Delhi Is Choking Under A Toxic Cloud Of Dust And Pollution

After spending a couple of days in Delhi during the winter of December 2015, I can honestly say one thing – Delhi is choking under a toxic cloud of dust and pollution. The toxic cloud is deathly combination of PM 2.5, PM 10, dust, and other noxious gases. It constantly looms over the city and is so apparent now that it’s hard to ignore.  For me, it’s impossible to ignore. Yet, sadly there is still a great deal of complacency and indifference among the people of Delhi.

Delhi PM Count After Diwali 2016

31 October 2016 Update – This is the state of Delhi after the morning of Diwali, 2016.

Well done Delhi, are you proud now?
Well done Delhi, are you proud now?

The Toxic Cloud Of Dust And Pollution Makes The City Colourless

The following pictures on this post were taken with my Nexus 5. They have not been touched up or altered in anyway. I even made sure that the lens was clean before taking the pictures.

Everything in Delhi looks colourless and dull because it’s covered in dust. Infrastructure, cars, houses look older than they really are. They looked aged because they are battered constantly by this toxic cloud of dust and pollution everyday.

Dirty & Dying Infrastructure In Delhi
Dirty & Dying Infrastructure In Delhi

Even the insides of malls and buildings that were built a few years ago look dilapidated. Delhi doesn’t look like a city at all, but a big dirty, polluted village.

Take a look at these pictures that I took of the pollution on a sunny winter morning in Gurgaon. These pictures were taken with my cellphone and have not been touched at all. See how this toxic cloud of dust and pollution reduces visibility and strips away colour from objects. A few years ago, there was an element of smog (smoke+fog). But these days it’s only smoke. It chokes your lungs as you inhale the air.

These pictures were taken on the morning of 1 January 2016. The visibility, thanks to the pollution, was less than 500 metres. I made sure I cleaned my camera lens before I took these pictures, but clearly, this is how insanely bad the pollution is on a “sunny” morning.

Pictures of Delhi’s Pollution #nofilter

Buildings in the distance look like their shadows. There is no colour or detail visible, just a grey outline of their existence.

The pollution chokes the city
The pollution chokes the city

The Toxic Cloud Of Dust And Pollution Makes Everything Lifeless

Plants look (and probably are) lifeless. They are not green anymore, but a greyish-brown shade of green.

Trees In Delhi Are Choking Under The Dust

The sunlight can barely make it through the toxic cloud of dust and pollution, and is softened and diffused by the pollution, making it practically ineffective.

I wonder if these plants can photosynthesise if the leaves are covered in a thick layer of dust. When I got close to a few plants, the leaves looked absolutely dead to me.

Limited Awareness, But Indifferent Attitude Of The Citizens

It’s not like people are unaware of this problem anymore. Newspaper carry stories about the quality of Delhi’s toxic air everyday now. The Delhi government is feebly experimenting with unsustainable, uninspired, short-term solutions (does anyone know what is the objective of even-odd cars, lower traffic or pollution or both? And what are the key metrics?).

So there is some degree of acceptance and awareness. But the attitude of the majority of the people is absolutely indifferent. It’s a lost cause, a fatalistic form of acceptance – it is what it is, and we’ve accepted it.

I was really hoping to see more people wearing anti-pollution masks in Delhi this time. Sadly (or as expected), I counted none. I religiously wore my N99 mask for 2 days in Delhi, and I’m glad I did because look at what happened to it.

After a couple of hours outdoors for two days my anti-pollution mask turned brownish-grey! Isn’t this obvious enough that Delhi’s air quality is extremely toxic? Can you imagine what your lungs are inhaling without a mask?

It’s not just your lungs that are effected by the toxic air, but your entire body. Think about the long-term effects of inhaling dust and pollution day-in and day-out. Waking up in the morning, I personally felt that I’d inhaled a bag of dust at night. I didn’t feel fresh in the mornings at all.

Delhi's Air Quality On 1 January 2016
Delhi’s Air Quality On 1 January 2016

So even if you don’t want to revolt and ask for more radical changes, there’s so much you can do to take precautions against the toxic quality of air in Delhi.

Precautions To Protect Yourselves From Delhi’s Toxic Air Pollution

There’s a lot concerned citizens of Delhi can do to protect themselves. And it’s really quite simple.

Start Wearing Anti-pollution Masks Outdoors

So, you’ll hear terms such as N95 and N99 get thrown around while talking about anti-pollution masks. Manufacturers of such masks must go through a process to receive certification from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). And as such, they must label their respirators with one of the three “N” certification categories: N95, N99 or N100.

N95 respirators are used to filter contaminants such as dust, fumes, mists, as well as microbial agents. They are certified to filter greater than or equal to 95 percent of all challenged particles free of oil and greater than 0.3 microns in size. N99 respirators filter greater than or equal to 99 percent.

I personally used the 3M N9332 masks that I had ordered from China. Here’s the blog post that I referred to before selecting a mask.

Order An Air Purifier

Air purifiers can can prove to be effective under certain circumstances. For starters, make sure that your house is properly sealed. The doors and windows should not allow for pollution to enter your house easily.

Next, order an air-purifier. However, remember that it’s best to setup an air-purifier with an external source of air. An air-purifier only removes particulate matter from the air and does not convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. So, ensure that there’s a way for air from outside to come in, but only through the air-purifier. Sounds tricky but that’s probably the best setup in my opinion.

The simplest and most economical solution is to order a DIY HEPA filter fan from these guys.

And Then Some More…

Avoid driving your diesel vehicle.

Use public transport when possible.

Avoid firecrackers and bonfires.

Stop Being Indifferent, Delhi!

If you’re in Delhi and reading this, you’ll probably agree with me that the air pollution is at its worst. We’ve always had smog during the winters, but this winter it’s only been dust and pollution covering the city.

The other day, I couldn’t read a massive overhead sign on the highway from further than 50 metres. That’s how bad the visibility was during the day!

The air outside reeks of pollution and irritates one’s throat. Please, don’t be lazy any longer. Don’t wait for tragedy to strike. Stop saying ‘chalta hai’ or ‘we’re used to it’. It’s the laziest excuse ever and quite honestly, speaks very poorly of your mentality and attitude.

Please take adequate precautions and make it a habit to wear an anti-pollution mask. Long-term effects of breathing such toxic air are extremely detrimental. Being complacent is not going to do you any good. It’s high time that you took matters into its your hands.

Devesh Sahai

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