Toxic smog engulfs India’s New Delhi, prompting a shutdown

Toxic smog engulfs India’s New Delhi, prompting a shutdown


It happens every winter in India’s capital: cold air arrives, trapping the dust and other pollutants emitted by its 20 million inhabitants. The result? A dirty, suffocating haze that engulfs the city and stops everyday life.

For the third day this week, air quality in the city crossed the “severe” threshold, reaching 445 on Friday, India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences said. The number is 10 times higher than the target level set in the World Health Organization’s 2021 air quality guidelines. advises 24 hour average of 45.

As smog descended on Delhi and surrounding areas, officials on Friday ordered schools, factories and construction sites to close and diesel trucks prohibited from bringing non-essential goods to the capital. About half of city government employees have been asked to work from home.

The WHO estimates that millions of people die annually due to air pollution and recognizes it as the world’s greatest threat to environmental health. IQAir, a Swiss air quality company, ranked New Delhi as the most polluted capital in 2021.

Air pollution is linked to heart disease, a higher risk of stroke and lung cancer, and was the leading cause of death in India in 2019, according to government data.

Siddharth Singh, author of “The Great Smog of India” tweeted that, unlike the immunity that develops from a virus or a vaccine, “the human body cannot get used to air pollution,” because “particles enter your lungs, your bloodstream, and then lodge in your organs.”

Both state and federal governments in India have faced criticism for failing to address air pollution. And as the crisis grew this week, regional politicians tried to blame each other for the health hazard.

At a press conference on Friday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that Delhi and Punjab should not be held responsible for the smog, which he called a “north India issue”.

He said there was no solution without joint state and federal action, adding that the six months since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) formed the government in Punjab “wasn’t enough” for the government to implement solutions.

India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, however, blamed the northern state of Punjab for failing to prevent farmers from burning crop residues, writing on Twitter that “there is no doubt who turned Delhi into a gas chamber.”

U Twitter in October, Vimlendu Jha, an environmentalist and founder of the youth organization Swechha, said the Delhi government lacked “political will and urgency”.

Central and state governments have “failed to find a medium to long-term solution to this problem,” Jha wrote, “often stopping short of blaming farmers and shifting the burden, instead of farm reforms, crop rotation incentives, technological assistance, etc. ”

The crisis comes as India’s government called on rich countries on Friday to fulfill their pledge to provide $100 billion in annual climate finance to developing countries – and to increase the amount at next week’s UN climate conference.

Masih reported from New Delhi.

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