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Delhi pollution: Have we reached a point of no return?

The stoppage during the ongoing India vs Sri Lanka Test match in New Delhi was yet another example of how harmful the air quality is in the nation’s capital right now.

other sports Updated: Dec 04, 2017 18:29 IST
Pollution in New Delhi temporarily held up play during the 3rd Test between India and Sri Lanka in New Delhi on Sunday.
Pollution in New Delhi temporarily held up play during the 3rd Test between India and Sri Lanka in New Delhi on Sunday.(AFP)

Today, more than two-thirds of us are going to die because of lifestyle diseases. Outdoor sports, exercise and increased physical activities are very important for a better quality of life. But doing these activities in Delhi’s polluted air is more detrimental than beneficial.

Dr Naveen Dang, an avid walker for the last three decades, who runs a renowned pathology laboratory in the city, had moved here in the mid-1980s. He has been talking about poor air quality ever since. He is of the opinion that we have reached a point of no return. Even though he admits that Delhi is not worth living in, he himself will never leave the city because it has helped him grow professionally. This is his home and he is not leaving it. Even though he knows it’s killing him slowly.

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On November 6, 2017, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had declared ‘public health emergency’ in Delhi and wanted the Half Marathon cancelled. I don’t think cancelling sporting events is really a solution. Air quality in Delhi NCR hasn’t been good for years now; it’s not that it’s got bad recently. We need to think long term. Somehow, no one is interested. Politicians played a blame game and citizens became very emotional about it.

Dr KK Aggarwal, president of IMA, says that a “concentration of PM 2.5 can cause tiny, hazardous particles to enter the lungs”. PM 2.5 had reached 1,500 on November 8 around India Gate when 50 is considered satisfactory. The number had stayed above 300, a hazardous zone.

Airtel, which has been sponsoring Delhi Half Marathon for the past nine years, said it may have to rethink whether to continue supporting the event. (HT Photo)

Dr Aggarwal adds, “The weather conditions in the national capital are rapidly deteriorating and there is only one advice for those going for an early-morning walk or run — stay indoors. Although one should ensure that exercise areas are at least 200 metres away from roads, construction sites and smoke-emitting industries, even that cannot guarantee clean air.”

Passionate sportspersons and physical activity enthusiasts living in the city are utterly confused. They don’t know how to respond and what to do. The Delhi Half Marathon, a marquee event held in Delhi for the last 10 years, which brings the city together for health, recently ended up dividing not just the runners but the entire city. Everyone had an opinion. Some took a stand that they simply couldn’t stop living; they had to do what they had to. Others were of the opinion that such events should be cancelled to stop exposing the masses to poor air quality, repercussions of which would not be evident right away, but later.

READ | Players vomited due to Delhi pollution: Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas

Had we runners come together and thought a little less selfishly, we could have made a bigger impact. We all are otherwise drawing-room activists who broadcast our thoughts on social media at the drop of a hat but for once we could have made long-term changes to the society. We could have made it a better world for our next generation.

We all need to come together to make a bigger difference. Even superheroes realised that and came together as Justice League and Avengers to take on the common enemy.

DISCLAIMER:The writer is a Sports Medicine doctor and student of running. He trains people who have never run before to the best ultra runners in the world to run 333 km in Ladakh and other inhuman conditions.