Why Delhi became the most polluted city in world? Causes of air pollution in delhi.

By: Gaurav Bhardwaj

Last Updated on - August 8th, 2021

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Delhi has a glorious history of more than 5000 years, and it is on the bank of the Yamuna river. Delhi has been the place of many Kings and Emperors and their rule. They built some of the best citadels and forts, which reveal its glorious past. Due to its beauty and location, it always attracts people across the globe. But what happened in recent years that makes Delhi the most polluted city on Earth. In this article, we will discuss the leading causes of air pollution in Delhi are. And also, what steps we should follow to tackle it?

Air pollution in Delhi Facts

According to the study, breathing in Delhi is like smoking 50 cigarettes a day. Sometimes flights are cancelled to Delhi because of the low air quality and visibility. The visibility is so bad that there are chances of train and car crashes. Usually, trains are delayed and cancelled during the winter season.

Delhi has a high PM 2.5 pollution level, and it is the highest in the world, followed by Beijing. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that air pollution is the fifth largest killer in India. In recent years the level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has also increased in Delhi.

  • There was an incident of car crashes on the highway due to poor visibility. Below, a video from National Geographic will give you the devastating effect of air pollution in Delhi.

Video - Devastating effect on visibilty due to air pollution

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More than an inconvenience, air pollution is indeed a significant medical hazard. Everyone in Delhi is suffering from some breathing issues. Read more about Air pollution and its effect on health here.

Delhi chief minister also criticized the air pollution in Delhi and compared Delhi air quality to a gas chamber which suffocates the residents. The Supreme court of India On 25 November 2019 said. “Why are people in the gas chamber? if it is so, then better finish them with explosives.” They told living in Delhi is now “Worse than Narak (hell)”. It asked authorities why they are not doing more to address the issue.

Court said if, in the country’s capital, there is such a situation, how will people survive how the country became a global superpower if you cannot control these things.

Air Quality Index in Delhi

The Air Quality Index for Delhi is very unhealthy and not suitable for people. The moderate limit for AQI is below 100, but in Delhi, it is more than 300. During winter, due to stubble burning, road dust, vehicle pollution and cold weather. Sometimes the AQI in Delhi crosses even more than 500. Read more about Air Quality Index here. 

The safe limits for pm 2.5 and pm 10 are 60 and 100. But due to air pollution in Delhi, it crosses even more than 900 micrograms per cubic meter.

Most big cities in India are now affected by air pollution. In an estimate, around 2.5 million people killed by various health issues occurred by air pollution. Air pollution is the fifth largest killer in India. Air pollution in Delhi is at a dangerous level.

Causes of Air pollution in Delhi

Although air pollution in Delhi has not resulted in a few years, the condition becomes more critical in recent years. 

The situation of air pollution in Delhi becomes adverse during winter. During winter temperature drops, so the wind almost disappears from the city. In this situation, whatever pollutants emitted are unable to escape and trapped in the town.

Delhi is a landlocked state, and there is an absence of sea breeze like other parts of India. The sea breeze helps to disperse the pollutants and help to decrease pollution. The major challenge is to reduce current air pollution in Delhi by 60-65% to meet the clean air standard.

According to a study, there are many sectors which are contributing to air pollution of Delhi. Some of them are as – transport, small and big industries, brickwork. We are burning of agricultural remains, traffic junctions, diesel generators, population growth and many more. Here we will discuss some leading causes of Delhi air pollution.

1. Vehicular pollution

It is the major contributor to air pollution in Delhi. It shares 40% of the problem and one of the biggest hurdle to tackle.

In a study, vehicle registration in Delhi has a growth rate of around 14-15% per annum. The commercial and personal four-wheeler is one of the major polluters in Delhi.
Although Delhi has a high number of CNG buses, still there are many diesel-operated buses and vehicles. It requires to introduce more public transport than private cars. Delhi should have adequate buses and metro services to decrease the load on traffic. Everyone should prefer carpool instead of travelling alone with a personal vehicle.

Delhi government introduces the odd-even system to offload vehicles from the road. This scheme generally operated during the winter season during high pollution. In this scheme, cars running on alternate days are allowed based on the last odd or even digit of vehicle registration numbers. It immediately reduces the traffic load by 50%. But this is not a permanent solution; instead, the government should plan to replace generator engines, coal industries. Also, they should minimize power plants and construction activities around the city.
Supreme Court has instructed the government to offload the old vehicle from the road. They should cancel the registration of cars that have crossed 10 and 15 years of life.

