You might not be a smoker, but if you live in New Delhi, you’ll definitely be as unhealthy as one.
For the past few days, the Indian capital of New Delhi has been blanketed in a thick blanketed of smog. It’s so bad that medical experts have likened breathing the city’s air to smoking 50 cigarettes in a single day.
According to reports, ultra-fine airborne pollutants known as PM2.5 were measured at 400 to 700 per cubic metre. To put that in perspective, that’s 11 times the recommended safe limit by the World Health Organization.
Other areas even registered a score of 999 on the Air Quality Index – which means it hit the maximum level the instruments could measure, and could possibly be even higher.
New Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal even described the city as a “gas chamber.”
In response, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has declared a public health emergency. Some of the measures the authorities have taken include: suspending rail and airport operations due to low visibility, postponing outdoor activities like an upcoming half-marathon, and cancelling classes.
“My eyes get a burning sensation. I fell sick last year,” said a rickshaw driver, whose occupation is one of the hardest hit by the smog. “I don’t know whether it was from the air but I felt breathless and my eyes were itching. Doctors told me not to work early morning during winters.”
With this ‘airpocalypse’ becoming a regular occurrence the last few years, usually around winter, the country has tried out different policies – such as closing coal power plants and limiting cars on the roads – to contain the problem.
Sadly, it looks like the crisis won’t be solved any time soon.
New Delhi continues to be the world’s most polluted city, even beating out Beijing. A study claimed that half of Delhi’s 4.4 million schoolchildren have reduced lung capacity, while another research indicated that some 2.5 million Indians die annually from pollution – the highest number in the world.