Good news today from Delhi: the Indian government has decided, finally, to institute measures to tackle air pollution.
Although Beijing is the city best known for its smog – the Huffington Post even has a “China smog” tag with articles stretching back years, for all your latest smog updates – air pollution is actually worse on the Indian subcontinent. Figures released last year by the World Health Organisation showed that four of the most polluted cities on Earth were in Pakistan, and 13 more were in India. As The Weather Network cheerfully announced last month: “Move over Beijing, New Delhi has the world’s worst air pollution”. (Um, it’s not a competition, Weather Network.)
So, last month the Indian government introduced a national Air Quality Index, based on average air quality in each city over a 24-hour period. That’s had its share of teething problems – publishing out of date stats, so that the air in one part of a city is registering as clean while people are choking in the streets, that sort of thing – so today environment minister Prakash Javadekar has announced plans to make the information more useful, by publishing daily air quality bulletins in 11 cities, including Delhi.
The minister also called on citizens to do their bit to help bring down air pollution, too, both by not burning waste and keeping their cars in good condition. In Delhi, there are also proposals to ban all diesel powered vehicles older than ten years from the city. The Times of India also quotes Javadekar’s impressively blunt response to criticisms of the system:
"I don't want to dispute anybody's data whether the city's air is three-fold bad or four-fold bad. Bad is bad. We have to contain it".
He’s got a point. Yesterday, four of the 11 cities monitored (Chennai, Delhi, Kanpur and Faridabad) registered particularly troubling levels of pollution.
Incidentally, if you’re looking to move to a city where particles in the air don’t cause irritation, headaches, nausea, lung cancer, stupid children and so on, the World Health Organisation has suggested that Vancouver might be your bag.