New Delhi officials declared a public health emergency on Nov. 1 as a result of air pollution nearly 20 times the levels deemed safe by the World Health Organization.
A combination of factories, Diwali fireworks, more than 8 million cars and seasonal burning of agricultural land to make room for new crops—known as stubble burning—typically cause increased air pollution levels this time of year in New Delhi, but this year is worse than in the past.
Safe air pollution levels are between zero and 50 on the Air Quality Index, according to WHO. India Today reported the average air quality rating across New Delhi was 484, with some areas maxing out the scale at 999. A Supreme Court-appointed panel ordered the announcement of a public health emergency due to the “adverse health impacts on all, particularly [the city’s] children.”
'Eat more carrots'
New Delhi authorities have failed to implement effective policies to limit pollution despite warnings from experts about the severity of this year’s air quality beginning in August 2019, and many officials have faced international criticism for their comments. In response to complaints of people’s eyes and throats burning as a result of the pollution Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Science and Technology, Earth Sciences Dr. Harsh Vardham recommended the complainants eat more carrots.
“Eating carrots helps the body get Vitamin A, potassium and antioxidants which protect against night blindness common in India,” Vardham said, according to NPR. “Carrots also help against other pollution-related harm to health.”
While the pollution is expected to minorly improve in coming weeks due to slightly higher wind speeds, it is likely the majority of the smog will remain until the end of the winter months.