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article imageDelhi minister — India's air pollution is at 'unbearable' levels

By Karen Graham     Nov 3, 2019 in Environment
Delhi - Air pollution in the north of India has "reached unbearable levels in the capital," Delhi's Chief Minister Arvid Kejriwal says. In many areas of Delhi, air quality deteriorated into the "hazardous" category on Sunday.
Smog in India's capital city of New Delhi is so bad that the air quality index (AQI) went above 900 Sunday — 400 units above what qualifies as "severe-plus." Officials are calling the AQI "unbearable," "hazardous," and "toxic."
Yet, despite all the descriptions for the noxious cloud of pollution, this goes on and on, every year. The country even has a "smog season," going on now. This is the time of year when farmers burn the stubble left over from their rice crops in order to plant wheat.
Nagendar Sharma, a Delhi-based media advisor to the capital's chief minister, was driving through Haryana, barely 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the capital. He stopped after spotted smoke rising from the farms alongside the highway as he was returning to the city.
The farmers explained the burning they were doing in getting ready for planting their wheat crops in a few weeks - further explaining they could not afford the expensive machines that would remove the stubble. Of course, the Chief Minister was told about the fires.
Delhi's Chief Minister Arvid Kejriwal has now called on the central government to provide relief and tackle the toxic pollution. And it is toxic. More than two million farmers burn 23 million tons of crop residue on some 80,000 square kilometers (30,888 square miles) of farmland in northern India every winter.
The smog, like a post-apocalypse dust cloud, hangs over the region for three months, usually. The smog is a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. And it is dangerous enough to flood hospitals and doctor's offices with hundreds of wheezing men, women, and children.
Already, schools have been closed, construction work halted and over 30 flights diverted from landing. The government has distributed five million gas masks to schools in Delhi and starting Monday, the city will introduce a temporary plan so that only cars with odd or even-numbered license plates can drive on given days, in a bid to cut traffic pollution.
All this is going on, despite a ban by the government on stubble-burning, and despite the fact that one million people in India die every year because of air pollution. This is devastating and shameful.
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