At 4 a.m on a typical foggy winter morning, when the city is covered in the haze of sleep, Iqbal sits on the sides of the iconic Janpath street, curled up inside a thick blanket, sipping his roadside tea.Today, like every other day he waits for customers at his little tea stall, grabbing a cup of tea now and then, to steal some warmth. But something is different. Perplexed, he takes heavy breaths of oddity, feeling a disruption in his respiratory tract.
As the temperature dips and the wind whizzes past,this alarming state becomes a common sight among the people living in the city. The World Health Organisation has already declared Delhi’s air to be the worst in the world. The 24-hour-average of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 and PM 10 has been 182 and 343 micrograms per cubic metre respectively, whereas the corresponding figures for safe limits are 60 and 100. Further, these dangerous levels of PM when combined with the humidity borne Delhi fog, doubles the impact of the lethal chemicals swimming in the air.
High levels of toxic air with fine lead particles is causing numerous breathing problems among Delhiites. They can further lead to asthma, allergies and heart diseases. Keeping in mind the trend of winter mortality, the poisonous air can further contribute to a lot of deaths.
To fight these hazardous weather conditions, the Supreme Court has ordered to enforce the odd-even formula, so as to decrease pollution due to vehicles. The apex court has further directed to halt all construction activities if air pollution level breaches the PM2.5 emergency level of 300 micrograms per cubic metre for 48 hours at a stretch.
Safety experts haverecommended schools to restrict outdoor activities of students and advised people to stay put inside their homes as much as possible, especially the elder ones. They have also suggested people to put on masks when venturing out.
People can act upon these basic tips to keep themselves away from danger. However, we must not forget that a major chunk of people like Iqbal, who spend most of their time on the roads to earn a living for themselves, and the homeless have nowhere to go. The most affected by the wrath of Delhi’s weather are certainly the most neglected.