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 Climate Change

Air Quality
Published on: Nov. 17, 2021, 12:23 p.m.
Smogtown, Delhi!
  • Suffocating: among the many Indian cities gasping for breath, New Delhi tops the list every year

By Business India Editorial

Delhi could be moving towards another lockdown but this time it is not the corona virus to be blamed but air pollution.

An alarming surge in air pollution (437 out of 500 points) has been recorded in the national capital.

The Supreme Court has directed the authorities to shut down offices and schools as the situation could worsen in the coming days.

Indian cities have long struggled with pollution, but levels spike each winter as fumes from farmers burning their crops mix with pollution from cars and industrial plants.

In an emergency meeting earlier this week, New Delhi officials said they were planning a weekend lockdown and work-from-home (WFH) but the Central government told the apex court today that it is not in favour of WFH as already offices had been shut for a long while due to Covid-19.

“We have proposed a weekend lockdown, we are ready for it. Our strategy will depend on the court's directions now,” Gopal Rai, Delhi minister for environment, forest, and wildlife, told reporters.

The declaration follows the Delhi government’s decision on Saturday, which said schools would shut for a week from Monday and that construction workers must stay at home for three days from Sunday.

The city’s air quality index fell into the “very poor” category on Sunday, according to SAFAR, India’s main environmental monitoring agency, and in many areas levels of the deadly particulate matter reached around six times the global safety threshold.

NASA satellite imagery also showed most of the country’s northern plains covered by thick haze.

Among the many Indian cities gasping for breath, New Delhi tops the list every year. The crisis deepens particularly in the winter when the burning of crop residues in neighbouring states coincides with cooler temperatures that trap deadly smoke. That smoke travels to New Delhi, leading to a surge in pollution in the city of more than 20 million people and exacerbating what is already a public health crisis.

However, the country’s pollution problems are not limited to the capital.

Emissions from industries, with poor pollution control technology, and coal which helps produce most of the country’s electricity, have been linked to the bad air quality in other urban areas.

India’s energy needs are expected to grow faster in the coming decades than in any other country. A part of that demand is expected to be met by dirty coal power, a key source of carbon emissions that pollute the air.

That’s why India has asked for a last-minute change to the final agreement at crucial climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, calling for the “phase down” not the “phase out” of coal power.


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