Health

“Unbearable Levels” of Air Pollution Force Health Emergency in India

Authorities are closing schools, canceling flights, and taking cars off the road in Delhi, India.

Delhi, India is struggling to respond to the immense smog and pollution levels plaguing the city — it’s gotten so bad that schools have been shut down and flights have been cancelled.
 
A public health emergency has been declared in the city of over 20 million, whose air pollution levels were 20x what is considered “safe” on the global air quality index over the weekend. Many residents are staying home to avoid breathing the air outside, but many of Delhi’s poor and working-class residents have no choice but to continue working outside.  
 
To try and curb the smog, authorities in Delhi have ordered half of the cities private cars off the road, via an odd-even license plate system. This would mean that cars would only be allowed on the road certain days depending on their license number and would hopefully take 4 million cars off the road each day. Those who are caught breaking the rule will be fined
 
Politicians and public figures are bringing awareness to “unbearable” conditions online, including actress Priyanka Chopra who posted a picture of herself wearing a mask on while on set in New Delhi.

 

Delhi is already ranked as the most polluted city in the world— and according to a recent report 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are located in India.

There are other factors that makes November the perfect storm for high levels of pollution in Delhi: the traffic pollution, plus the seasonal burning of crops from nearby states, combined with cooler weather that doesn’t allow pollutants to rise in the air means this is generally the worst time of year for air quality in the Indian capital. Still, this year was worse than it has been in some time, and government officials point to farmers in areas around the city who are illegally burning their leftover crops. It’s considered the cheapest way to get rid of them, and the government has yet to successfully subsidize alternate methods for the farmers.

The situation finally started improving on Monday, and the Chief Minister of Delhi pointed to enforced rules about crop burning and traffic.