As I peered from the window of my small apartment in Noida at around 9:30 AM, the visibility was barely a few meters and the smog-filled air was enervating in every way – watery eyes, irritation, a burning sensation in the chest, inability to concentrate, and dizziness. After shutting all windows and ventilators, the first thing I did was to check Delhi’s Air Quality Index ( AQI) and scroll through my Twitter feed. I was aghast for a moment and then filled with a mix of disbelief, bemusement, quiescent rage, and shock once I saw Noida’s AQI – 1127!
A few days back I had a premonition that the worst is yet to come based on the fact that in 2017 AQI crossed the 999 mark against safe limit of 60. The worst is now here: Delhi’s AQI in most areas crossed the 999 mark and Noida, Ghaziabad stood at 1000+. For the uninitiated, AQI cannot give a reading beyond 999 and to call it hazardous would be understating its severity.
With political debates raging and blame games being played about the ‘real cause’ of pollution, satellite imagery by NASA and ESA have pinpointed stubble burning in the states of Punjab and Haryana as the primary factor. NASA’s Aqua satellite has found around 300 percent increase in the number of fires in the Indo-Gangetic Plains between 2003 and 2017, according to an analysis authored by Sudipta Sarkar, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured a natural-color image on the afternoon of October 31, 2018.
Air pollution has become the elephant in the room and nothing short of permanent, concrete steps and a determined will to act upon it with concerted efforts would suffice. For the denizens of Delhi combatting air pollution has become an existential necessity.