New Delhi – the capital city of India – has been bearing extreme amounts of smog over the last week. The government’s attempts to establish emergency procedures to diminish the air pollution has proven unsuccessful.
Yesterday, several flights coming into Indira Gandhi International Airport were either delayed or diverted as the heavy smog was impeding the pilots’ vision and they couldn’t safely land the planes. The smog was over 200 percent above what is deemed as “hazardous” according to the global air quality index (AQI). Today, the AQI level held above the 800 mark in various areas of New Delhi, the nastiest smog the city has experienced in the last three years. Colder weather which has made some of the smog worse is expected to subside in the next few days, but it’s uncertain if that will result in a significant decrease in the pollution, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.
Following the implementation of a public health emergency, officials have stopped work in construction areas, new traffic regulations have been put in place to restrict the amount of vehicles allowed on the roads, and a number of schools have been shut down. Although some residents who can afford to remain at home are doing so, many of the working class population have no option but to continue enduring the smog.
Crop burning and fireworks
Efforts to reduce the smog within New Delhi have been fairly ineffective as a vast portion of it is produced by the burning of crops in close regions outside the city, where farmers set leftover crops alight. Farmers were given equipment to stop them from setting leftover crops on fire, but this hasn’t helped either. The Indian government stated that they issued several hundred teams to the city as well as nearby areas to carry out the regulations and target farmers who continue to burn their excess crops illegally.
“Life in the smog is very strange,” says Siddharth Singh, a resident from Noida. “Many people have a persistent dry cough and itchy eyes. Everything is hazy, so the eyes don’t focus on objects in the distance. Everything looks morose.”
New Delhi, previously considered to be one of the most polluted cities worldwide, often has worse air pollution this time of the year as many people use fireworks in celebration of Diwali and the Hindu festival of lights.