Delhi air pollution: Breathe at your own risk!

Updated: Jun 05, 2014, 20:10 PM IST

Ritu Singh/Shruti Saxena

“There`s so much pollution in the air now that if it weren`t for our lungs there`d be no place to put it all”.

-Robert Orben

The quote speaks volumes about the sheer magnanimity of the `dreadful` times we are living in. Recent studies and analysis of the air which we breathe in, present a very disturbing picture and shocking data.

As per WHO ( World Health Organisation) study, our very own Delhi has earned a not so very admirable tag. Delhi is the number one, but for all the wrong reasons. New Delhi has been rated as the world`s worst city for air pollution, with an annual average of 153 micrograms of small particulates, known as PM 2.5, per cubic metre.

Adding to the complete picture, India has slipped 32 ranks in the global Environment Performance Index (EPI) 2014 to rank a lowly 155.

The high PM 2.5 pollution caused by high vehicle density and industrial emissions is the reason for the dense smog that has been engulfing Delhi and has adverse health implications.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is touching 6,000 microgram per cubic metre- way above the safe level of 2,000 microgram per cubic metre. Levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), though lower than the standard in most areas as yet, have also been increasing marginally.

Delhi, with 8.1 million registered vehicles, has repeatedly beaten Beijing on particulate matter pollution. The city adds over 1,000 new personal vehicles each day on its roads. Also the rider ship on Delhi buses are constantly decreasing. Growing traffic on city streets is a major cause of air pollution.

As per environmentalists, the number of vehicles has increased exponentially and the number of diesel vehicles has grown. Diesel is particularly, extremely toxic. It is also the key reason why there are such high levels of particulate pollution in the city of Delhi.

Diesel vehicles are known to emit higher smoke, particles and NOx than their petrol counterparts. According to WHO and other international regulatory and scientific agencies, diesel particulates are carcinogens. Even the so-called ‘clean’ diesel running on fuel with 350 ppm of sulphur, allows higher limits for NOx and particulate emissions compared to petrol cars.

Due to this adverse environmental health hazard, health of Delhiites is seriously at risk. Statistics reveal that as many as 10,000 people a year may die prematurely in Delhi as a result of air pollution. A 2013 study found air pollution to be the fifth largest killer in India, causing more than 600,000 premature deaths -- up six times from 2000.

Doctors have been witnessing an increased number of cases of respiratory disease which they attribute to air pollution. There has been rising number of cases of respiratory diseases, especially in children. Air pollution also leads to the possibility of organ malfunction in new born babies if expectant mothers are exposed to pollution for a prolonged time.

If the above factors didn`t outrage you, think again and act! Evo Morales has very well predicted our fate: “Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.”

Do you want your future generations to struggle in this unbreathable air? Do you want to hear the noise of incessant coughing instead of roaring laughter? If your answer is no, take a pledge to do what each of you can for your environment. Even a small action counts. Make it happen.

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