Air Pollution In Delhi Is Even Worse Than In Beijing, Indian Study Finds
Beijing may have such bad smog that residents can no longer see the sunrise, but a new assessment from India finds that pollution in Delhi is even worse. The study comes from India's Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which says that although Beijing and Delhi face similar challenges in cleaning up their air, "Delhi seems to lack Beijing's scale, stringency and frenetic pace of action," and has seen its air quality decline while Beijing's improves.
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This winter, pollution in Delhi reached 60 times higher than levels considered safe. Data from the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau shows levels of the harmful pollutant PM 2.5 ranging from 50 to 400 micrograms per cubic meter during 2013, with an average hovering somewhere below 250. In Delhi, PM 2.5 levels have averaged around 240 for the period of November 2013 to January 2014--four times the Indian standard--and have peaked as high as 575.
That's bad. How bad? The World Health Organization considers 25 micrograms per cubic to be a safe PM 2.5 level.
The CSE outlined a number of measures the Chinese have taken to curb pollution in Beijing, and which India may want to consider. They include controlling the number of cars through limiting sales; scaling up public transportation; instituting an air quality index and health alert system to warn citizens of particularly bad smog days; and fining local governments when their air pollution levels get too high.
One woman who lives in the Delhi area, 63-year-old Sudha Babbar, related how bad the winter pollution has been for her asthma. "With every season change, comes more trouble," Babbar said. "There have been times when I've stepped out and have collapsed with asthmatic attacks. This winter has been particularly difficult."
Indians like Babbar do in fact have worse lungs than Europeans, according to a 2013 study from India's Chest Research Foundation. The study of 10,000 non-smoking Indians found that pollution has led to Indians having 30 percent lower lung function compared to Europeans. Sundeep Salvi, director of the foundation, said that North Indians had slightly better lung function than in the South, and called the study results "appalling."
Angel Hsu, director of the environmental performance measurement program at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, points out that there is less data on Indian pollution than on Chinese. "It's always puzzled me that the focus is always on China and not India," Hsu told the New York Times. "China has realized that it can't hide behind its usual opacity, whereas India gets no pressure to release better data. So there simply isn't good public data on India like there is for China."
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