Smog may seem invisible in Delhi, but the air is still poisonous

For the fifth day in a row, the capital woke up to a polluted morning with the air quality recorded at abysmal levels.

 |  3-minute read |   28-11-2017
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Don't heave a sigh of relief that the smog is gone and the air quality has improved. No, not yet. Even though the haziness in the sky has subsided, the air in the national capital continues to be poisonous.

For the fifth straight day, Delhi woke up to a polluted morning with the air quality recorded at very poor levels, even though conditions had marginally improved compared to Monday. While the average Air Quality Index (AQI) read 343 on Tuesday, it was at 362 on Monday.

Just how grave the situation is can be assessed from the fact that the government of the national capital territory has issued a health advisory urging schools to avoid outdoor activities during the morning.

But the real piece of bad news is that the pollution levels are set to nosedive with high moisture content in the atmosphere and lack of winds set to ensure the particulate matter remains suspended in the ambient air.

According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (Safar), an agency under the ministry of earth sciences, air quality is set to worsen over the next three days with a spike in the levels of both PM2.5 and PM10.

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At 8pm on Monday, the 24-hour average concentration (rolling) of PM2.5 and PM10 was 291 and 171 microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/m3) respectively, multiple times above the prescribed standards of 60 and 100, Safar said.

An AQI between 301 and 400 is classified as "very poor", which can trigger respiratory illness on prolonged exposure.

Emergency measures kick in if PM2.5 and PM10 concentration cross 300 and 500 ug/m3 and stay there for 48 hours at a stretch.

Tragically, emergency measures have to be enforced upon us by the governments. At the personal level, we resist Odd-Even road rationing, openly burn our garbage, and try to hoodwink enforcement agencies while violating dust control norms.

With the smog cleared out, pollution has suddenly ceased to be a life and death issue. Sadly, even that we can't see exists. Shockingly, it also kills.

At a time when the government is making repeated appeals to people to remain indoors and avoid smoking, it appears Delhiites aren't too bothered about the lethal air surrounding them. The masks that came out when smog engulfed the national capital region have disappeared in no time.

The Delhi government has also asked people to carpool, use public transport, and not to burn dry leaves, crop residue, wood, coal, etc. If the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the roads is anything to go by, it seems the concerted appeals from the government are falling on deaf ears.

In the light of the Centre for Science and Environment finding that says every third child in the national capital has impaired lungs, we can choose to the look the other way at our peril.

Pollution is a great modern-day leveller. If doesn't differentiate between its victims. We can't buy our way around it. We have to do something about it. And do it now.

It is time we, as citizens, get our act together by doing our bit for the environment. It is also important to keep up the pressure on the government to do its part of the job in ensuring our children don't die of merely breathing the noxious air around them.

Also read: Net neutrality: 5 major takeaways from TRAI ruling

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