Climate emergency across world
Delhi opens ‘oxygen bar’ as air pollution up to dangerious level
NEW DELHI, Nov 16: As air pollution shot up to dangerous levels across India on Friday, underscoring an already dire public health crisis, a crowd descended on a small shop in New Delhi for a novel solution: a 15-minute hit of clean
At Oxy Pure, a self-styled "oxygen bar," customers strapped tubes to their noses and inhaled scents of lavender, lemon grass or
spearmint. In the absence of other options, Lisa Dwivedi, a Ukrainian living in the city, said she came to the bar because she was fed up with having itchy eyes, a runny nose and a swollen throat. "I don't know if it's psychological, but it makes me feel good to know I am inhaling pure oxygen, if only for 15 minutes," she said.
A day after Delhi was declared the most polluted city in the world by air quality index (AQI), air quality levels in the national capital continue to fluctuate between 'severe' and 'hazardous' for a third consecutive day.
Six of the top 10 cities fall in the Indian subcontinent, Delhi, Lahore, Karachi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Kathmandu. So within Asia, air pollution is concentrated in South Asia. Three Indian cities are in the list, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. So air pollution is not necessarily a problem specific to northern India although Delhi's pollution is double that of Kolkata.
Delhi's air pollution has been making international headlines and while India endeavours to become a global super power, the state of air pollution in the national capital is ticking all the wrong boxes for global tourists, investors and international perception towards India.
As per the world AQI rankings, Delhi is followed by Lahore in Pakistan at 234. However, there is a huge gap between the two and Delhi is suffering more pollution with a difference of more than two times.
At third spot is Tashkent in Uzbekistan at 185 count which is a surprise because it is in a region considered to be not so congested and polluted. Pakistan port city, Karachi is at the fourth place with an AQI count of 180, followed by Kolkata at 161 in the fifth place. China marks its entry with Chengdu with an AQI of 158.
Hanoi in Vietnam with an AQI of 158 is at the seventh spot followed by Guangzhou in China with an AQI of 157. India's financial capital, Mumbai is in the ninth place with an AQI of 153 and the dubious Top 10 concludes with Kathmandu in Nepal at 152.
A thick grey smog choked New Delhi for the fifth day Saturday, adding to a mounting pollution health crisis, but retired naval commander Anil Charan is one of the vast majority of the city's 20 million inhabitants who do not wear a mask.
Indian media is packed with warnings about the risk of premature death, lung cancer and particular danger to children from PM2.5 -- tiny particles that get into the bloodstream and vital organs -- carried in the smog.
But the smartly-dressed Charan was among shoppers in Delhi's upmarket Khan Market district browsing the luxury clothes and jewellery stores without a mask, seemingly oblivious to the risk.
Many are too poor to afford protection but others simply do not like the way a pollution mask looks. Charan, wearing aviator sunglasses, said it did not fit his "rough and tough" image.
Doctors say face masks must be worn and air purifiers used at home and in offices. There are a variety of masks to choose from. A basic cloth version can cost as little as 50 rupees (70 US cents) but the protection they offer is debatable.
More reputable types start from 2,500 rupees ($34) while some Khan Market stores charge more than 5,500 rupees ($75) for top of the range imported models. The mask-look worried a lot of the Khan Market shoppers and diners however. Some said the danger had been overblown.
Pollution -- blamed on industrial and car emissions mixed with stubble fires on thousands of farms surrounding the city -- has been building up each winter for the past decade. The past five years have been particularly bad.
The toxic air cuts short the lives of one million people in India every year, according to government research published earlier this year. Concentrations of the most harmful airborne pollutants in Delhi are regularly about 20 times the World Health Organisation safe limit. That rams home the city's reputation as the world's most polluted capital.
Some foreign companies and embassies now do not let families move to Delhi, or at least give strong warnings about the pollution.
The Delhi government has given out hundreds of thousands of masks to children and closed schools for four of the past five days. Construction is banned and cars can only go on the roads on alternate days. -NYT, AFP