Why India is repeating its air pollution problems

Why India is repeating its air pollution problems

Washington New Delhi struggles with pollution all year round, but the problem becomes especially acute during the autumn and winter months. On Wednesday, the concentration of small pollution particles was about 30 times higher than the level considered safe by the World Health Organization over a 24-hour period.

Worldwide, researchers are closely tracking levels of airborne particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter – known as PM 2.5 – because they can settle in the lungs and other organs, causing long-term health damage. In 2020, 13 of the 15 cities with the most polluted air were in India.

“The rise in air pollution in autumn is partly related to the annual burning of crop residue in fields” in northern India, said Deborah Seligson, an air pollution expert in Asia at Villanova University. Other sources of air pollution include vehicle emissions, electricity production, and heavy industries, including steelmaking and brick kilns.

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She said it was still not clear how much the proposed “pollution shutdown” would affect New Delhi’s air pollution.

While the New Delhi government has shown its willingness to impose an emergency lockdown at the weekend – similar to that implemented during the pandemic – it does not have the power to shut down traffic and industry at a regional level.

“This shutdown will be in New Delhi, but a large part of the air pollution in Delhi is not coming from the city itself – it is a regional air shed,” Seligson said.

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