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Doctors Describe Delhi Pollution As A ‘Public Health Emergency’

New Delhi: As the pollution levels reached an unacceptable level in the National Capital and doctors described it as a `public health emergency,’ though the Supreme Court appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority described it as `severe plus.’

Taking a serious view of the life threatening high pollution in Delhi-NCR, the National Human Rights Commission has said that it was apparent that the concerned authorities have not taken proper steps throughout the year to tackle this hazard, which is amounting to violation of the Right to Life and Health of the residents in the region. 

Taking suo motu cognizance of several media reports in this regard, the Commission has sought reports, within two weeks, from the different Union Ministries and State Governments of Punjab and Haryana about the effective steps taken and proposed to be taken by them to tackle the situation.

Notices have been issued to the Secretaries of Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Highways and Road Transport along with the Chief Secretaries of the Governments of NCT of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana.

The Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is expected to give details about the preparedness of the government hospitals and other agencies to attend to the people affected by pollution and steps taken to create awareness among the public at large.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government has announced the closure of all schools until Saturday and banned the entry of truck inside the Capital to reduce the levels of vehicular pollutions. All construction and demolition activities have been put on hold. The Air Quality Index touched the 493 mark.

Particulate matter is the main public health threat from air pollution. The health impacts of particulate matter depend on the level of exposure and the duration of exposure (which can be either short term e.g. 8 or 24 hours or long term e.g. annual). Individual sensitivity to the health impacts of particulate matter can vary and can also depend upon the age of the person exposed, health status, pregnant women, low socio economic status, occupational exposures and smoking of tobacco products. It can lead to heartache and even asthma attack.

As the demand for masks went up in the city, the Indian Medical Association has said that masks may not be of much use under present circumstances as the particles are too fine and can be inhaled.

According to Dr K.K.Aggarwal, president of IMA, all kinds of exercises, including yoga, is not advisable at this time. Even exertion can prove to be harmful for heart patients and vulnerable people such as those having asthma or heart conditions.

On its part, the IMA has launched a campaign for growing grass on open spaces which are a major source of dust. Dr Agarwal said all doctors in the city will start growing grass and indoor plants in and around their homes and then give the same advise to people as well.

Dr Agarwal was of the opinion that improving public transport system, introducing the concept of `work from home’ and car pooling would go a long way in reducing pollution.  

With the onset of winter in Delhi each year, there is a rise in air pollution in the city. A combination of festivals, post-harvest crop burning, firing of brick kilns and reduced wind speed increases the level of particulate matter in the air,  cause the smog that hangs in the air.

“Pollution is now the largest risk factor for death. In fact, pollution kills more people than HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria put together. In economic terms, the global cost of pollution in terms of hours not worked, premature deaths, health spending and eroded quality of life has been estimated at Rs 26,760 crores a year,” said Dr Vivekanand Jha of the George Institute.

Air pollution affects all stages of life, starting from pre-conception to old age and reduces the number of years lived in full health by aggravating asthma attacks, eye and skin disorders, and increasing the risk of development of high blood pressure, obesity, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, psychiatric disorders and frailty, Dr Jha explained.


The recent Global Burden of Disease study estimates show that about 25 lakh deaths in India in 2015 were causally linked to pollution, constituting 28% of all pollution-related deaths around the world. Of these, about 18 lakh deaths were linked to air pollution. India has half of the top 20 polluted cities in the world, including Delhi.

“As Delhi is waking up every day under blanket of toxic air, solutions must be adopted to yield long-term benefits which requires structural changes and a multi-pronged approach. We need better urban planning starting with proper land-use assessment, reducing major transport activity close to communities, relocating traffic sources (roads, airports) from crowded areas, avoiding the mixing of industrial and residential areas, making better roads, reducing uncovered areas in cities by planting more grass and plants, improving transport technologies, and increasing awareness of the societal burden imposed by air pollution,’’ Dr Jha said.

Dr. Sandeep Nayar, Senior Consultant & HOD, Respiratory Medicine, Allergy & Sleep Disorder, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, said: “The cover of smog and air pollution in the city is raising environmental problems with respiratory diseases. Air pollutants, if inhaled have serious impact on human health causing breathlessness, watering of eyes and nose, burning sensation in eyes, excessive cough, chest pain, dizziness, headache etc. Post Diwali and in last few days the number of patients has increase from 50-60% with breathing problems. With the increase in number, patients are now also coming with severe problems like throat infection, respiratory tract infection and nasal allergies. Even asthmatic problems have increased, he said.

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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