Air quality crisis in Delhi – children face ‘dangerously unsafe’ smog

Image: Getty

In the planet’s most polluted city, which has long been choking from the poorest air possible, the current situation in Delhi, is, even by its standards, more dire than most of us could imagine.

And for the city’s two million-plus children, the government-ordered closure of schools tells its own story – there is nowhere for them children to go, except to try and learn at home, whilst still breathing in the toxic air which is making many of them very ill.

City leaders say that the use of motorised vehicles will be restricted over the coming days, as they battle to curb rising pollution, with air quality in the Indian capital remaining ‘dangerously unsafe’ for a third consecutive day, reports Reuters.

Bad air pollution in New Delhi is nothing new, and it constantly ranks among the world’s top polluted cities every year ahead of winter. This is as a result of calm winds and low temperatures trapping pollutants from a variety of sources, which as well as vehicles include heavy industry emissions,, construction dust, and the burn-off from crops.

But the situation has become so dire over the past few days that the city’s Air Quality Index, which measures the level of fine particulate matter in the air has been nearly 10 times the acceptable limit. Lung specialists say that, put simply, breathing this air is the same as smoking 25-30 cigarettes a day. The potential damage this can have on children is therefore clear to all.

‘Toxic air which is making children ill’

Pakhi Khanna, the mother of six-year-old Vanraj, paints a picture which will be similar to many thousands of parents across the city. With all of his school classes already moved to online, and football coaching cancelled, she has cut her son’s outdoor playtime to half an hour from two hours, reports the BBC. Meanwhile, Anant Mehra and his wife have completely stopped three-year-old daughter Mira from playing outside completely. While they are relieved that her nursery classes have shifted online, it’s ‘exasperating’ to try and persuade a three-year-old to sit in front of a computer for hours.

No doubt the fact even the city’s presidential palace and federal secretariat has been enveloped in a thick smog will have focused important minds on the problem. Public outrage over hazardous air quality has quickly grown, and as a result the city has ordered the closure of primary schools until 10 November.

Even important religious festivals will not be spared, with Reuters reporting that the local government will impose the ‘odd-even’ vehicle rule from 13-20 November, to mitigate pollution levels that are expected to rise after the Hindu festival of Diwali on 12 November. Nov. 12, when firecrackers are often set despite a ban.

The restrictions on vehicles add to a ban on construction work for public projects in the national capital region, and restrictions on entry of trucks and heavy vehicles in Delhi, imposed by a federal pollution control watchdog.

Author: Simon Weedy

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