On November 7th, 2017, Delhi was covered in smog. The air quality in the capital city of India and the world's most polluted capital has reached hazardous levels.
Pollution is described as the the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment. Pollutions often leads to adverse changes in the environment. It can be chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light. Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants. Air pollution has existed dating back to prehistoric times when man created fire. However, the onset of urban pollution began with the burning of coal and wood. It was Industrial Revolution that began in the 18th century that gave birth to environmental pollution as we know it in modern times.
In India, pollution is measured by AQI (Air Quality Index). In the AQI system, Air is classified in six categories; Good, Satisfactory, Moderately Polluted, Poor, Very Poor and Severe. The system measures eight pollutants; PM10, PM2.5, NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide), SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide), CO (Carbon Monoxide), O3 (Ozone), NH3 (Ammonia) and Pb (Lead). Delhi’s AQI has been measured as ‘Severe’; capable of causing respiratory impact even on healthy people, serious impact on people with heart or lung disease and health impacts even during light physical activity.
On 06 November 2016, it was reported that Delhi’s pollution touched a new high; tiny particulate matter, known as PM 2.5 crossed the 900 mark (15-times the permissible level), in several monitoring stations, in the city. Classes were suspended for 3 days, in 1800 schools, of the three municipal corporations. The immediate cause of the crisis, is being attributed to Diwali firecrackers, burning of paddy straw, in neighboring states and peculiar no-wind conditions, over the city.
The biggest contributor to Delhi’s pollution is, ‘Road Dust’; contributing up to 38% of PM2.5 pollution. Vehicles moving on unpaved surfaces (berms) and un-swept roads, throw up dust. Delhi’s three industrial estates, of Nagloi, Bawana and Mundka, contribute up to 52% of NO2 pollution.
The Commission on Pollution and Health, published a report in the Lancet that revealed that pollution results in the deaths of at least 9 million people annually. The report also notes that it also incurred economic damage of $4.6 trillion.
The study found that India in particular recorded the highest number of deaths across the world due to pollution. In 2015, 2.5 million Indians died due to non-communicable diseases, including strokes and lung cancer, caused by pollution. China came second in the list having recorded 1.8 million such deaths.
On November 7th, 2017, Delhi was covered in smog. The air quality in the capital city of India and the world's most polluted capital has reached hazardous levels. The US embassy website said levels of the fine pollutants known as PM 2.5 that are most harmful to health reached 703 -- well over double the threshold of 300 which authorities class as hazardous.
The Indian Medical Association urged the city’s biggest running race, due on Nov. 19, to be called off to protect runners and volunteers from exposure to high levels of deadly particulate matter that lodge deep in the lungs.
That level is equal to smoking 50 cigarettes a day, Dr. Arvind Kumar, chairman for chest surgery at Sir Ganga Ram hospital, said. “We are in a state of medical emergency, schools should be shut, we need to bring these levels down. We are all shortening our lives.”
Bharti Airtel, the country’s top telecoms operator that sponsors the Delhi race, said, “Air pollution poses serious health risks and it is important that these concerns are addressed urgently and appropriately by the authorities for Airtel to continue associating with the event next year and beyond.”
In addition, Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, has suggested that schools should once again be closed. He said, “All of us together have to find a soln (solution) to this. Every year, during this time of the year, Del becomes a gas chamber for almost a month. Considering high level of pollution, I have requested Sh Manish Sisodia, Education Minister, to consider closing schools for a few days.”
Our assessment is that air pollution levels pose a clear and present danger to life in Delhi. Apart from being linked to medical problems like asthma, air pollution also causes acid rain which contains harmful amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids. Large cities in India now are facing the reality of dangerous levels of air pollution that won’t make them livable for human life. This needs to be addressed.