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  • This is a highway in India near Delhi.

  • The smog here was so thick,

  • drivers couldn't see where they were going.

  • At least 24 vehicles were damaged

  • as drivers kept crashing into the pileup.

  • These conditions happen every year,

  • when Delhi experiences a huge spike in air pollution.

  • Are we breathing poison in Delhi?”

  • “...every two minutes one person dies due to air pollution in this country.”

  • “I get nauseous.

  • I get dizzy.”

  • " I have to go to the hospital or the doctor now."

  • When it hits, the nearly 30 million people

  • here are forced to live in a toxic cloud.

  • Scientists estimate that spending a day outside

  • in these conditions is like smoking 50 cigarettes.

  • As a lung surgeon, when I open the chest

  • I rarely see a normal pink lung these days.”

  • On the ground, a layer of dust covers the entire city,

  • and, in the air, a thick layer of pollution hides landmarks

  • that are easy to see the rest of the year.

  • Delhi has always been a big, busy, polluted city.

  • But in the last decade something is making

  • it even worse.

  • In the last 10 years, Delhi's population

  • has grown by more than 7 million people.

  • Today it's the second-largest city in the world

  • and it's also among the most polluted.

  • More people means more cars,

  • spreading dust and exhaust into the air.

  • As Delhi grows, there's also more construction,

  • producing dust particles.

  • And more industries, contaminating the environment.

  • All these things make  the average air quality in Delhi

  • unhealthy year-round.

  • But something else is happening right here,

  • when air pollution in Delhi spikes

  • in October and November.

  • It sends air pollution levels to

  • fifty times what's considered safe.

  • Levels go haywire.

  • Many of the machines are not made

  • to measure the levels that we achieve.”

  • The smog is so bad , you can see it from space.

  • But this cloud of pollution

  • isn't actually coming from Delhi.

  • It's coming from here.

  • The states of Punjab and Haryana

  • are known asIndia's Breadbasket.”

  • They're a key region for the country's agriculture.

  • Farmers here grow rice

  • and that requires large amounts of water.

  • In the 2000s, rice farming here took off,

  • and farmers in the area started using so much water,

  • that the region's groundwater started running low.

  • So, to save water, authorities passed a new act in 2009.

  • It bans rice planting before mid-June.

  • That means farmers can't plant rice

  • until right before the monsoon season,

  • when rains come to replenish the groundwater.

  • That pushes rice harvesting later into the year,

  • which means farmers have less time

  • to get their fields ready for their next crop.

  • So, to clear their fields more quickly,

  • more and more farmers have started

  • setting their crop stubble on fire.

  • Every year, all those stubble fires

  • form a massive cloud of smoke

  • during October and November.

  • And it heads straight for Delhi.

  • There are two reasons why smoke in this region

  • makes things worse in Delhi.

  • The first is geography.

  • The Himalayan mountains act like a kind of barrier,

  • directing the smoke towards Delhi.

  • The second is the weather.

  • During the winter, cold mountain air

  • rushes down from the Himalayas towards Delhi,

  • arriving beneath a layer of warm lowland air

  • that creates a kind of dome over the city.

  • The warm air keeps pollution trapped on the ground

  • with nowhere to go.

  • So when the stubble fire smoke arrives in Delhi,

  • it mixes with the urban pollution

  • forming a toxic smog that sits on top of the city.

  • Mix all that together and you have

  • the most hazardous air pollution of almost anywhere.

  • In November of 2019, India's Supreme Court

  • ruled that states in the North had to stop farmers

  • from burning their crop stubble.

  • But so far, the ruling

  • hasn't been enforced on the ground.

  • In the weeks after the ruling,

  • tens of thousands of crop fires

  • continued to burn in Punjab and Haryana.

  • Delhi doesn't have the ability

  • to stop crop burning in neighboring states.

  • Instead, when pollution spikes

  • in October and November,

  • city officials change the things they can control:

  • Sometimes they'll halt all construction in the city.

  • Or put restrictions on vehicle use.

  • Still, until India's ban on crop stubble burning

  • is actually enforced,

  • these spikes will be back every year.

  • Making the city's already dangerous pollution

  • even worse

  • and putting the lives of millions at risk.

  • " I've lived in Delhi for over 50 years. Where will we go ?"

  • " Our livelihood is here."

  • Here we are taking baby steps,

  • but we are in a time period where

  • baby steps won't help anymore.”

  • What we breathe should be fresh air.”

This is a highway in India near Delhi.

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B1 US Vox delhi pollution air stubble crop

What makes Delhi's air so deadly

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    Helena posted on 2019/12/18
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