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Asia Minute: New Delhi Chokes on Air Crisis

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

Measurements of air quality across Hawai‘i rarely dip below “moderate.” The most common reading of monitors around the islands from the Department of Health’s Clean Air Branch is “good.” But in the capital of India, it’s a very different story—especially in recent days. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Air pollution in New Delhi has spiked over the last five years—but recent days have seen some of the worst air in the last decade.  The latest trouble started with Diwali---the Hindu Festival of Light which took place about a week ago.  Fireworks are part of the celebrations---millions of them, according to local media---which reported this year’s events left a “hangover of smog and haze.”

India’s Central Pollution Control Board says the level of tiny particles known as PM2.5 rocketed to dangerous levels---exacerbated by a lack of wind.  As the week went on, satellite imagery from NASA showed that crop burning in neighboring states is making the situation even worse.

The Economic Times of India reports gas masks and air purifiers are now sold out in many stores around New Delhi.  Just last week, the United Nations Children’s Fund released a report on air pollution and its impact on children….saying that outdoor air pollution across India is nearly six times the level considered safe by international standards.  India usually has a six-day school week—including half a day on Saturday.  But not this past weekend.  More than 17,000 schools were closed Saturday in New Delhi…keeping nearly a million school kids indoors.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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