2. Industrial pollution

Industries are one of the significant contributors to air pollution in Delhi. According to the study, it contributes around 30% to PM2.5 level pollutants. Also, they emit the highest level of PM10 pollutants. They are the biggest polluter in Ghaziabad NCR region.

They release industrial wastes into the air and also dumps the industrial remains into water and land. There is still too much dependence on fossil fuels like coal-fired power plants. The Badarpur Thermal Power Station, a coal-fired power plant, is a significant industrial air pollution source in Delhi. The power plant is essential for producing electricity. This power plant is growing around 8-10% of the city’s electricity, making more particulate matters. During the Great Smog of Delhi in November 2017, govt has closed this Power Plant to minimize the air pollution.
According to a study, more than 75% of the industrial area not established in approved industrial areas. They are around the city in residential and commercial locations.

3. Burning of crops

It is the primary cause of air pollution in Delhi during the winter season. Haryana, Punjab and UP farmers burn rice stubbles at the end of the Kharif season. They need to clear their fields immediately so that they can sow crops for the next Rabi season. These millions of tons of stubbles increase instant pollutants into the air. In a few weeks, the wind directs the smoke towards Delhi. Delhi is the landlocked state, due to which the smoke trapped inside the city.

According to a study, stubble burning only takes place for 15-20 days. But during that period, pollution levels spike drastically. It causes to rise of 30% air pollution in Delhi during that period.
Farmers argue that burning crop residue in paddy fields is a cost-effective way to clean the area quickly. The Farmer groups say that they don’t have any better alternative to this.
The Punjab CM suggested that we find a scientific and economical way to tackle crops’ burning. He also argued that PM should consider adding some bonus to Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat and paddy. It will encourage farmers not to burn crop residue and think more of the environment.

4. Around the winter season

During the winter season, the air becomes idle with significantly less air movement. Delhi is the landlocked state, and there is no sea breeze. Due to the absence of air and no sea breeze, the dust particles get trapped into the air. It results in heavy smog and reduces visibility.

Video - Air quality reaches 'hazardous' levels in Delhi

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5. Construction activity around the city –

Due to the enormous demand for infrastructure around the Delhi and its neighboring NCR regions. Many construction activities are going on. The construction industry is one of the significant sources of pollutants.

Along with air pollution, they also pollute water, soil and generates noise pollution. All construction sites generate a massive amount of dust from concrete, cement, stone, silica. These dust are classified under PM10 matters. In construction activity, the air is polluted mainly due to demolition, land clearing, burning, diesel engines operation. And also we are using many toxic materials which pollutes air and water.

6. Population growth and lack of necessary infrastructure 

In the year 2020 Delhi is now one of the world’s dense cities with 29 million people. According to the United nation report, Delhi will overtake Tokyo to become the worlds most populated city by 2030.

With this huge increase in population, Delhi needs more basic infrastructures. It needs more construction work, water, transport, sewage, sanitation, medical facilities. As a result, It will add more pollutants into the air, water, soil, and noise pollution.

7. Around the Diwali Festival

Delhi during Diwali is full of celebrations and joy. City lighted with beautiful light, and Sky is full of fireworks. This festival is all about spreading happiness and love. Everyone enjoy delicious foods and sweets, all-night card parties with friends and family. But to celebrate more people are bursting fireworks. Although the celebration is only for a few days, the air pollution from firework will last for a month.

During Oct and Nov there are already stubble fires by farmers along with emissions from vehicles and industries. The smoke from fireworks makes it hazardous during the same month. After the Diwali night, the air quality index crosses 500 level in many parts of Delhi.

The Supreme Court of India advised residents to use safe and nature-friendly fireworks which emits less smoke and soot. They guided that fireworks can set off for most for two hours only in some designated areas like parks. The Delhi Government also ban cracker sales from curbing air pollution.

