By: Keara Polovick
In the past weeks, air pollution levels in Delhi, India have reached an all time high in the past this year. The city and other parts of Northern India are filled with a gray haze and objects within a few yards are hardly visible. On November 3, the hazardous particle measure was 23 times higher than the set guidelines outlined by the World Health Organization and 7 times higher than in Beijing.
Air quality index (AQI) readers are a common way to measure the level of pollution in an area. The safe and healthy AQI range is typically from 0-50. The recorded AQI in Delhi within the past week has been upwards of 900, reaching unbearable levels and calling for a national health emergency.
Due to the unsafe levels of air pollution outside, many people have been left isolated in their homes, instructed to wear masks and sit next to an air purifier. 5 million masks have already been handed out by the government and schools have been temporarily closed. The lack of visibility has also led to numerous flights being cancelled and an overall disruption to air transportation in the area.
A combination of environmental and human causes are likely to blame for these conditions. Farmers have been burning their crop stubble, the straws sticking out of the field after harvest, causing a release of carbon dioxide and other hazardous chemicals. This, coupled with the fireworks set off during the Diwali festival earlier this month, have resulted in an unfavorable environment for air pollution levels to rise. Cars and other motor vehicles have also contributed to the smog. India is now trying to manage this by having odd and even license plates rotate depending on the day. The common weather of slow winds and still air during this time of year in India has only worsened the issue as well.
The Indian Health ministry official has called this matter “a disaster” and other officials have named the city a “gas chamber.” Although the government has taken preliminary measures to curb pollution and the Supreme Court has banned farmers from burning crop stubble, young people in Delhi protested against the government on November 3, calling for more significant action. If these levels of poor air quality in Delhi continue, many people are likely to suffer from respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and other serious health issues.
The dangers of rising toxic air pollution is not limited to India, though. Over 90% of the world’s population lives in areas with pollution levels higher than the standards set by the World Health Organization. This is a concerning global trend that will require much effort and compromise to reverse.
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