“You can literally see smoke in the air, and when you breathe, you can smell it, too."
As India’s thriving city, New Delhi is clouded by a misty fog that threatens to endanger the lives of many of its citizens, some have compared it with the smog of 1952 London.
The Delhi smog started on Sunday 6th November 2016, where a respirable particulate matter of P.M. 2.5 and P.M. 10 was recorded. This is a dangerous level above what is considered safe, and Delhi has since earned the title as the most polluted city in the world.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) measured by the U.S. Embassy is beyond a staggering 500. This, along with the P.M. of 2.5, is enough to plunge the city into a thick haze.
The P.M. 2.5 fine particles and P.M. 10 coarse particles are a risk to the human body. These pollutants may enter the lungs, heart, and bloodstream, resulting in serious illnesses. They may also cause sight irritation and discomfort in the nose and throat. Young children and the elderly are at the most risk.
Amaan Ahuja, living in Delhi, told the New York Times: “You can literally see smoke in the air, and when you breathe, you can smell it, too. We are trying to keep the kids indoors with all the windows closed.”
— KABIR BEDI (@iKabirBedi) November 7, 2016
While Delhi’s mist surrounds the area, it is still not as worse as the smog of London in 1952.
The great smog of 1952 lasted from 5th to 9th December. While only a short period, the effects on the city lasted for days after and were hazardous to inhabitants.
It was a cold winter in London, where coal was frequently burnt to stay warm. An anticyclone hung over the region, pushing the air downwards. Because of this, transport came to a standstill.
It became difficult for people to navigate their way through the city – where in New Delhi, it is reported that in some places, many citizens are finding it hard to see their own feet.
Over 4,000 Londoners reportedly died. But, this is just a small number compared to the 12,000 that followed after the fog dissipated.
Along with this, 370 tonnes of SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide) converted into dangerous levels of Sulphuric Acid.
Whilst Delhi has reported a controlled level of SO2, the impact on its civilians is still a concern. Panicked citizens have been rushing to buy face masks to protect themselves, and local market areas are worried about shortages.
Anumita Roychowdhury runs an Air Pollution Program at the Centre for Science and Environment. She said:
“Delhi’s air remains so polluted throughout the year that it doesn’t really have room for additional pollution.”
“The air doesn’t blow away, and all the pollution that happens inside the city gets trapped at the ground level, very close to our noses.”
In response to the dangerously high levels, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called for all demolitions and construction work to be stopped for five days. Additionally, 5,000 schools were closed for three days.
Officials also warn that restrictions will also be placed on transport if there is no improvement on pollution levels.