Initiatives by the government to control air pollution in Delhi

  • To control vehicular pollution, the government has imposed a ban on more than 15 years old commercial and transport vehicles. It also bans for autos and taxis that run on conventional fuels. They are converting diesel-driven city buses into CNG. 
  • The government should plan to enforce BS-VI norms as soon as possible. However, they have a plan to introduce it by 2020. Currently, there is a ban for manufacturing of BSLV III engines. Also, a policy to ensure that only Eco-friendly BSLV IV engine should manufacture.
  • The mass emission standards for vehicles should also be strict to reduce particulate matters. 
  • There should be banned entirely on leaded petrol and subsidies to vehicles running on CNG. However, the quality of fuel in Delhi has improved over the years. There is a ban on selling leaded petrol. Also, low sulfur diesel, reduced sulfur and benzene content in petrol are available.
  • The government should encourage six-axle trucks rather than traditional four-axle trucks. The more giant trucks increase more payload per truck, it reduces the number of trucks on the road.
  • The burning of the crop is common across the country. But in Delhi, it adds smoke to existing air pollution and makes it dangerous. The government should plan to subsidies and give incentive to farmers to encourage not burning of crops residue. They should find some natural alternatives to use those crops residues.
  • There are mobile enforcement teams deployed at various locations for monitoring polluting vehicles. They should check the updated vehicle PUC certificates. 
  • Around the winter, the odd-even schemes launched by the government also helps to reduce vehicular pollution. 
  • The ban on selling firecrackers also helps to reduce air pollution in Delhi. They should allow only those firecrackers which emit less smoke and are environment-friendly. 

Citizens of Delhi should follow best practices.

Air pollution is most disastrous for human health and the environment. Reducing air pollution is not only government responsibility. It is also citizens responsibility to help in reducing pollution. 

  • We should plant more and more trees around our locality.
  • We should regularly check for pollution level of our vehicles.
  • Try to use more CNG operated vehicles and public transport. We should take the initiative and carpool with friends, colleagues, family wherever possible. 
  • Reduce the number of trips you take in your car. We should Carpool, use public transportation, bike, or walk whenever possible. Bicycles are not even good for the environment but also very good for health. The government should build safe bicycle lanes on encouraging residents. 
  • We should no more use of fossil and traditional fuels for cooking.
  • Conserve energy – at home, at work, everywhere. We should stop wasting electricity and other energy sources. 
  • We should move for more fuel-efficient and smaller cars and also choose CNG as an alternative fuel. CNG is a cleaner fuel than petrol or diesel. 
  • Everyone should avoid burning of leaves, old tyres or any items in the open air. 
  • We should install solar panels as an alternative to electricity and hot water solutions. 
  • Instead of diesel generators, we should move to Inverters as a power backup solution. 
  • Always look for the ENERGY STAR label, while buying electrical appliances like washing machinesrefrigeratorsgeysersair conditionersair coolerslaptopsdishwashers, and many more. 
  • Use environmentally safe paints and cleaning products whenever possible.
  • Also, install Air purifier for home and kitchen chimney for the kitchen. It will help to eliminate the poor air from home.

Precautions to lower the effect of Air pollution.

The air pollution causes various health issues like uneasy breathing, cold and cough, nausea, headache, chest pain and more. We need to protect ourselves from reducing the effects of smoke on our body.

  • Avoid outdoor activities like a walk in the morning as air is more toxic in the morning. The air pollution is highest in the morning so better shift outdoor activities during evening hours. 
  • We should use anti-pollution right masks while going out.
  • There should be proper ventilation in the house. Install a good exhaust in the bathroom and kitchen. Also, a chimney in the kitchen is essential to avoid indoor air pollution. Sometimes the level of Indoor pollution is higher than outdoor pollution. 
  • Always open your door and windows during the evening. Between 3 PM to 5 PM the pollution level is less, so it helps in air circulation. 
  • Jaggery (Gur) is very helpful for fighting against air pollution. It helps to flush out the pollutants from your lungs. You should consume or replace sugar with jaggery in your meal. 
  • Try to plant some of the air-purifying plants like Aloe vera, Areca palm, English Ivy etc. inside your house. 
  • Install good Air purifiers inside your house. It will purify indoor air and very helpful for family members. Please read about Top 10 Best Air purifier in India.
  • The most important one is to eat a healthy diet. Choose foods rich in vitamin C, omega three fatty acid, magnesium etc. They will help you fight any illness caused by pollution.
  • Drink lots of water, and it will help you to flush out the toxins from the body.

Conclusion – Air Pollution in India

The air pollution in Delhi is still not under control. Sometimes the AQI index in Delhi reaches 999 whereas anything over 300 is hazardous. Medical experts compared the pollution levels to be equal to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. In Dec 2017, a cricket Test match between India and Sri Lank stopped due to pollution. It was the first instance when a game suspended due to poor air quality. Players from both teams found it challenging to continue playing, and bowlers found difficulty in breathing. Read the full story here

It is the responsibility of government and duty of every citizen to control pollution. We don’t want our coming generations to suffer from pollution. It is our responsibility to leave a healthy environment for them. If everyone steps forward and start caring about our environment, then soon Delhi will become a better place to live. The best way to fight air pollution is to plant enough trees and restore the green cover. Even a small step counts, we can contribute by planting a tree today.

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