A few years ago, one of my cousins living with her husband in Singapore sent us a photograph taken from her residence building, wherein the building next to her’s was not visible. Having been under the impression that Singapore enjoys a pleasant climate throughout the year, we were amazed to see so much fog in October.
A grave situation was then introduced to us. It was not fog, she said, but smog – a phenomenon caused by the mixing of pollution and smoke with fog, resulting in drastically reduced visibility and respiratory problems. I had never imagined we would be witnessing such scenario in India, and that too in New Delhi – the capital city.
The disastrous smog that has clouded Delhi’s streets in the past week is something we really need to ponder.
New Delhi is one of the most populated and widely visited cities of India. Undoubtedly, it is also one which faces extreme climatic conditions, excess crime rates and serious cases of pollution outbreak.
For the last couple of years, the festival of Diwali has been followed by an acute explosion of pollution in the city. Excessive smoke and cracker residue turns the sky grey amidst the sunrise hue. Survival becomes difficult post-Diwali when the air is burdened with smoke, pollutants and a foul smell.
But facing the same, during this time of the year, when Diwali has long passed, is a worrisome issue. As per doctors, it causes severe health issues such as respiratory problems, irritation in sense organs and headache, among others. The children and the senior citizens are the ones who face the most risk.
In class, when we were taught that the absence of trees can lead to smog, we were mostly uninterested. But it has proven to be true today in New Delhi. The air quality has deteriorated to the extent that it cannot be taken in, people have to use masks 24X7 to survive, and it won’t be long till Delhites will need to carry oxygen cylinders to roam around the city.
The intensity of the catastrophe can be judged by the fact that schools are closed in the city as the air outside is unfit for breathing. People are being advised to wear masks all the time and if possible, to stay confined within the four walls of their houses.
The Indian Medical Association has declared a public health emergency in the city, a term we’ve never heard before.
The city is witnessing alarming levels of particulate matters (PM) in the air. For the entire Delhi-NCR region, the average PM level is around 455 units, with PM2.5 (particulates in the air with the diameter less than 2.5 mm) at 452 units.
For PM2.5, the international permissible limit is 25 units. For India, it happens to be 60 units.
A few days back, Ghaziabad was the most polluted city in the entire NCR, with PM2.5 levels at a staggering 848 units — which is 33 times the safe limit.
It is seriously getting out of hand and is too scary to just sit back and ignore.
A lot has been discussed, innumerable conventions and pacts signed, thousands of meetings held and several rules made. But still, we are where we started in terms of environmental degradation and pollution control.
The apocalypse is near as environmental destruction has reached an alarming rate now, and if nothing is done, it won’t be long before the earth will no longer be suitable for living as environmental problems take over.