Satellite images from NASA have revealed that the toxic smoke engulfing Delhi, India’s capital, is spreading to more areas in northern India, raising concerns about an air pollution “disaster” in the region. The smog, captured in images from NASA Worldview, is covering the plains of northern India and causing the air quality in cities such as Kanpur, Lucknow, Agra, and Mathura to drop to unhealthy levels.
Delhi’s air quality remains the worst in all of North India for the fifth consecutive day, classified as “severe” on the Air Quality Index (AQI) scale. The city recorded an AQI level of 488, well above the safe limit prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Experts have warned of the dangerous health impacts of such high levels of air pollution, especially for vulnerable groups such as children.
The toxic haze from farm fires in Punjab has contributed to the worsening air quality in Delhi and neighboring regions. The number of farm fires in Punjab has increased in the past 24 hours, exacerbating the air pollution crisis. The situation has led to calls for urgent action to address the emergency-level air pollution.
Residents in Delhi have reported experiencing headaches, watery eyes, and respiratory issues due to the pollution levels. The government has implemented emergency measures, including the annual “odd-even” rule for vehicles, where only vehicles with odd or even number plates are allowed on the roads on alternate days. Primary schools have been shut down, and construction activities have been halted.
Efforts to curb air pollution in Delhi include measures such as sprinkling water on roads to reduce dust and the installation of smog towers. However, these measures have been deemed largely ineffective by scientists. A recent study by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute revealed that air pollution shortens the average life expectancy of Delhi residents by almost 12 years.
The air pollution crisis in Delhi highlights the need for immediate action to address the issue. Governments at both the local and regional levels must work together to tackle stubble burning, reduce vehicular pollution, and implement effective measures to improve air quality. The extended duration of the pollution season also calls for long-term strategies to control and prevent air pollution in the region.