COVID ravaged Delhi is now staring at an airpocalypse
Winter is coming
Air in Delhi - home to 20 million people - becomes a noxious cocktail of dust and smoke each winter, caused by vehicle fumes, industrial emissions and smoke from agricultural burning. The haze regularly sees the city ranked as one of the world's most polluted.
City staring at a double whammy
The city is now starting at a double whammy of the toxic air pollution and a raging COVID 19 pandemic. Delhi has already been badly hit by the epidemic, with almost 300,000 infections out of the nationwide total of 6.6 million. Now the annual air pollution during winter days will make it even worse especially for people with pre-existing lung or heart diseases.
The big plan
Meanwhile, the Delhi govt has unveiled a slew of plans on Monday aimed at reducing the Indian capital's annual toxic smog, as authorities warned the severe pollution could worsen the coronavirus epidemic. In a virtual news conference Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said authorities would introduce a series of initiatives - including setting up a "war room" to deal with hot spots when they arise, and trialling new technology to deal with old problems.
A burning issue
Smoke from burning stubble - particularly from neighbouring states - is blamed for nearly half the air pollution in New Delhi, even though it is officially outlawed. Delhi govt now says it will introduce a phone app for people to report polluters. Air quality will be monitored in a new war room, and there will be checks on construction sites. The govt is also testing a so-called bio-decomposer process, which would turn crop stubble into fertiliser.
Good old days of lockdown
Pollution levels plunged earlier this year when the months-long nationwide lockdown against coronavirus halted much industrial production. "The lockdown has helped in the sense that the baseline levels are down," Anand Krishnan, a community medicine professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, told AFP. "But the reasons for the spike of pollution in October and November - climatic, farm fires - have not changed."