Environmentalists on Tuesday wrote to Board of Control for Cricket in India president Sourav Ganguly, requesting him to consider moving the first India-Bangladesh T20 outside Delhi as the rapidly deteriorating air quality could prove a health risk for the players and thousands of spectators.
The rapid spike in the pollution levels after Diwali has become a cause for concern ahead of the T20I at Feroz Shah Kotla on November 3. In December 2017, the Sri Lankan cricket team was left gasping for breath during a Test match at the Kotla, forcing most of their players to wear protective masks as some even fell ill.
“In the light of extreme pollution in Delhi, we would like to request you to consider shifting the venue for the first T20 outside of Delhi (sic),” Jyoti Pande of Care For Air and Ravina Raj Kohli of My Right To Breathe said in the letter. “Making our cricketers play a physically demanding sport for 3-4 hours in Delhi’s toxic air will end up doing more damage to our cricket team’s health in the long run.”
Care For Air and My Right To Breathe are clean air awareness and advocacy non-profit organisations. “Thousands of innocent spectators at the venue will also be putting themselves at risk in order to watch the match in the prevailing situation,” they said.
The environmentalists said outdoor aerobic activities raise the respiration rate of the human body, thus depositing even higher levels of toxins into lungs and other organs.
“This puts our sportspersons at even greater risk when they play outdoors. Any match played outdoors harms the health and very lives of the players and it is irresponsible to schedule such sporting activities during times of such toxic air quality,” they said.
On Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had hoped pollution will not affect the T20 match, emphasising that his government has been taking steps such as the odd-even scheme to improve the air quality.
A day later, a smoky haze turned Delhi’s skies grey as the air quality dropped further and entered the second-worst “severe” category. At 6.45 pm, Delhi’s overall AQI stood at 410, while the situation was worse in the satellite towns of Ghaziabad, Greater Noida and Noida.