Breathing fresh air a luxury for many Delhiites . . .
Delhi has again plunged into a fog of noxious winter air. The air quality index (AQI) in Delhi skyrocketed to 582 on Friday, triggering an “emergency” designation announced by the Central Pollution Board. The recommended safe AQI limit is 60. While Delhi remains one of the most polluted cities in the world, the winter months are especially challenging for city-dwellers as farmers in the nearby states of Haryana and Punjab start stubble burning. The stagnant, cold winter air traps smoke from the stubble burning creating a thick smog that reduces visibility and has severe health implications. The Delhi AQI did go down to 217 today earning it a “very unhealthy” status.
Havoc on health . . .
Many people in Delhi are currently suffering from burning eyes, sore throats, and asthma attacks due to the extreme air pollution. Increased and prolonged exposure to the polluted air can have severe health consequences, particularly for the young and the old, and could reduce life expectancy by two to five years. Government and health officials advised people to avoid the outdoors, temporarily closed schools, and recommended use of face masks and air purifiers for those who can afford them.
Reactive or proactive . . .
To reduce pollution levels, the Supreme Court of India banned stubble burning on Monday, put a blanket ban on all demolition and construction activity, and prohibited garbage burning in the National Capital Region. China, which faces similar pollution woes, has been able to reduce its air quality problems through a more proactive and stringent ban on stubble burning, including hefty fines for scofflaws. In India, however, farmers continue to defy the ban on stubble burning arguing that the government needs to provide affordable alternatives such as mulching machinery, which currently most farmers can’t afford. The New Delhi city government also implemented rules in 2017 to decrease the number of cars on the road to help reduce exhaust. But many people in the capital are demanding less reactive and more proactive solutions to curb the growing air quality problem.