New Delhi in smog | REUTERS
Pollution levels in New Delhi, the capital of India, are over 50 times more than the allowed limits, raising people’s concerns over health especially for children.
Four-year-old Avyan suffers from severe wheezing and chest infections, which often leading to multiple hospitalizations. Although he is under the protection of air purifiers and anti-pollution masks, his mother still worries about his health condition because the pollution in the city shows no sign of improving.
“Whenever I put a mask on him for doing the nebulizer, every time some part of me inside me cries. Because once I am pumping him with all those strong medicines, just to manage those symptoms, the other is his body really needs that to survive in this environment. So we would want him to have a very nice happy healthy childhood, but it’s sad that we are not able to give him that, just because we’re in a place which has so much of pollution,” said Anchal Garg Karanth, mother of Avyan.
Recent studies have shown that one in every three children in Delhi has impaired lung function according to the Center of Science and Environment. Doctors also say newborn babies in Delhi take in gulps of polluted air equivalent to smoking 25 cigarettes on the first day of their lives.
According to the World Health Organization, over 100,000 children died below the age of five due to the air pollution in India in 2016, which is the record high in the world. Children are particularly vulnerable to bad air because they breathe more rapidly than adults and absorb twice as many pollutants.
“If you are not oxygenating very well, your cognitive function in terms of behavior, intelligence, has a major impact, especially if it happens in the younger years because that is when the neurological system is really developing. Other than that, any chronic lung issue can impact the cardiovascular system as well,” said Anupama Gupta, a pediatrician.
Delhi’s smog is said to be a toxic mix of vehicular pollution, construction dust, and fumes from crops burnt by farmers in neighboring states. This year, the Delhi government banned all construction, digging and excavation work when the pollution levels started rising. The government might also act by taking private cars off of Delhi’s roads if pollution levels deteriorate further.
“In emergency response, you are not really solving the problem, but what you are doing is you are stopping from adding more where the situation is already very bad. But the more fundamental solution will come when you are doing a round-the-year plan and with stringent implementation of that plan,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhary, an environmentalist.
The Indian government is currently working on a national clean air plan and has suggested it aims to reduce air pollution by 30 percent in the next five years. — Reuters