Indians are sharing pictures of the toxic air pollution that’s grasped the capital city.
he blanket of smog thickened on Friday morning with the pollution levels in the national capital increasing overnight. The overall air quality index settled at a shocking 484.
Following a spike in air pollution, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) on Friday declared a public health emergency in Delhi NCR, as the pollution levels in the region entered the severe plus category.
In a letter to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, the EPCA told to the state government to follow the graded response action plan (GRAP) and ensure ceasing of construction activities in Delhi, Faridabad, Noida, Gurugram and adjoining areas, shutting down of hot mix plants and coal-based industries, all industries those other than PNG are banned. A complete ban on bursting of firecrackers has also been announced till the end of the winter season.
EPCA chairman Bhurelal said that locally the level of air pollution spiked further on the Diwali night after firecrackers were burst by people despite a ban already in place. “The firecrackers, traffic on Diwali and stubble burning led to more pollution while the weather conditions such as cyclonic winds in the Arabian Sea and low wind speeds are not helping Delhi NCR’s cause,” he said.
“Health of the citizens of Delhi is being compromised. Children who are suffering from bronchitis and asthma are being affected. We want to take further steps and that’s why we have announced this health emergency IN Delhi and neighbouring areas affected by pollution,” Bhurelal said.
The EPCA has also asked states to take strict action against stubble burning and issue advisories to schoolchildren so that their exposure to hazardous air can be limited. This means outdoor activities need to stop and senior citizens those with asthma need to stay indoors.
A new analysis of the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), produced by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), shows the average citizen living in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) region of India can expect to lose about 7 years of life expectancy because of air quality fails to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guideline for fine particulate pollution. This is due to a 72 percent increase in pollution from 1998 to 2016 in the region that is home to about 40 percent of India’s population.
“Major sources of pollution in India is combustion of fossil fuels along with stubble burning that plays a role at this time of the year, leading to extraordinary high levels of particulate air pollution,” said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and director of Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.
Dr Randeep Guleria, director, AIIMS, said that they expect an increase in respiratory disorders in the coming days. “There is a 20 per cent increase in people coming to the OPD with respiratory and cardiac problems.
The health of their heart deteriorates as they continue to breathe high levels of polluted air,” Guleria said who also heads the department of pulmonology.
School students complained of headaches and eye irritation. “My eyes burn and I also have a cough. I can sense the smoke in the air,” said a school student who was out with his friends at India Gate.
“I have had a bad headache. I also am having trouble breathing,” said another student who had a mask on.
Windy weather respite?
The overall air quality settled at 484 on Friday evening and has been worsening with every passing day post-Diwali.
However, weather expert Kuldeep Srivastava has said that things will get better for Delhi residents after November 3 because of a western disturbance.
“A western disturbance which will reach Delhi on November 3 will increase the wind speed from the current 8 km per hour to 20 km per hour. This will help disperse the air pollutants which have accumulated over Delhi-NCR,” said Srivastava.
Srivastava also said that another western disturbance will also hit the Capital in November. “Both western disturbances will help increase the wind speed and possibly improve the air quality from the ‘severe plus’ to the ‘poor’ category,” he added.
Netas play blame game, city chokes
Politics surrounding pollution refuses to die down with leaders attacking and blaming each other for the situation in the Capital.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal blamed stubble burning for the worsening air quality and asked school kids to write letters to Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar and Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh asking them to take concrete steps against stubble burning.
Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari lashed out at Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet asking him not to distribute pollution masks for a photo op. Tiwari also asked the Delhi government to shut schools immediately for the welfare of children.
Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Goel observed a day long fast against the Arvind Kejriwal government for not having done enough to combat the menace of air pollution.
Arvind Kejriwal said that the Centre as well as the governments of Punjab and Haryana should give a timeline to stop stubble burning.
Arvind Kejriwal said that instead of making fun of Delhi people, the governments of neighbouring states should take steps to stop burning stubble. “Stop abusing the people of Delhi. They did everything to reduce pollution in Delhi. But now the smoke of the straw has made Delhi’s air dangerous,” he said.
“I am concerned about the health of the people of Delhi. We are doing our best. We are doing all that is available to us. The people of Delhi are also doing a lot. There is much more to be done. Opposition parties are blaming and abusing, it is not right. A leader is on a day’s fast. It makes fun of a serious issue. He is unable to understand how big a problem it is. One has to work hard to overcome it. We have to work hard if we want to make big changes,” Arvind Kejriwal said.