Some of you may think that pollution Armageddon is still in far future, or just in the future without the word “far”. If you think that way, maybe because you live in a safe area. If you live in Delhi, India, you will know that the Armageddon has started to begin.
The capital of India is starting to drown in the pollution and diseases are lurking in the shadow of the city. The air pollution is already intolerable and the water pollution is even worse. It can be said that there is no more fresh air in that city and people are consuming highly polluted water.
Delhi’s air and water pollution has drawn attention from all over the globe. Not only because of its unbelievable rate of pollution, but also because there is a huge number of citizens being affected directly by the pollutant.
Demographics Of India’s Capital
Delhi is a highly populated city in India, with approximately more than 16 million people living in 1,484 kilometers square area according to 2011 census. That means the density of the population is about 11 thousand people living in each kilometer square.
The number of population is keep growing because people from all around India would prefer to migrate to the big city for better living. Ironically, the search of better life actually makes them risk their own lives because they move from their homelands to live in a highly polluted area.
Among those millions of people living in Delhi, around 22% of them are living in slums areas. These people are the ones who risk their health the most. Majority of them have inadequate rations to basic facilities. A survey conducted by DUSIB found that 16% don’t use toilets and 22% do open defecation.
The Air Pollution In Delhi
Schools are shut, and people in their homes (who have one) are closing their windows to keep themselves away from the air pollution. Some who can afford air purifier set it to the maximal level to assure they breathe in clean air. But for those who cannot, they have to live with the bad air quality.
The heavy smog is visible with bare eyes, thus declared a public health emergency by doctors in Delhi. But what is really dangerous is not the visible smog that may cause eye irritation, but the smaller particles that built up the smog.
A harmful pollutant particle called PM 2.5 in that city is topping 700 micrograms per cubic meter (mpcm). Not only risky, but the amount of PM 2.5 in Delhi is more than twice what World Health Organization (WHO) considered as hazardous, which is 300.
To compare it with, the average PM 2.5 concentration in Australia, which is the cleanest country is only 5.7. Japan, where the most populated city in the world, Tokyo, is located stands on the average of 10. While united states average is 12.9. This shows how bad the air pollution is in Delhi.
The pollution is getting worse when the temperature gets colder because of the nature of air. Gasses usually move from hotter place which has higher pressure to colder place with lower pressure. That’s why the polluted air is trapped in the area where the temperature is cold, like Delhi.
Highly Polluted Yamuna River
Not only living in hazardous smog, people are also threatened by the condition of water they consume. More than a third of Delhi’s citizen depend their life on the water from Yamuna River. While if it were crystal clear, it would be fine; but instead Yamuna is a highly polluted river.
The origin of this river is actually from a fine clean glacier, 855 miles from Delhi called Yamunotri glacier. It is one of the cleanest water source in Himalayas, but entering the city, this water gets contaminated. As a result, the river exits the city as the dirtiest one in the country.
The contaminants are coming from the activity of people in Delhi. They use the river to wash their clothes, bathing the cattle, and consumption. However, people also treat it as a place to throw away garbage and wastes.
It means that the water people use to consume and clean themselves is not clean. But ironically the people living near the river bed have no concern of it, they don’t care about the water quality.
“I have no problems. Neither do our elders, who are nearly 80 and did the same work,” said Zamir, one of the people living near the river bed to National Public Radio. He views the color of the water looks dark just because shade is falling on it.
This is a heartbreaking fact that people who are most threatened are experiencing Stockholm syndrome with the river. Even they feel comfortable with the condition and help to worsen it by contributing more pollutant to the river.
The Health Risk
The air is hazardous and the water is the dirtiest in India. No wonder people living in the area, especially those who cannot afford healthy lifestyle are exposed to health threats. Lung cancers and bacteria poisoning are one of many health problems to note.
The high PM 2.5 pollutant in the air makes breathing in the air is like smoking at least 50 cigarettes a day. Imagine living in it for years and breathe in the 50-cigarettes-a-day air to your healthy lungs. Even the healthiest people may be a victim of the bad air.
“In the last two years, half my lung cancer patients have been non-smokers,” told Arvind Kumar, a lung surgeon from north Delhi told The Guardian. Even in the hall of chest surgery where Kumar works is filled with dirty air, means the air is penetrating to every available space in the Delhi.
While the water quality is no better, from a data published by Central Pollution Board, the water quality of Yamuna River exiting Delhi is lethal. It contains 1.1 billion fecal coliforms per 100 milliliters, while the standard of bathing is only 500 per 100 milliliters. Please compare it, 500 to 1.1 billion.
Some efforts are already made by the government and environmentalists to cleanse the pollution in Delhi, with high hope to bring back the clean air and water for the citizens. However, the support from the citizen itself to no more contributing pollutant is required to make the dream comes true.