THE WIDER IMAGE

Air pollution blights India’s capital

THE WIDER IMAGE

Air pollution blights India’s capital

Air pollution blights India’s capital

Filed

Filed: December 14, 2022, 08 a.m. GMT

A smoky haze hangs over India's northern plains and its capital, New Delhi, every year as winter sets in, raising fears for the health of many millions of people as authorities order fixes that do little to clear the air.

In recent days, the Air Quality Index in the capital of 20 million people, where few use air purifiers or wear masks to protect themselves, has risen above 350 on a scale of 500, near "very poor" levels, according to the SAFAR monitoring agency.

Anything above 60 is considered unhealthy.

People walk in front of Humayun's Tomb, cover under morning smog in New Delhi, India, November 6, 2022. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The index measures levels of airborne PM2.5 particles that can be carried deep into the lungs, causing deadly diseases including cancer and cardiac problems.

The rainy season usually ends in September and come October, the air quality starts deteriorating as cooler temperatures and a drop in the wind trap pollutants in the atmosphere for longer.

The pollution gets worse in November, exacerbated by the burning of crop stubble in Punjab and Haryana states, part of the farm belt that borders New Delhi.

Farmers in the bread-basket states are at the forefront of the adoption of mechanised farming, and are increasingly using harvesters to bring in the rice crop.

But unlike with manual harvesting, the machines leave stubble and paddy straw in the field.

Farmers, with only a short window to prepare their fields for winter crops, burn off the stubble and straw, sending sooty smoke drifting from the land and accounting for about a quarter of north India's air pollution, experts say.

A man bathes outside his house amidst morning smog on the bank of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, November 18, 2022. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

New Delhi generates much of its own pollution so things get no better in December, when the stubble burning is largely over.

The capital's nearly 10 million vehicles, more than the other three major cities of Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata combined, churn out exhaust fumes while industrial emissions, dust from construction sites and smoke from household fires adds to the murky mix.

The rapidly expanding city is losing the few patches of oxygen-producing forest it had around it and illegal miners are grinding down a range of nearby hills to feed the construction industry with gravel, and removing a natural barrier to dust from the Thar Desert.

Hindu devotees gather to worship the Sun God amidst heavy smog in the early morning during the Hindu religious festival of Chatth Puja, on the bank of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2022. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

When the smog gets too bad, authorities ban construction work and close schools to protect children but they acknowledge they just don't have the resources to clamp down effectively on illegal industries and to enforce emission rules.

The Supreme Court has rebuked officials for their failure to clear the air and has asked the government of Delhi, its neighbouring states and federal authorities to work together to improve it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party does not govern Delhi - it is run by the opposition Aam Aadmi Party - and there's little cooperation between them.

It's nature that brings some improvement with warmer weather ending the atmospheric conditions that trap the smog before the return of the rains in around June.


















REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A man rows his makeshift boat across Yamuna river on a smoggy morning in the old quarters of Delhi, India, December 10, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A farmer walks amongst morning smog in a field on the bank of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

People play cricket surrounded by heavy smog, at a field in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Hindu devotees gather to worship the Sun God amidst heavy smog in the early morning during the Hindu religious festival of Chatth Puja, on the bank of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, October 31, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A girl waits for her friends to go to school amidst the morning smog in New Delhi, India, November 18, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Students from a slum area attend an open-air class under morning smog, on the bank of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A man walks through heavy smog after taking a bath in the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, November 18, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A couple poses during a pre-wedding photoshoot as morning smog shrouds the bank of the Yamuna river in the old quarters of Delhi, India, November 18, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A washerman loads laundry onto a cart as the morning smog covers the bank of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, November 18, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A man washes his clothes in a smoggy morning in the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A Hindu man walks in heavy smog after praying on the bank of the river Yamuna, in the old quarters of Delhi, India, November 4, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A man sails his boat under heavy smog in the Yamuna river, in the old quarters of Delhi, India, November 4, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Residential buildings under construction are seen shrouded in heavy smog in Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, November 6, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Birds are seen flying over the fields on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India, December 10, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Indian Army soldiers stand guard as heavy smog covers the statue of Subhas Chandra Bose behind the India Gate in New Delhi, India, November 6, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A bird flies next to the Akshardham temple amidst heavy smog in New Delhi, India, November 4, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A woman sleeps in a field amidst afteroon smog on the bank of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, November 8, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Farmers work in a field as afternoon smog shrouds the bank of the Yamuna river in New Delhi, India, November 8, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

People walk through heavy smog outside their homes on the Yamuna river bed in New Delhi, India, November 3, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

A car drives past the smog-covered India Gate in New Delhi, India, November 3, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Traffic moves slowly as smog sets in on a flyover in New Delhi, India, November 29, 2022.

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Traffic moves along a highway amidst haze and smog in New Delhi, India, November 18, 2022.

The Wider Image

Photography: Adnan Abidi

Reporting and writing: Mayank Bhardwaj

Graphics: Anand Katakam

Photo editing: Gabrielle Fonseca Johnson

Text editing: Robert Birsel

Design: Marta Montana Gomez



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