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Delhi - The Worst Polluted City in India
The capital city of India, Delhi is not only the worst polluted city in India, but it has become the most polluted city in the world too. The city’s air is so hazardous that officials must close schools for several days at a stretch so that students and little ones are not exposed to the dangerously unsafe air directly while going to school in the morning.
The air pollution in Delhi has been a political battle between the state and central governments as the center blames the state government for failing to contain the pollution at a large scale and thereby endangering the lives of citizens living in the city. Whatever the political context of the city’s worst problem, there is a need to find a solution for the extremely high pollution levels of Delhi. Otherwise, many thousands of deaths may occur due to diseases directly related to air pollution in the city.
Image: Secretariat Building in New Delhi covered in heavy smog and polluted air
Why is Delhi so polluted?
Air quality is usually calculated through Air Quality Index (AQI) which is more than 400 for Delhi. This is a level that is categorized as heavy or highly hazardous in nature. In such high AQI, healthy individuals are expected to start experiencing health problems. The abnormally high AQI is also a reason behind the closing of the schools. It is a threat to health for little students who might be exposed to such high levels of pollutants in the air.
In order to compare the pollution levels, trackers are run by AQI.in. On one of the highest polluted days, the tracker found the level of PM 2.5, airborne particles having a diameter less than 2.5 microns to be more than 330. This is more than 22 times above the safe level deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to a study done on PM 2.5 levels in Delhi, the pollution levels are so high that it is equivalent to smoking 15 to 20 cigarettes every day. There is no doubt, therefore, that the people of Delhi are exposed to dangerously high levels of pollutants which must be considered immediately.
So, what causes such alarming levels of pollution in Delhi?
Apart from a large number of vehicles, Delhi’s air is affected by the burning of crops in the nearby states. For example, farmers in the nearby state of Punjab burn the crops after the farming is over. This creates enough smoke that is carried into Delhi’s air, making the pollution levels in the city go up many times than normal.
Highly toxic air is a recurring problem for the city due to a host of reasons, especially during the winter. As the fog starts to fall, it turns into a deadly smog when it gets mixed with residues of brick, brick kilns, crop smoke from neighboring Punjab and Haryana, and gases emitted by factories and vehicles.
The burning of crop residues has been the focus of the government as the smoke arising due to crop burning after the harvesting season makes its way into Delhi’s air, making the air abnormally polluted. The farmers usually find burning the crops after they are harvested a cheaper way to clear the farmlands. The government is now considering providing monetary benefits to the farmers who participate in government-sponsored programs and do not engage in the burning of crops to change the situation of pollution in the city.
Steps Taken by the Government and NGOs
It is not true that the government is not doing anything to tackle the menace. Many programs have been initiated by the government and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to change the pollution status of the city.
NGOs like Help Delhi Breathe have come up that spread awareness about pollution, how to be proactive against it and what can be done by citizens to reduce it. Other NGOs such as Greenpeace India are also working to make changes in the situation. The works of these NGOs are supported by the government but the problem is still too big to contain by easy steps taken by NGOs.
The government is also taking steps to help the citizens. While primary schools are often shut down, the government has announced that outdoor activities should be restricted to the minimum for higher-class students. This is again done to minimize the impact of highly toxic air on the students.
The state government of Delhi has also come up with an ‘odd-even’ formula for vehicles running on the roads of Delhi where vehicle numbers ending with odd and even numbers will be allowed to ply on alternate days. This is expected to bring a sea change in the environment of Delhi.
The supreme court of India is also involved in a case that is related to burning crops in the nearby states. The litigation is aimed to stop burning the crops after harvesting. As mentioned above, the smoke generated due to the burning of crops is considered a key issue for Air pollution in Delhi and the government thinks that if the issue can be handled properly, the abnormally high AQI levels could be brought back to normal again during the days of winter
A PM 2.5 level of 336 is not a matter of joke and everyone should take it seriously. Being the worst city in terms of air quality is a stain we must remove with collective efforts. It is not impossible if everyone becomes aware of the conditions and supports the steps taken by governments and NGOs. It must, however, be made a top priority for doing so, and, therefore, everyone must be involved.
Qns 1. What is AQI? What is the alarming rate of AQI for Delhi in winter?
Ans. Air quality is usually calculated through Air Quality Index (AQI) which is more than 400 for Delhi in winter usually. This is a level that is categorized as heavy or highly hazardous in nature.
Qns 2. Which fact is revealed by the PM 2.5 study in Delhi?
Ans. According to a study done on PM 2.5 levels in Delhi, the pollution levels are so high that it is equivalent to smoking 15 to 20 cigarettes every day.
Qns 3. Why is winter more dangerous for people of Delhi?
Ans. Highly toxic air is a recurring problem for the city due to a host of reasons, especially during the winter. As the fog starts to fall, it turns into a deadly smog when it gets mixed with residues of brick, brick kilns, crop smoke from neighboring Punjab and Haryana, and gases emitted by factories and vehicles.
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