How is life at NIT Delhi

India : Thick air in Delhi

The headlines should really shake up. Above all, India itself. “A visit to Delhi could cost Obama six hours of his life,” the media calculated when the US President visited India at the beginning of the year. Barack Obama only breathed Delhi's air for three days. A recent study by US environmental economists reveals how dramatic the balance is for those who live in India: According to this, the lousy air shortens the lives of the 660 million Indians who are particularly hard hit by 3.2 years.
The air has not been good in most cities in India for a long time. But now the pollution is so alarming that the "New York Times" is already talking of a national "emergency". According to WHO figures, 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India. "Indians must recognize that this is a matter of life and death," warned former US Vice President Al Gore on a trip to Delhi.

In competition with Beijing

It is particularly bad in the capital Delhi, which has a population of 18 million. Delhi is now mentioned in the same breath as Beijing. The two cities are in a head-to-head race for the dubious title of “metropolis with the world's worst air”. Depending on what and when you measure, one or the other city is ahead. Especially in winter, there are tons of tiny carcinogenic particles floating around that penetrate deep into the lungs and promote bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease.

The Indian business newspaper “Mint” speaks of “air that kills”. More and more often you see passers-by wearing breathing masks, the poor people hold cloths over their nose and mouth. Respiratory diseases are spreading. According to studies, every third child has impaired lung function. Health-conscious people forego their morning walks for fear of the contaminated air. And some parents with children leave the country and move away completely.

Embassies advise against living in Delhi

Air filter sales are skyrocketing. "50 percent of our buyers are foreigners, but Indians are also asking more and more," says Jayati Singh, who sells such devices. Good air filters easily cost 50,000 to 100,000 rupees, the equivalent of 750 to 1,500 euros. According to the media, the US embassy alone is said to have bought 1,800 high-priced air filters. On smog days, it warns the sick, the elderly and children against long outdoor activities on its website. Some embassies are already advising diplomats with children against going to Delhi altogether.

In any case, Delhi is not an easy place. In the summer months it is so hot with 45 degrees that you can hardly go outside. Those who have money avoid the city. Only in the autumn and winter months does Delhi bloom again. It's the time of parties, weddings, and picnics. But now the smog is also spoiling Delhi's cooler months. More and more often the poison fog hangs so close in the streets that you don't even want to open the windows, let alone stay outside. The problems are similar to those in Beijing.

1,400 more cars on the roads every day

But India is economically years behind China. Environmental protection is seen by many as a disruptive factor that slows growth. There are many reasons for the increasing smog. In Delhi alone, 1,400 more cars roll onto the streets every day. Construction is going on everywhere. In the surrounding area, coal-fired factories blow their exhaust gases into the air, garbage and fields are flared and the smoke carries dangerous particles with it.

Pay lip service only

Nevertheless, a rethinking is also beginning in India: the media are increasingly picking up on the topic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also committed to clean energies, but concrete plans are still a long way off. Instead, those responsible accuse the media of exaggerating the problem.

If the measured values ​​were previously announced in a timely manner, the state pollution control authority now reserves the right to hand them over. Environmentalists fear that the upper ranks could tweak the data to sweep the problem under the rug. “They don't want people to see the real data,” speculates retired environmental officer B. Kumar in the New York Times.

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