On November 7, residents in New Delhi have noticed something quite different outside: there is a thick white haze enveloping the city. At first it seems to be a mild irritant, until days later the people have been suffering from the severe air pollution.
Upon checking the air quality in some parts of the city, it was discovered that there are air quality index (AQI) readings which hit 999, the maximum reading on air monitors.
This level, which is equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day, could be higher in actual due to the reading limitation of the instrument. According to the World Health Organization, an AQI reading above 25 is already unsafe.
Photo via The Associated Press
As a consequence of the reduced visibility, the daily activities of the people are affected. Public and private schools have been closed. Trains have been canceled, planes were delayed, and cars have piled into each other according to reports. There are also multiple traffic accidents across the city’s roads.
Following this public health emergency, the government decided to ban lorries.
Even Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, could not help but tweet about the terrible air situation. He described the city as “a gas chamber.”
New Delhi has a population of 22 million, and the issue of extremely high levels of air pollution is nothing new. PM2.5, or particulate matter having a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers produced through combustion, is widely released in the air through burning coal, running diesel engines, and burning crops. Unfortunately for New Delhi residents, such activities are done in the city as well as the neighboring states, hence the severe air pollution.
But what is pointed as the triggering factor for the smog is the car crashes, including a 24-car motorway pileup just outside the city, the Telegraph reported.
Photo by Indian Express
There are several health effects of this level of air pollution. In the case of the Indian capital, people are getting diagnosed with chest pain, breathlessness, and burning eyes in hospitals.
“The number of patients have increased obviously,” said Deepak Rosha, a pulmonologist at Apollo Hospital, one of the largest private hospitals in Delhi. “I don’t think it’s ever been so bad in Delhi. I’m very angry that we’ve had to come to this.”