Is Delhi’s air back to being as bad as it was before all the city’s buses and autorickshaws were converted to Compressed Natural Gas?
Advocacy and research group Centre for Science and Environment say it is, while government organisations deny it. However, both agree that pollution levels are rising, and Delhi’s vehicular population — 56.27 lakh at last count in 2007-08 — is to blame. Delhi has more vehicles than Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata combined.
Currently, the city adds over 1,000 new personal vehicles each day on its roads. This is almost double what was added in the city in pre-CNG days. And a considerable number of these vehicles run on diesel. According to CSE’s estimates, the total number of diesel cars presently in Delhi is equivalent to adding particulate emissions from nearly 30,000 diesel buses.
“There are 56 lakh vehicles in Delhi, apart from those coming from outside – pollution level is bound to increase,” said a senior official of the Central Pollution Control Board who declined to be identified.
“The humidity level is high and there is no wind movement. As a result pollutants are not getting dispersed and have settled at low level,” he added.
The smog saw a rush of patients complaining of breathing difficulty and heaviness in the chest, said Dr Randeep Guleria, professor in the department of medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. “I am sure there will be a spurt in the number of cases in the next 48-72 hours”, he said. Dr Guleria also warned that the dry smog may also result in increased airborne viral infections.
Doctors have advised patients to take stream, gargle, drink more fluids and wash their eyes with cold water if they experience any kind of irritation in the throat, eyes or chest.
The thick smog made traffic crawl in the morning and also affected flight operations at the IGI Airport.
The increasing level of pollution in the air, coupled with a dip in temperature and lack of wind led to visibility at the airport dropping to 350 metres.
At least 30 flights, including arrivals and departures, were affected by poor visibility and were delayed by 15 to 30 minutes.