A silent killer is suffocating the capital of India. Millions of people have no choice but to breathe


“I come here and wait. Sometimes, people give me food,” said Singh, his voice straining over the smoke from autorickshaws and cars just a few meters away.

But some residents of Delhi have become so accustomed to bad air that it is a part of daily life – they barely notice it, he says.

Others say it’s making them sick.

choking on smog

A police officer directing traffic at one of Delhi’s busy junctions says pollution levels have become “unbearable” this winter.

“I take off my mask because I have to blow the whistle to stop the traffic, but it’s terrible,” said the 48-year-old officer. Media.

Smoke emanates from the queues of vehicles around him – he says he finds it difficult to catch his breath.

“My eyes hurt. It’s hard to breathe. It’s not easy,” he said.

Social activist Neelam Joshi, 39, says she feels pollution whenever she steps out of her house to catch a train to work.

“When you leave the house in the morning, this is the first thing you feel,” Joshi said. By the end of the day, she says her body has adjusted, but the next day, it happens again.

“In the last six years that I have been living in Delhi, there has never been any reduction in pollution,” she said. “It only increases every year. Every year we reach a different level, and it always gets worse during festivals.”

Amanpreet Kaur, 28, a flight attendant from Delhi’s Rohini area, recently took a flight from the United States and was stunned by the difference in air quality.

“When I came back to India after my flight from the USA, it was terrible. I have a persistent cough,” she said.

Kaur says the smog is so bad that you can see it at night as a dirty haze around street lamps and car headlights.

“When the sun sets, you only see smog, there is smog all around,” Kaur said.

“It is very dangerous to live in Delhi.”

Government of India Office smog blankets in New Delhi on November 20, 2021.

‘My right to breathe’

Environmental activist Aditya Dubey, 18, has spent the past two years advocating for immediate action against Delhi’s pollution.

Every year, the city is covered with hazy haze clouds, but it gets worse in winter when low temperatures and a drop in wind speed make air trapped for longer periods of time.

“Cold has become a torture and every day feels like a punishment,” Dubey said. “My eyes get watery and watery. I feel short of breath.”

Last month, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tried to control pollution levels by banning firecrackers for Diwali, the festival of lights, but festivities mostly continued as normal.

The burning of crop waste in the surrounding fields intensified the Diwali smoke.

As of November 5, most places in Delhi were recording AQIs above 500 – the highest level on the scale.

Dubey had enough at that time.

The activist filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking protection for her “right to breathe”.

On November 15, the court ruled in his favor and ordered the central government to do more.

Subsequently, schools were closed, non-essential traffic was suspended, construction projects were halted, and six of the 11 coal-fired plants were ordered to close by the end of November.

Construction projects resumed on Monday after Delhi recorded slight improvement in air quality.

But for many, the damage was already done.

Morning haze covers the sky on the outskirts of New Delhi, India in October 2020.

‘Silent Killer’

Delhi is not the only Indian city affected by smog.

According to monitoring network IQAir, last year nine of the world’s 10 most polluted cities were in India.

According to World Health Organization (WHO.)), air pollution causes an estimated 7 million premature deaths a year globally, primarily as a result of increased mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer and respiratory infections.
Bad air can reduce life expectancy of millions of Indians by nine years According to a recent study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC).

The study also found that every one of India’s 1.3 billion residents face annual average pollution levels that exceed the guidelines set by the WHO.

In 2019, the central government announced a National Clean Air Campaign aimed at reducing particulate pollution by 30% by 2024. Specific plans were drawn up for each city; in Delhi, Those plans include Measures to reduce road traffic, burning and road dust and encourage the use of clean fuels.

But over the years, India’s pollution problem has gotten worse, partly because of the country’s reliance on fossil fuels – and in particular, coal.

At the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, India was among the group of countries that Emphasis on 11th hour amendment to the agreement to phase out coal in a phased manner instead of “out”,
Poisonous air is saying in Delhi thousands of lives every year, According to an analysis of IQAir data by Greenpeace.

But despite the deteriorating air quality, some locals in Delhi have become so used to it that they do not even realize it.

Many roam the streets without face masks and have developed a general complacency towards pollution levels.

50-year-old gardener Omprakash Mali says air pollution has no effect on him or his work.

“We work in mud and dust as gardeners, so I don’t feel anything extra,” he said. “I think the top priority for the government should still be COVID-19, Pollution happens every year.”

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Shesh Babu, a laborer, said he “doesn’t really care” about the dense fog in Delhi. His priority is to earn money.

Activist Dubey says air pollution is considered an “elite” issue.

“Air pollution is a silent killer,” he said. “There is a lack of awareness. People do not understand the seriousness of this.”