarettes a day.
While it has reached crisis point in recent weeks, bad air is nothing new in Delhi. According to the WHO, it has an average annual PM 2.5 concentration of 150. Pollution in Delhi, which spikes during winter, hit staggering new heights last month, with the city’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reaching 999. To provide a little context, the highest AQI in London is currently 66, in Beijing it is 288, and anything above 500 is considered “hazardous”. Air quality in Delhi has plummeted further with no signs of improvement due to the unfavorable weather conditions such as reduced air movement and high humidity. The thick layer toxic smog has put Delhi under its grip and many residents have complained of a burning sensation in their eyes and throat.
Smog is a type of air pollutant. The word “smog” was coined in the early 20th century as a portmanteau of the words smoke and fog to refer to smoky fog, its opacity, and odor. This kind of visible air pollution is composed of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ozone, smoke or particulates among others.
According to an American study published in February, air pollution kills more than 5.5 million people around the world each year, with over half of those deaths occurring in fast-growing China and India. In fact, three more Indian cities – Patna, Gwalior and Raipur – follow Delhi in the rankings, while a further nine (Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Firozabad, Kanpur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Allahabad, Agra and Khanna) are among the top 20.
Things to do:
According to experts, apart from construction, factories and industries operating in residential and unauthorized areas, without any certification of clearance on pollution, must be shut down so that the civilians in the nearby region are not harmed by possible harmful effluents. The experts are also suggesting shutting down of power plants in the city.
Health advisories warn of “serious risk” of respiratory problems for residents of Delhi and say all outdoor physical activity should be avoided. People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should stay indoors and keep activity levels low. Children are the most vulnerable because their respiratory defenses have not reached their full capability. They also breathe in more air per kilo of body weight than adults; so they take in more toxins per kilo of body weight than adults do. Moreover, children generally exercise outdoors more than adults. The elderly are often frail and with failing immunity. They are also likely to have pre-existing medical conditions that can exacerbate and further complicate the effects of air pollution.
You need to buy sophisticated respirators, something which comes with an active carbon filter layer and sticks well on your face has a valve which opens and shuts as you exhale and inhale.
Minimizing the traffic on the road can greatly help decrease the overall pollution levels in the city. A clear example was the Delhi odd-even rule which saw a significant reduction in the pollution levels.
Having plants right outside your home will purify the air that enters your house. The money plant is one type that is known to purify the air of benzene, toluene and formaldehyde.
Spending hours on the road during peak hours on a bike or two-wheeler can be extremely bad for your health. Respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis are common side-effects of pollution. Ditch the bike and take the metro or an AC bus instead.
If possible go for some vacations where you may find greener and healthier environment.