Credit: India Together

Hazardous air pollution alert! On Monday November 4,  the AQI in India’s capital, New Delhi, reached 604! 

What does this mean? The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a measure of air pollution. The chart goes up to 500. The lower the number, the cleaner the air is. Anything over 100 can be dangerous for people to breathe.

Government agencies use the AQI to communicate how polluted the air currently is. As the AQI increases, more people are likely to start experiencing ill health effects.

Why is there such poor air in New Delhi? 

A dense toxic smog has descended over the city and neighbouring areas. This smog is a layer of fine poisonous particles and dust, leading to near zero visibility at many places. These particles are particularly worrisome because they have the ability to enter lungs and blood tissue and cause serious health problems. People are blaming the burning of crops in neighbouring states, industrial and vehicle emissions as the cause of the toxic particles in the air.

The 25 million people in this city often have to deal with breathing polluted air. But as the winter season sets in, the problem gets worse. Hot air rises, and cold air is denser and descends. Slow winds and colder temperatures during the winter in Delhi do not allow the polluted air to rise up and leave the area or to be swept away from it. They have actually brought the airborne pollutants closer to the ground and kept them there, like a poisonous blanket over the city.

Wait a minute: Haven’t we heard this before? Yes, we wrote about this last year at this time as well. Arvind Kejriwal is the city’s chief minister. He says that he is determined to find a solution to this recurring problem, and will work with leaders of neighbouring states to address this toxic issue. One of his initiatives is to reinstate his odd-even scheme, which asks only people with odd numbers as the last number on the license plate to use their cars on odd-numbered days of the month, and those with even numbers to stay off the roads that day, and vice-versa. He is trying to encourage car pooling and the to reduce the number of cars on the road, emitting less harmful gases.

Other rules are to stop people from burning garbage, and the institution of limitations on construction activities.

We hope the situation gets better for New Delhi as the winter sets in, and that the leaders put their heads together and come up with some sustainable ideas.