New Delhi: Residents of New Delhi woke on Thursday to a thick, grey smog, as pollution surged to “severe” and “emergency” levels, with authorities showing little sign of finding new solutions to the crisis. The air quality index of the state-run Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) showing the concentration of poisonous particulate matter known as PM 2.5 stood at 440, up from 430 on Wednesday, and about 12 times the U.S. government recommended level of 35.
Pollution levels hit 500 in some parts of New Delhi, with very poor visibility in some areas. Last year, the high was 450 on Dec. 23. Sunil Dahiya, a senior campaigner with environmental group Greenpeace said,
Climatic conditions have contributed to the crisis, but let’s admit that most steps announced in 2018 have failed miserably.
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A sharp drop in temperatures and wind speed, combined with vehicle and industrial emissions, dust from building sites and smoke from garbage burning has boosted pollution over much of north India, including New Delhi, home to more than 20 million.
A spokesman for the federal government was not immediately available to comment. The city government refused to comment. Both the federal government and Delhi government have not announced any measures to fight pollution this year.
Cold weather has forced some people, especially those spending the night in the open, to burn small fires to keep warm, adding to the smog. Unfavourable weather conditions have worsened the crisis, but government measures have also failed to improve air quality in New Delhi and elsewhere.
As pollution spiked in the city in October and November, the government adopted measures ranging from a temporary ban on construction activities and garbage burning to a clampdown on polluting industrial plants, such as coal-fired power stations.
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Critics say the measures were inadequate and poorly implemented, largely because of a lack of resources and political will to fight the toxic air, which has driven a spurt in patients battling pollution-related health issues.
India is home to the world’s 14 most polluted cities, with Delhi the sixth worst, the World Health Organization said in a report this year. Toxic air claimed 1.24 million lives in India last year, or 12.5 percent of total deaths, a study published in Lancet Planetary Health showed this month.
“India cuts a sorry figure because of the reports from international bodies,” said Mr. Dahiya. He further added,
If a country fails to give clean air to its people, agencies like the WHO (World Health Organisation) and Lancet will talk about it.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.