NEW DELHI: It is a New Year but old problems are here to stay. The first day of 2018, began with a spike in pollution levels across Delhi. Pollution levels in National Capital Region have touched hazardous levels again. 'You just cannot expose children and the elderly to such an environment where the air quality index is over 450. This may not have an immediate effect but will leave a long-lasting impact on health', warns Dr A K Kumar, Lung Specialist at Delhi's Sir Gangaram Hospital.
Doctors have declared it a public health crisis. Dust from construction sites, industrial emissions and vehicle fumes have been sealed in by cool temperature and stagnant winds. Solutions and change are hard to come by with politicians engaging in blamegame over accountability.
Four-year-old Geetanshi Garg is excited about her winter vacation. All she wants to do is play in the park and cycle around the colony but her parents are worried as this would only aggravate her respiratory problems. In September last year, Geetanshi was admitted in the hospital for five days. For this little girl, every morning begins with a round of nebulisation so that she can breathe easily. Her mother Divya tells us, 'after those five days at the hospital, my husband and I wonder if life in Delhi is really worth it? Both my daughters are coughing since winter began.'
A statistical handbook of 2017, released by the Delhi Government shows that deaths due to respiratory diseases have increased from 6,502 in 2015 to 9,149 in 2016, a scary 40% increase. However, lacking scientific data, doctors have a caveat. 'PM10 is linked to respiratory illnesses and PM2.5 to heart conditions and that statistics is unavailable. It is premature to link the deaths due to respiratory illness to pollution but yes pollution is a health hazard and it is linked to exacerbation of asthma and respiratory diseases', says Dr KK Aggarwal, President Heart Foundation and Former President Indian Medical Association.