A group of Delhi citizens protesting against air pollution. Photo: © Joshua Gao / Shutterstock.com

New Delhi declares public health emergency

Authorities in the Indian capital New Delhi declared a public health emergency on 1 November and closed schools and all construction activity for a week, when the air quality index measuring the level of health-damaging PM2.5 hit 484 on a scale of 500. Anything above 400 poses a risk for people with respiratory illnesses and can even affect those with healthy lungs.

A few days later the air quality index deteriorated to above 900, way over the 500 level that qualifies as “severe-plus”. Aside from the harm it was doing to the lungs of some 40 million people living in the capital region, the smog was so bad that more than 30 flights were diverted from Delhi airport due to poor visibility. Roads looked deserted as large numbers of people stayed home, rather than expose themselves to the noxious atmosphere outside.

The Environment Pollution Control Authority, which is leading the effort to tackle Delhi’s pollution, said: “We have to take this as a public health emergency as air pollution is now hazardous and will have adverse health impacts on all, but particularly our children.”

Source: Reuters, 1 and 3 November 2019.



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