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Delhi Smog: Choking on Our Own Denial

Delhi Smog

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Over the past couple of years, there have been a number of calls from environmentalists to the government to take some drastic measures towards cleaning the toxic air in our National Capital. And unless you have been living under a metaphorical rock, you would remember the numerous steps that were taken in a bid to reduce pollution levels in the city. From the odd/even rule to banning the registration of cars over 2000 cc and banning the burning of crop in the neighboring states, a number of measures have already been taken.

This week, Delhi woke up to very ‘severe’ air quality, as the city lay under a blanket of thick haze and pollution levels breached the boundaries of ‘dangerous’. Around 6th or 7th of November, the level of pollution skyrocketed and left the city in a blaze of low visibility and un-breathable air.

What is Smog?

Smog is a term that comes from a combination of fog and smoke. It refers to a rather hazardous blend of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide; this mixes with some sunlight and ‘ground-level’ ozone. The ozone that is our protection from the harmful rays of the sun turns into a very dangerous form when it combines with Volatile Organic Compounds.

Where Does Smog Come From?

  • Emissions from automobile
  • Power plants
  • Industrial boilers
  • Refineries
  • Chemical plants
  • Cleaning products, etc.

How Harmful is It?

While children, older people, and generally people with weak immune systems are more susceptible to the adverse effects of smog, no one is really safe. Some of the effects of smog include:

  • Interferes with the respiratory system
  • Aggravates asthma
  • Can severely damage lungs
  • Causes irritation in the eyes
  • Can cause chronic diseases
  • Can reduce the body’s ability to fight infections

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

  • Invest in an air mask
  • Avoid early morning walks as the pollution levels are highest during these hours
  • Installing indoor plants like English Ivy can really prove to be beneficial in eliminating pollutants from the indoor air
  • Limit the time you spend outside

In light of the rapid fall in air quality and visibility in Delhi NCR, the government has implemented a number of emergency measures. The Indian Medical Association has even appealed to the government to shut down outdoor activities in schools. Parking fees in the city has been quadrupled to discourage people from using their cars too much, and metro card rates have been slashed as well. As people continue to bicker about the why and why not of the cracker ban in Delhi, the city drowns in a blanket of smoke that threatens to engulf our everyday life.

There might be a lot of finger pointing and name calling in the wake of this incident, but fact remains that passing the buck and playing the blame game is not a solution. The city’s pollution has been compounded by the burning of crop stubble, which, along with the lack of any wind in the area has led to the extreme severity of the condition. While schemes like the odd/even, shutting down the power plants temporarily, banning the sale of crackers in Delhi, etc. might have made a slight difference, but it is quite apparent that more stringent steps are required to curb the menace of pollution.

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