Supreme Court panel declares Public health emergency in Delhi , NCR as air quality worsens , Lucknow also hit severely.

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Photo Credit: ANI


Post diwali , air quality index primarily in the North Indian cities is rising at an alarming rate leading to pulmonary, ophthalmic , skin problems coupled with increased allergic response.

A Supreme Court-mandated panel on Friday declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR region and banned construction activity till November 5 as the air quality dipped to “severe-plus” levels and left citizens gasping for breath. The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) also banned the bursting of crackers during the winter season.

In a letter to the chief secretaries of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal said the air quality in Delhi-NCR deteriorated further on Thursday night and is now at the “severe-plus” level. "We have to take this as a public health emergency as air pollution will have adverse health impact on all, particularly our children,” he said.

Lal said pollution touched "severe plus" levels early on Friday morning but came back to "severe" category later. According to official data, the overall Air Quality Index (AQI) at 1 pm on Friday was recorded at 480, which falls in the "severe" category.

An AQI between 0-50 is considered 'good', 51-100 'satisfactory', 101-200 'moderate', 201-300 'poor', 301-400 'very poor' and 401-500 'severe'. Above 500 falls in the 'severe-plus emergency' category.

People living in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) region are expected to lose 7 years of their life because of severe air pollution, a new analysis released on Thursday has said. The pulmonary medicine department of different hospitals and private opds has witnessed increase in number of patients complaining of respiratory problems , shortness of breath , and eye problems during the last week.

The Air Quality Life Index (AQLI), produced by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), shows there has been a 72% increase in pollution from 1998 to 2016 in the region which accounts for 40% of India’s population. In 1998, the impact on people’s lives from dirty air would have been 3.7 years of life expectancy.

The analysis also states that citizens in the IGP region which includes Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal are exposed to far higher levels of air pollution and hence have shorter lives.

Lucknow city remained blanketed in a thick haze on Thursday as the Air Quality index in Nawabi city reached the 350 mark for the first time post monsoon. Low temperature, reduced wind velocity and high humidity did not allow pollutants to disperse, leading to accumulation of particulate matter in the atmosphere.

In 1998, citizens living outside of the IGP region lost 1.2 years of life relative to what it would have been if air quality met the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. In 2016, citizens in non-IGP states lost about 2.6 years of life compared to 7 years in IGP region.

During the release of the analysis, Dr Arvind Kumar, chest surgeon from Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, raised an alarm about the health cost of air pollution. “It’s a public health emergency in Delhi. Half a decade of concentrated focus on air pollution with zero results. I am seeing 28-year-old non-smokers with stage 4 lung cancer. It’s a very painful experience for me. I am very angry because I am losing young patients to air pollution.”

He showed images of lungs of a 14-year-old with black pollution induced spots. Kumar said that in 1988 when he joined AIIMS, 90% of lung cancer cases were in smokers but now 50% of such cases are being seen in non-smokers. “Air pollution is a group 1 carcinogen. The contents of polluted air is similar to cigarette smoke,” Kumar added.

EPIC had released a similar study for Delhi earlier this year which stated residents in Delhi could extend their life by 3.35 years if the National Clean Air Programme is implemented. NCAP has a target of 20% to 30% reduction in PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) and PM 10 (coarse pollution particles) concentration in 102 non-attainment cities (cities that did not meet the annual PM 10 national standard from 2011 to 2015) by 2024 under the NCAP over 2017 levels.

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