The air quality in Delhi-NCR have reached emergency levels. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has referred to the city as a 'gas chamber' and we are breathing this air that feels like we're in a furnace. According to a report by NDTV today on November 3rd, the pollution levels have made a huge jump, going deeper into the emergency zone. Yesterday, the AQI (Air Quality Index) was 407 and it rose to 625 today. The visibility is even lower and so far 32 flights have been diverted from the Delhi airport.
The surrounding areas of Delhi are in no better shape; schools in Noida are shut till Tuesday and Delhi is all set to begin its odd-even road rationing rule from tomorrow. However, there is still no word from Punjab and Haryana, where farmers have been burning stubble that triggers air pollution in Delhi-NCR every year.
At 11 am sensor after sensor across the NCR and Haryana is maxing out at 999. Stay indoors. Use a mask or sit next to an air purifier if you are lucky enough to have one. Pray for those who are homeless. pic.twitter.com/4zxhwF8C3s— Vikram Chandra (@vikramchandra) November 3, 2019
Just to put things in perspective, according to a report by CNN, in 2017, Delhi reached the 1,000 mark on the air quality index. The World Health Organization considers anything above 25 to be unsafe.
According to a study by Berkeley Earth Science research group, breathing air with a PM2.5 content between 950 to 1,000 is considered equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes in a day. Citizens have been complaining about chest ache, burning eyes, breathlessness, and feelings of suffocation and patients in hospitals with respiratory problems have increased drastically.
To be sure, this is not a Delhi problem. Look at Kurukshetra, it's at 1211!— Manisha Pande (@MnshaP) November 3, 2019
Sirsa, Hisar, Jind, Bagpat all the way to Bulandshahr! Every city is choking.
Criminal neglect of the situation by the central and state governments. pic.twitter.com/MItp9Atx8M
While some people of the city have invested in air purifiers and N95 grade masks, there are so many on the road who cannot afford this luxury. To combat this, the Delhi government has undertaken a massive campaign to distribute 5 million protective masks to its citizens. Properly fitting masks have shown to dramatically reduce markers of respiratory health issues. People wearing these masks are a common sight in countries like China and South Korea, where pollution levels are just a fraction of what is encountered every winter in Northern India.
According to a report in Indian Express, Beijing has seen an extraordinary decline in air pollution in recent years. PM 2.5 has been decreased by 35% between 2013 and 2017, thanks to better-informed citizens demanding cleaner air to breathe.
While the Delhi government is taking bold actions to address the issue at hand, the focus should be on looking for permanent solutions to improve air quality. There is a ban on stubble burning in the country, but agricultural states like Haryana and Punjab have not implemented this yet.
The point of a 'welfare state' is putting the needs of citizens before all else. We live in a country where there are more potholes on the roads than an actual place to drive, sewages remain open, and public defecation is still very much a reality. Now, apart from all this, we don't even have clean air to breathe? How basic a right does that have to be?
Apeksha Bhateja, a resident of Delhi-NCR, said, "There's so much helplessness because we can't do much about it. We can get indoor plants and air filters and masks, but we do have to go out every day, to work, to buy groceries, to the park, and we're breathing toxic air that we know is killing us. What's the solution? You can't stop living your life, but how do you do this? But how do you live with the fact that you're prone to lung diseases just because you're breathing in Delhi?"
Let's stress on that again: You're just BREATHING in Delhi.
I came back to Delhi after going home for Diwali holidays and this is the fifth day I've been in bed. My head is constantly hurting, throat and nose feels congested and eyes have been watering. I've been missing crucial days at the office because my health hasn't permitted me to step outside. All I'm asking for is to take in a few deep breaths, but I guess that's too much, too.
Here is what twitterati have been saying about the same:
Today Prime Minister @narendramodi needs to show decisive leadership by inviting @capt_amarinder, @mlkhattar and @ArvindKejriwal under one roof to decide on emergency response mechanism to tackle this deadly air pollution in Delhi. People can't be left to die slowly. 🙏— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) November 3, 2019
people in delhi who can't afford air-purifiers or air-conditioners and are homeless or have to work outside for sustenance, who mostly haven't contributed to delhi's pollution are literally gonna choke to death now or from pulmonary conditions later on and nobody will give a shit— 🌱🌼🍂 (@dialecticsoupy) November 3, 2019
Satellite images show almost half of India is reeling under a poisonous smog. It is time that @PrakashJavdekar tells all of us:— Atishi (@AtishiAAP) November 3, 2019
1. What are the steps you have taken in last 6 months to prevent this?
2. What are the steps you are going to take to ensure this never happens again? pic.twitter.com/YP65iqe0BQ
As far as individual action goes, we can continue to put pressure on both the central as well as the state governments to implement the ban and make sure we don't choke year after year. For now, we can wear masks and buy air purifiers to ensure cleaner air in our homes and workspaces. Not getting out of the house until absolutely necessary is a must. We can do tree plantation drives and get indoor plants to help improve the air quality inside closed doors.
In the long term, Indian authorities need to penalise polluting industries, give incentives to farmers to stop burning their crop stubble, and look at this as the emergency it is. Till they do, let's keep breathing toxic air and inching closer to death just because we call the capital of India our home.
Image Credits: Financial Express, Business Today
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