Health Emergency in the capital city


The Indian capital was enveloped by a shroud of toxic smog. So public health emergency has been declared when everyone should stay indoors, no jogging, running or walking outside.

The US embassy air pollution tracker said levels of PM 2.5, tiny particulate matter that enters deep into the lungs and bloodstream, reached 703, which is double the mark of 300 that authorities deem as hazardous. This is like a heavy rain of PM 2.5.

At 1 PM local time, the tracker showed AQI (air quality index) at 728, a level that leaves even healthy people at risk of serious respiratory problems.

There is an urgent need to find a solution of crop burning in adjoining states which contributes to the haze and smog in Delhi, children and elderly have to be protected because half a million Indians died prematurely due to PM 2.5, measures so that schools are shut and people do not have to go outside, people suffering from respiratory conditions might feel worse, this may induce a heart attack in patients with pre-existing heart problems. As air quality deteriorated, earlier last month, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) ordered diesel generators and a power plant in Delhi to be shut down, while also directing closure of some brick kilns and the burning of rubbish to stop.

The Delhi High Court blamed stubble burning as the main villain behind the severe level of pollution in Delhi and the neighbouring areas, as it asked the AAP government and the neighbouring states what steps they have taken to address the issue. A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sanjeev Sachdeva said October to January was a critical period when the air quality in Delhi is poor due to the weather conditions.

Later, in a meeting to review the status of air quality, the EPCA announced that all measures under the GRAP’s severe category will be implemented across the region until further notice. Some of the measures included the quadrupling of parking fees and a cut on metro fares to encourage people to use public transport over their personal vehicles. The Energy and Resouces Institute (TERI) suggested closure of schools and introduction of the odd-even car rationing scheme.

The Lancet Commission has suggested that India can tackle ambient outdoor air pollution, in the short term, by first identifying sources of pollutants to enable targeted interventions. This can be done by installing dust management systems, establishing monitoring systems, mandating improved fuel quality and engine standards.

In the medium term, the expert commission calls for criteria for cleaner vehicles, including testing stations, control on diesel vehicles, incentives for use of electric and hybrid vehicles and upgrading the public transport.

In the absence of concerted government action on battling pollution and political blame-games, courts have stepped in several times in the past years.

Last month, the top court temporarily banned the sale of firecrackers in and around Delhi ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali sparking debate over the decision. It also outlawed the sale of luxury diesel vehicles and ordered a tax on trucks entering the city.

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