Asia Minute: Clearing the Air in India

Nov 28, 2019

For residents of Hawaiʻi, one thing to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day is clean air. That is not the case in many parts of the world — and one of the latest reminders of that fact came this week in New Delhi.

India's Supreme Court has blasted the national government for a failure to act on air pollution.

This week the court also criticized state and municipal governments — with one justice calling New Delhi a "gas chamber." The city's Chief Secretary said there was a governance issue between representatives of the central and local governments.

Justices reacted with anger, saying the issue of pollution was being "politicized." Adding that a "blame game is not serving the people of Delhi . . . we cannot allow people to die."

The Indian capital frequently tops the list of the world's worst cities when it comes to air pollution. One recent example uses the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Index, which calls a good measurement between zero and 50.

Earlier this week, New Delhi measured 339 in a category judged to be "hazardous." Rain later in the week helped bring that down somewhat — so by late Wednesday it was merely at the level of "unhealthy."

The country's Supreme Court has given the Delhi government ten days to come up with a plan to put up air purifying towers at various locations across the city.

According to the World Health Organization, a third of all deaths from heart disease and lung cancer are related to air pollution.