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Microblog Mondays: India’s smog emergency

India's Smog Emergency

India’s Smog Emergency


As if having more than 10 Indian cities in the list of the top 20 most polluted cities wasn’t enough, the last few days have been disastrous for people living in many parts of the country.

While people generally have to contend with pollution from all kinds of vehicles, construction, factories, tanneries, power plants, noise and more on most days, this time it’s the farmers of Punjab and some parts of Pakistan who are burning 30 billion kgs of leftover straw. This started a week or two week back and slowly the toxic smoke consisting of a variety of dangerous gases has moved through to Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi, Kanpur, Chandigarh and most other parts of North India creating an apocalyptic situation.

The pollution and air quality levels have consistently broken records in the past few days with the particulate matter in most North Indian cities at least 10 or 15 times more than what is permissible as per WHO standards. People (me included) have started flocking to clinics and hospitals with complaints about a variety of ailments like allergies, breathing problems, coughing, irritation to the throat, nose and lungs, asthma and more.

Many will be going through the same problem like me – Open the windows of the car while driving and expose yourself to the dangers of the smog or close the windows of the car and switch on the AC to further spoil your health since you are suffering from fever or a throat infection.

Ironically, it’s not that the burning cannot stop as many of the farmers are aware of a seeder which the government is promoting for planting the wheat crop without having to burn the straw. But the expense ($1900) is a huge disappointment as many farmers don’t even earn that much and instead have huge loans to pay off. While the government is subsidizing the cost by agreeing to pay at least $950, this scheme is only currently available for a small section of farmers.

While the Delhi government has stopped construction work, shut schools, advised people to work from home for sometime, it hasn’t really done anything on the crop burning front which NASA has regarded as the main source of the current smog frenzy. With elections about to happen soon and a stronger farmers lobby around, sadly nothing will change on that front anytime soon.

Until some drastic changes happen sooner rather than later, we Indians will soon need to start breathing bottled air and as I write this, ‘Vitality Air’, a Canadian startup which aims to provide clean air to breathe to its customers is already planning to ship packaged air to India at Rs 12.5 a breath. Interestingly, as the pollution across the world worsens, a variety of startups including Vitality Air have sprung up to provide ‘clean air’ to breathe.

Did you ever think that a day would come when you have to pay to breathe? I surely think even the makers of ‘2012’ or ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ wouldn’t have imagined that.

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  1. Wow, this is a rough situation. There are studies about poor air quality limiting longevity. Hope you and others will be able to raise your voices to push for cleaner air.

    • aseemrastogi2

      Yes Molly, the air quality in my home city is constantly rated as ‘Hazardous’ in the worldwide air quality index monitoring system. While we all need to be the change we want to see, I guess the situation now is becoming a national emergency where this needs to be addressed at the highest level as lung cancers, respiratory disorders, coughs, wheezing etc. and more seem to be the order of the day.

  2. It is a worse situation. The kind of news we had been hearing about Beijing until a few years back has to come to India.

    • aseemrastogi2

      True that. And now India has about 12-13 cities among the top 25 most polluted cities on the planet. The situation is slowly becoming a national emergency. And it’s really important that we understand that loud and clear in no uncertain terms.

  3. What has happened is super sad and scary. Health is at risk and imagine that now the government is having to consider artificial measures to improve the quality of air.

    • aseemrastogi2

      Yeah Parul, I guess this is the sad state of affairs in so many cities of India. We keep polluting the environment day in and day out endlessly and the effects are slowly but surely coming out. Lung diseases, respiratory disorders and more are the order of the day. A few years back, China had most of the polluted cities in the planet. And now, we have even crossed them with the pollution levels in our country day in and day out. It’s slowly getting to a real emergency.

  4. It’s the people who need to understand. If they change the way they live, things will surely improve. Only the government cannot do anything.

    • aseemrastogi2

      Sure, I completely agree that we all need to play a part in reducing pollution in the environment around us. Each of us needs to be the change he or she wants to see. But in this case since NASA has particularly blamed the farmers burning straw, it needs measures at a government level to either subsidize the machine for more farmers or give them more opportunities to use the wasteful straw rather than having to burn it.

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