News Brief

In photos: As smog envelops Delhi-NCR, a public health emergency is declared

Ghaziabad and Noida with overall air quality index rank of ‘severe’ remained NCR’s worst-affected areas

A public health emergency has been declared after air quality dropped to the “severe” category on the Air Quality Index in Delhi and the National Capital Region on Tuesday. The Indian Medical Association declared Delhi in a state of public health emergency, the organisation’s president Dr KK Aggarwal told ANI. “Schools should be shut and people must avoid stepping out,” Aggarwal said.

Pedestrians and motorists make their way through thick smog in New Delhi on Tuesday (PTI)
Pedestrians and motorists make their way through thick smog in New Delhi on Tuesday (PTI)
A traffic policeman on duty near India Gate, which was enveloped in a thick cloud of smog, on Tuesday (PTI)
A traffic policeman on duty near India Gate, which was enveloped in a thick cloud of smog, on Tuesday (PTI)

In areas close to Delhi Technological University in North Delhi, an air quality index value of 441 was recorded on Tuesday, Hindustan Times reported citing figures from the Central Pollution Control Board. Air quality was “very poor” in East Delhi’s Anand Vihar, while areas close to Burari crossing in North Delhi were relatively better with an Air Quality Index of 364.

The level of PM 2.5 – particulate matter in the air that is smaller than 2.5 microns – touched 452, while PM10 rose to 336, reported The Indian Express. The visibility in the city on Tuesday morning dropped to 200 metres, according to Hindustan Times.

PM 2.5 across India on Tuesday.
PM 2.5 across India on Tuesday.
The smog covered Delhi's Lodhi Gardens on Tuesday morning (PTI)
The smog covered Delhi's Lodhi Gardens on Tuesday morning (PTI)

Delhi’s overall Air Quality Index on Monday was 354 and it was 368 on Sunday, The Times of India reported. Ghaziabad and Noida remained NCR’s worst-affected areas, recording “severe” category air quality.

Low visibility, caused by increased pollution levels, hindered Delhi commuters on Tuesday (PTI)
Low visibility, caused by increased pollution levels, hindered Delhi commuters on Tuesday (PTI)

Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association urged Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to cancel the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on November 19, because of high-level of air pollution, ANI reported.

More than 20 flights at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport were delayed or affected after authorities shut the runway owing to the smog.

Security personnel jog through thick smog at Rajpath (PTI)
Security personnel jog through thick smog at Rajpath (PTI)

Ahead of Diwali, the Supreme Court had banned firecrackers in the NCR. The air quality in the Capital this Diwali season was the cleanest in the past three years, according to a report released by the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research. However, the city’s air quality had turned “severe” the day after Diwali, for the first time this year.

People practice yoga despite the smog at Lodhi Gardens in New Delhi (PTI)
People practice yoga despite the smog at Lodhi Gardens in New Delhi (PTI)
Cyclists and motorists make their way through the smog in New Delhi (AFP)
Cyclists and motorists make their way through the smog in New Delhi (AFP)
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Virat Kohli and Ola come together to improve Delhi's air quality

The onus of curbing air-pollution is on citizens as well

A recent study by The Lancet Journal revealed that outdoor pollution was responsible for 6% of the total disease burden in India in 2016. As a thick smog hangs low over Delhi, leaving its residents gasping for air, the pressure is on the government to implement SOS measures to curb the issue as well as introduce long-term measures to improve the air quality of the state. Other major cities like Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata should also acknowledge the gravitas of the situation.

The urgency of the air-pollution crisis in the country’s capital is being reflected on social media as well. A recent tweet by Virat Kohli, Captain of the Indian Cricket Team, urged his fans to do their bit in helping the city fight pollution. Along with the tweet, Kohli shared a video in which he emphasized that curbing pollution is everyone’s responsibility. Apart from advocating collective effort, Virat Kohli’s tweet also urged people to use buses, metros and Ola share to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

In the spirit of sharing the responsibility, ride sharing app Ola responded with the following tweet.

To demonstrate its commitment to fight the problem of vehicular pollution and congestion, Ola is launching #ShareWednesdays : For every ​new user who switches to #OlaShare in Delhi, their ride will be free. The offer by Ola that encourages people to share resources serves as an example of mobility solutions that can reduce the damage done by vehicular pollution. This is the fourth leg of Ola’s year-long campaign, #FarakPadtaHai, to raise awareness for congestion and pollution issues and encourage the uptake of shared mobility.

In 2016, WHO disclosed 10 Indian cities that made it on the list of worlds’ most polluted. The situation necessitates us to draw from experiences and best practices around the world to keep a check on air-pollution. For instance, a system of congestion fees which drivers have to pay when entering central urban areas was introduced in Singapore, Oslo and London and has been effective in reducing vehicular-pollution. The concept of “high occupancy vehicle” or car-pool lane, implemented extensively across the US, functions on the principle of moving more people in fewer cars, thereby reducing congestion. The use of public transport to reduce air-pollution is another widely accepted solution resulting in fewer vehicles on the road. Many communities across the world are embracing a culture of sustainable transportation by investing in bike lanes and maintenance of public transport. Even large corporations are doing their bit to reduce vehicular pollution. For instance, as a participant of the Voluntary Traffic Demand Management project in Beijing, Lenovo encourages its employees to adopt green commuting like biking, carpooling or even working from home. 18 companies in Sao Paulo executed a pilot program aimed at reducing congestion by helping people explore options such as staggering their hours, telecommuting or carpooling. After the pilot, drive-alone rates dropped from 45-51% to 27-35%.

It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that the growth of a country doesn’t compromise the natural environment that sustains it, however, a substantial amount of responsibility also lies on each citizen to lead an environment-friendly lifestyle. Simple lifestyle changes such as being cautious about usage of electricity, using public transport, or choosing locally sourced food can help reduce your carbon footprint, the collective impact of which is great for the environment.

Ola is committed to reducing the impact of vehicular pollution on the environment by enabling and encouraging shared rides and greener mobility. They have also created flat fare zones across Delhi-NCR on Ola Share to make more environment friendly shared rides also more pocket-friendly. To ensure a larger impact, the company also took up initiatives with City Traffic Police departments, colleges, corporate parks and metro rail stations.

Join the fight against air-pollution by using the hashtag #FarakPadtaHai and download Ola to share your next ride.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Ola and not by the Scroll editorial team.