- The air quality in Delhi, the capital of India, according to a WHO survey of 1600 world cities, is the worst of any major city in the world.
- Air pollution in India is estimated to kill 1.5 million people every year; it is the fifth largest killer in India. India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases and asthma, according to the WHO.
- In Delhi, poor quality air irreversibly damages the lungs of 2.2 million or 50 percent of all children.
Air quality index of Delhi is generally Moderate (101-200) level between January to September, and then it drastically deteriorates to Very Poor (301-400), Severe (401-500) or Hazardous (500+) levels in three months between October to December, due to various factors including stubble burning, fire crackers burning during Diwali and cold weather. In November 2017, in an event known as the Great smog of Delhi, the air pollution spiked far beyond acceptable levels. Levels of PM2.5 and PM 10 particulate matter hit 999 micrograms per cubic meter, while the safe limits for those pollutants are 60 and 100 respectively. Health Emergency declared in Delhi due to drastic air quality.
Authorities declared a public health emergency on Friday and ordered Delhi schools to announce a four-day holiday, as severe pollution levels continued to choke the National Capital Region (NCR) for the fifth day.
“The air quality has further deteriorated as of last night and is now at severe+ level. We have to take this as a public health emergency as air pollution is now hazardous and will have adverse health impact on all, particularly on children,” said Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) chairman Bhure Lal, in a letter to chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Health Emergency declared in Delhi due to drastic air quality.
The toxic smog has been taking a heavy toll on residents of the National Capital Region (NCR) since Diwali, with concentrations of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 reaching extremely hazardous levels. According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) of the ministry of earth sciences, PM2.5 concentration touched its highest of 411 on Thursday with serious potential implications for public health. Because of its small size, these particles can easily enter the blood stream.
Causes of poor air quality
- Lack of active monitoring and reaction by authorities.
- Motor vehicle emissions are one of the causes of poor air quality. Other causes include wood-burning fires, fires on agricultural land, exhaust from diesel generators, dust from construction sites, burning garbage and illegal industrial activities in Delhi.
- The Badarpur Thermal Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built in 1973, is another major source of air pollution in Delhi. Despite producing less than 8% of the city’s electric power, it produces 80 to 90% of the particulate matter pollution from the electric power sector in Delhi. During the Great smog of Delhi in November 2017, the Badarpur Power Plant was temporarily shut down to alleviate the acute air pollution, but was allowed to restart on 1 February 2018. In view of the detrimental effect to the environment, the power plant has been permanently shut down since 15 October 2018
- Heavy metal rich fire-crackers
Effects of poor air quality
Effects on children
2.2 million children in Delhi have irreversible lung damage due to the poor quality of the air. In addition, research shows that pollution can lower children’s immune system and increase the risks of cancer, epilepsy, diabetes and even adult-onset diseases like multiple sclerosis.
Effects on adults
Poor air quality is a cause of reduced lung capacity, headaches, sore throats, coughs, fatigue, lung cancer, and early death.
SMOG in Delhi
Smog in Delhi is an ongoing severe air-pollution event in New Delhi and adjoining areas in the National Capital Territory of India. Air pollution in 2017 peaked on both PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels. It has been reported as one of the worst levels of air quality in Delhi since 1999.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the national capital’s 24-hour average air quality index (AQI) stood at 494 at 4 pm on Sunday, the highest since November 6, 2016 when it was 497. Health Emergency declared in Delhi due to drastic air quality.
Low visibility has resulted in accidents across the city, Means more accidents on the Yamuna Expressway.
“The Great Smog” also led to cancellation and delay of public transport, primarily trains and flights, causing much hindrance to the people.
Control measures for Air pollution in Delhi
The Chief Minister of Delhi at the time, Arvind Kejriwal, came out with the following proposed action items to attempt to reduce the air pollution.
- All Delhi schools will remain shut for the next few days.
- For the next few days, no construction and demolition work will take place in Delhi.
- All diesel generator sets have been banned for the few days, except at hospitals and in emergencies.
- The Delhi government will supply power to unauthorized colonies which use diesel generators.
- The coal-based Badarpur power plant was permanently shut down on 15 October 2018.. There will be no fly ash transportation from the power plant.
- The Environment Department will launch an app to monitor the burning of leaves.
- Vacuum cleaning of roads will start on 10 November.
- Water sprinkling will start on all roads from the next following days.
- People should stay at home as much as they can and they should try working from home.
It has been under public debate how much, if any, of the above steps actually help curtail pollution. Various bodies blamed various sources for the smog and Health Emergency declared in Delhi due to drastic air quality.