New Delhi at a standstill as smog chokes city . . .
New Delhi’s air quality level plummeted this week as temperatures dipped and the city's Air Quality Index (AQI) peaked at 499 on a scale of 500. In response, authorities shut down schools and banned construction work. But the Supreme Court of India ordered a complete shutdown of the city, allowing people to work from home where possible, closing six out of 11 coal fired power plants, and, yet again, tasking the government to create solutions to reduce hazardous pollution levels. What has become almost an annual occurrence has left New Delhiites gasping for respite and wondering if this will be a constant in their lives. The current shutdown will remain in place until November 21, after which winds are expected to pick up and help improve the AQI.
Why New Delhi is always suffering . . .
Particulate matter from dust, vehicular emissions, and industrial emissions contribute to India’s capital ranking as the world’s most polluted city, and the winter months are the worst for the city’s residents. Almost every year in late October or early November, New Delhi comes alive to fireworks as the country celebrates Diwali, the festival of lights. Coupled with smoke from the burning of crop waste, stagnant, cold winter air, and local topography, a unique system is created that traps smoke and forms a thick smog that severely impacts health. The Supreme Court compared breathing the air to smoking 20 cigarettes a day as it urged local authorities and those in surrounding states to find solutions to combat the sources of air pollution, particularly crop burning. According to IQ Air’s air quality ranking today, Lahore, Pakistan ranked even worse than Delhi as it experiences a similar set of circumstances.
Meanwhile, in southern India and Sri Lanka . . .
While northern parts of India combat smog, in southern India and Sri Lanka, heavy rains, mudslides, and flooding over the past week have claimed more than 40 lives. The Indian states of Tami Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka are bracing for more heavy rainfall, which is expected to last through the weekend. Thousands of people in low lying areas have been evacuated. Normal life remains disrupted, and the loss of life and property is taking a toll on the states where the rainy season has deviated from its normal patterns. Torrential rains, which experts claim to be influenced by climate change, are also impacting the largely agriculture-based economy in affected areas.