New Delhi, which is also the capital city of India, suffers from a heavy air pollution in the form of smog, especially during Winters. In November 2017, both The Washington Post (Doshi, 2017) and the Vox (Irfan, 2017) rated New Delhi as the most polluted city in the World. The US embassy in New Delhi reported an air quality index (AQI) of 1,010 which is beyond the worst category of air quality (Irfan, 2017). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that the recommended AQI values are those that lie between 1 to 100, with the 1-50 AQI range being the best for human health (EPA, 2014). Around the month of November, especially after the Diwali festivals, the city of New Delhi is engulfed by a cloud of smog which seriously affects the visibility. In November 2017, cars crashed in highways due to invisibility while trains were either canceled or delayed (Irfan, 2017). The United Airlines had to cancel all flights to India during this period as invisibility loomed (Irfan, 2017).
According to EPA, smog may contain pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, particle pollution, and ground-level ozone (EPA, 2014). These pollutants may cause short term health effects such as the irritation of the respiratory system which is exhibited by coughing, sore throats, and chest pains. The pollutants also reduce the lung function depriving the body of the recommended oxygen levels, especially during exercises. Another short term effect includes the inflammation and possible damage of the outer cells of the lung. However, the damaged cells are replaced frequently by the body through tissue regeneration. The pollutants also aggravate asthma while predisposing the lungs to a variety of infections. When the outer cells of the lungs are damaged, the defense of the lungs against bacteria and particles is significantly curtailed. This leads to long term effects which include the development of chronic lung diseases such as bronchitis and permanent lung damage.
Causes of Smog in New Delhi
According to The Times of India, the main cause of air pollution and smog in New Delhi is its proximity to the two farming states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana (TTN, 2017). These states contribute the largest percentage of particle pollution from the crop burning practice. The particle pollutants are then brown over by the wind and deposited above New Delhi. As previously seen, particle pollution is one of the main causes of smog (EPA, 2014). Another cause of smog in New Delhi is the high amount of vehicle emissions. It is estimated that about 570,000 vehicles enter New Delhi each day causing huge traffic jams (Correspondent, 2016). The vehicle population and the traffic jams create a massive vehicular emission which contributes to pollutants such as ground-level ozone and carbon monoxide which hover above New Delhi. During winter which occurs between November and January, the pollutants are locked by in the air as winds stagnate thereby creating smog (TNN, 2017).
Air Pollution Clean-up and Prevention Recommendations in New Delhi
Local ways to clean-up the smog include planting of purifying crops such as Aloe Vera in both indoors and outdoors spaces. New Delhi locals can also utilize air purifies to clean-up the hazardous air while indoors and nasal filters while outdoors. The clean-up of smog can also be aided by managing and controlling the flow of vehicles in the city. Smart Traffic Management Systems (STMS) can readily reduce traffic jams in the city and consequently reduce the ground-level ozone and carbon monoxide emissions. The crop stubble burning practice in the states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh should be discouraged by providing other ways to divert the biomass bulk. Such ways include feeding the biomass to livestock and decomposition.
- Correspondent. (2016). 5.7 lakh vehicles enter Delhi daily, equal to a number of vehicles registered in a year. https://www.hindustantimes.com/. Retrieved 12 February 2018, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/5-7-lakh-vehicles-enter-delhi-daily-equal-to-number-of-vehicles-registered-in-a-year/story-oYdVmxjFFrl5QamvoH4SJM.html
- Doshi, V. (2017). New Delhi’s pollution is off the charts — and it’s making residents ill. Washington Post. Retrieved 12 February 2018, from https://www.washingtonpost.com
- EPA. (2014). Air quality index: A guide to air quality and your health. Research Triangle Park, NC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from https://www3.epa.gov
- Howard, S. (2017). United suspending flights to New Delhi over air pollution. UPI. Retrieved 12 February 2018, from https://www.upi.com/United-suspending-flights-to-New-Delhi-over-air-pollution/7301510408074/
- Irfan, U. (2017). How Delhi became the most polluted city on Earth. Vox. Retrieved 12 February 2018, from https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/11/22/16666808/india-air-pollution-new-delhi