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What the toxic air did to Delhites

Published: 11th Nov, 2019

It has been more than a week of breathing heavily polluted air for Delhiites. It is safe to say that for more than 150 hours they breathed a toxic cocktail, with the air quality ‘severe’ or ‘severe +’ since October 30.


It has been more than a week of breathing heavily polluted air for Delhiites. It is safe to say that for more than 150 hours they breathed a toxic cocktail, with the air quality ‘severe’ or ‘severe +’ since October 30.


  • Particulate matters (PM) 2.5 and 10 remained at least five times more their safe standards.
  • These ultrafine particles can enter the respiratory system and reach the bloodstream.
  • On an average, a person breathes 25,000 times a day. For those living in Delhi and the National Capital Territory (NCT) regions, this means breathing toxic air 25,000 times a day. Toxins once deposited in lungs cannot be cleansed.
  • Such continued inhalation of toxic gases affects all organs and not just lungs. It even has the potential to cause hormonal imbalances.
  • Being in such an environment full of pollutants constantly also affects the central nervous system of the brain.
  • Impairment in concentration abilities has also been seen.
  • People living in polluted environments are prone to mood swings and insomnia as so many pollutants reaches the bloodstream. They can change the biochemical profile of the substances which make us sleep
  • Besides causing lung cancer, chronic exposure to high levels of pollution increases the risk of heart diseases, chest pains, and chronic bronchitis, among other health consequences.
  • Chronic exposure also impairs the respiratory tract's defense mechanism, opening it up for bacteria and viruses.
  • After PM 2.5 and 10, now even PM 0.1 was being absorbed in the bloodstream.

Major reasons for extremely poor Delhi air in winters

  • Burning of Crop Stubble – Burning of crop residue by farmers in Northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh is considered as the prime reason for a spike in air pollution during the winter months in Delhi and NCR. This is a traditional practice followed by farmers in these states to prepare their fields for sowing crops after harvesting their fields.
  • Winter season - As the winter season sets in, dust particles and pollutants in the air become unable to move. Due to stagnant winds, these pollutants get locked in the air and affect weather conditions, resulting in smog.
  • Burning crackers - Despite the ban on cracker sales, firecrackers are usually a common sight every Diwali. It may not be the top reason for this smog, but it contributes to its build up.

Government initiatives taken to control Delhi Pollution

  • There are mobile enforcement teams deployed at various locations for monitoring polluting vehicles and vehicles not having PUC certificates.
  • A Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS) is being constructed with the aim of providing a non-polluting, useful and affordable rail-based mass rapid transit system for Delhi, integrated with other modes of transport.
  • With a view to reducing vehicular pollution, there has been a ban imposed on the plying of more than 15 years old commercial/transport vehicles, taxis and autos that run on conventional fuels, including diesel driven city buses.
  • There has also been tightening of mass emission standards for new vehicles.
  • The quality of the fuel being supplied in Delhi has been significantly improved over the years by the ban of selling leaded petrol, introduction of low sulphur diesel, reduction of sulphur and benzene content in petrol.
  • There has been regular placement of dustbins, purchase of additional front-end loaders, mechanical sweepers, dumper placers, tipper trucks, to collect and dispose of garbage.
  • The biggest positive step taken by the Delhi government was to permanently shut down the old, polluting Badarpur coal-fired power plant in the southeastern outskirts of Delhi. The plant, a major cause of the Capital Region’s air pollution, had been shut down every winter for the past three years to scale back pollution.
  • The Centre constituted the Supreme Court-empowered Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority or the EPCA, which is tasked with taking various measures to tackle air pollution in the National Capital Region.
  • Delhi government regularly comes up with emergency measures like Odd-Even formula for vehicles to control rising pollution.

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