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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Smog in Delhi, India

Smog has enveloped Delhi in the first week of November 2016. Nothing is visible beyond a few meters in the mornings.

The word smog was coined from smoke and fog to refer to smoky fog. It is highly toxic and can cause serious diseases and even death. It contains oxides of nitrogen, sulphur and carbon, besides ozone, dust, etc. These react with sunlight, moisture, methane, ammonia, etc. to form harmful vapors, and fine particles to form smog.

As the wind speed in Delhi is almost negligent as witnessed in the first week of November 2016, and as the sky is covered by a thick blanket of smog that also hovers over the ground, visibility is reduced to about 100 meters.

The air quality in the city has been become the worst in two decades, taking it to the severe zone. The government of Delhi blames it on crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana, road dust and vehicular pollution.

It is estimated that over 600 million tons of agricultural wastes are burnt by farmers during the months of autumn and winter.

Various scientific research reports show that Delhi is the most polluted city in the world and air pollution alone causes about 10,500 deaths annually.

In recent years levels of fine particulate matter (PM) in Delhi increased alarmingly. The city has the highest level of airborne particulate matter, PM2.5, considered the most harmful to health. It has hugely increased the risks of lung cancer and asthma among the residents of Delhi.

The dense smog during winter causes major air and rail traffic disruptions too.

Since the 1990s, Delhi has undertaken several measures to reduce air pollution and smog. The city has the third highest number of trees among all Indian cities. The DTC runs largest fleet of environment-friendly CNG buses in the world. The Supreme Court of India ordered the conversion of the city’s buses and taxis to run on CNG and banned leaded petrol since 1998. The Delhi Metro Rail has helped significantly to reduce air pollutants.

But these gains have become insignificant due to large scale crop stubble burning, rise in the number of diesel automobiles, and similar harmful factors.

Delhi’s population is now estimated to be about 25 million, second only to Tokyo with about 38 million. That means the government has to enact strict rules immediately and implement them with an iron fist.

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