India’s federal government is urging Delhi to immediately tackle dangerous levels of pollution in the national capital that forced schools to close and sparked criticism of authorities. Grace Lee reports.
It's being called a gas chamber by city officials. Pollution levels in New Delhi have reached dangerous highs, with air quality readings hitting over 600 on Thursday (November 9), the most severe level on the government's scale - where anything over 100 is considered unhealthy. (SOUNDBITE) (Hindi) A STUDENT, RAJESH, SAYING: "My eyes are stinging, I have an bad cough and I feel unwell when I get home." Schools have been ordered to shut down and doctors have declared a public health state of emergency, warning that breathing in the toxic smog is equal to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. (SOUNDBITE) (English/Hindi) PRESIDENT OF INDIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (IMA), DR. KRISHAN KUMAR AGGARWAL, SAYING: "People should not step out of their homes, especially the elderly, pregnant ladies, children, and heart and asthma patients." The federal government is urging the city to tackle the crisis immediately, but in the coming days, air quality is predicted to get even worse as strong winds funnel in a potent mix of smoke from burning crops, vehicle emissions and dust from construction sites. (SOUNDBITE) (Hindi) DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT, SUNITA NARAIN, SAYING: "We've told the government if the pollution levels do not come down, they would have to bring in a car rationing scheme." The state government has tried limiting car use and taxing trucks that pass through the city, but it hasn't been enough. Last year New Delhi struggled with its worst pollution in almost 20 years and things aren't looking much different today. Experts are calling for upgrades to public transport and banning the use of cheap, dirty fuel, warning that unless a serious long-term solution is found, people's lives will be increasingly cut short.