Destroy Erase Improve
Some call it “capital punishment” that kills slowly; others simply put it as air pollution — a lethal cocktail of toxic gases spewing from vehicle exhausts and factories mixed with dust and microscopic particles that sticks to human lung walls like industrial sludge.
Welcome to Delhi, the capital of Asia’s second-largest economy and one of the bottom-ranked megacities for foul air in recent World Health Organization data.
Or, goodbye Delhi!
The New York Times correspondent Gardiner Harris did exactly that after completing a three-year assignment and his parting shot was an article which whipsaws Delhi’s plague, its poisonous air.
He cynically demonstrates how the city is annihilating its future generation, which probably will have a very weak heart and weaker lungs thanks to a prolonged policy paralysis on air quality.
Harris begins his article with a deeply personal experience when his eight-year-old son, Bram, began gasping one terrifying night nine months after he moved with his family to this megacity.
“We gradually learned that Delhi’s true menace came from its air, water, food and flies. These perils sicken, disable and kill millions in India annually, making for one of the worst public health disasters in the world,” he wrote.
“Delhi, we discovered, is quietly suffering from a dire pediatric respiratory crisis, with a recent study showing that nearly half of the city’s 4.4 million school children have irreversible lung damage from the poisonous air.”
The article is another piece in a long list, reprising the rapidly growing developing world’s inescapable horror. The WHO says air pollution was responsible for over seven million premature deaths in 2012, one million more than tobacco, and around 88% of the dead belonged to low or middle-income countries.
Delhi, with a population of more than 16 million, could be described as the den of this monster because in places such as Dwarka and Anand Vihar, particulate matter pollution was three times the national standard. The city's air is more than twice as polluted as Beijing’s, according to the WHO.
The booming megapolis is a mother lode of opportunities attracting prospectors from across the world, not to mention the teeming millions from the country’s small towns and countryside looking to live their dreams. For some, the dream quickly fades because of the city’s unbreathable air and those having an option to leave, pack up and scoot.
The prime polluters are vehicles, factories and untrammeled constructions. Delhi adds over 1,000 vehicles every day to its overburdened roads and air; and an overwhelming number of trucks cram its streets at night.
The statutory National Green Tribunal recently banned old, fume-belching diesel vehicles from plying in the city and took up the onerous task of checking factories dotting Delhi and its neighbourhood, which are the prime suspects in contributing to the capital’s air menace.
Unless Delhi and its neighbours clean up their act together, as experts often point out, the national capital will continue to suffer.
Source: 'Delhi is unlivable': NYT reporter has every reason to abandon city