Delhi continues to fight an unprecedented high-level of pollution, as the quality of air in the national capital declined to the new low after Diwali celebrations. According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the national capital is facing the worst smog in 17 years. The concentration of PM 2.5 reportedly averaged close to 700 micrograms per cubic metre, marking 12 times higher than the government norm and 70 times than the WHO standards.
Responding to the issue, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the state has virtually turned into a gas chamber and it is due to the farm fires in the neighbouring Haryana and Punjab. “Pollution has increased to an extent that outdoors in Delhi are resembling a gas chamber. Prima facie the biggest reason seems to be burning of stubble in agricultural fields in Haryana and Punjab in huge quantity,” he said.
“Fireworks during Diwali marginally added to the pollution. But other things inside Delhi did not drastically change. So the smog is mainly due to smoke from farm fires,” he added.
Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) slammed the state and central government on inadequate steps to tackle alarming air pollution level in the national capital.
“Have you done anything to prevent children from going to school, did you give advisory to public. The people have the right to breathe fresh air,” the tribunal observed.
Reports say that millions struggle with hacking coughs and burning eyes. Authorities have now closed around 1,800 schools in the city in view of the heavy smog.
“The decision was taken today at a meeting held in the wake of severe pollution Delhiites are reeling under. And, since the smog is worse during the morning, it was decided to close the schools,” said Arya, who is also a former Mayor of south Delhi.
A recent study revealed that Delhiites will have to face the harmful effects of poor air quality for generations to come. According to the study, the health effects of air pollution, described as the world’s biggest environmental risk by the WHO, may be ‘transgenerational’.
“New research that has shaken all of us says that if a fetus is exposed to air pollution, she has change in her genes, and these changes are such that they don’t remain confined to her only. The impact is transgenerational,” said T K Joshi, Director, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health.
Recently, WHO ranked Delhi as second-most polluted major city in the world after Riyadh. According to WHO, the air pollution is leaving around eight lakh people dead annually in the South East Asian Region.
The report also stated that more than 90 per cent of the world population breathes dirty air and around 6.5 million people die due to ailments caused by air pollution. India reportedly account for more than 75 per cent of the casualties caused by cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.