“But I do not think anyone can save us from the wrath of nature.”
November 5, 2016 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Delhi Closes Over 1,800 Schools in Response to Dangerous Smog [The New York Times] “For the first time ever, more than 1,800 public primary schools in India’s capital will close on Saturday to protect children from exposure to dangerous levels of air pollution, the authorities said on Friday. The decision affects more than a million children. A thick, acrid smog has settled over the capital over the past week, a combination of smoke from burning crops in surrounding agricultural states, fireworks on the Hindu festival of Diwali, dust and vehicle emissions. Levels of the most dangerous particles, called PM 2.5, reached 600 micrograms per cubic meter in different parts of the city this week, according to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. Sustained exposure to that concentration of PM 2.5 is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day, said Sarath Guttikunda, the director of Urban Emissions, an independent research group.”

- Farmers’ Unchecked Crop Burning Fuels India’s Air Pollution [The New York Times]
“ Desperate to reduce the pollution that has made New Delhi’s air quality among the worst in the world, the city has banned private cars for two-week periods and campaigned to reduce its ubiquitous fireworks during holiday celebrations. But one thing India has not seriously tried could make the most difference: curtailing the fires set to rice fields by hundreds of thousands of farmers in the nearby states of Punjab and Haryana, where much of the nation’s wheat and rice is grown. Although India’s environmental court, the National Green Tribunal, told the government last year to stop farmers from burning the straw left over from their rice harvests, NASA satellite images in recent weeks have shown virtually no abatement. Farmers are continuing to burn most of the leftover straw — an estimated 32 million tons — to make room to plant their winter wheat crop. While fireworks associated with the Hindu holiday of Diwali were blamed for a particularly bad smog problem in recent days, smoke from the crop fires blowing across the northern plains into New Delhi accounts for about one-quarter of the most dangerous air pollution in the winter months. In the growing metropolis of nearly 20 million people, pollution soared well above hazardous levels in the past week.”
- Delhi Pollution Level Alarming Post Diwali, People Complain of ‘Zero Visibility’ [Hindustan Times]
“A blanket of haze and smog enveloped Delhi on Monday morning after night of Diwali revelry and firecracker burning pushed the city’s air quality to alarming toxic highs. People commuting to their offices early morning posted photographs of smog-covered lights with accompanying texts complaining of “zero visibility”. Many said the air smelt of charred firecrackers and that it was difficult to breathe. Pollution peaks in the city during Diwali as a hazardous mix of noxious gases and respirable pollutants hang very close to the surface due to low temperature and near-stagnant wind movement. At 7:23am, HT’s air quality index showed a reading of a severe 447. Air pollution level is classified as severe if it is between 401 and 500. At Mandir Marg in south Delhi, the index read 492 and it was again 500 at Shadipur in west Delhi. [...] “Pollution level kaafi sheheron mein high hai. Delhi ke logon ka dhanyavad. Iss baar patakhe kum the...(Pollution level is high in many cities. Thanks to the people of Delhi. Firecrackers were fewer this year,” Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain told ANI. But people could not stop talking about the ‘airpocalypse’ on Twitter [#AIRPOCALYPSE].”
- After Diwali Fireworks, Smog Shrouds New Delhi [NPR.org] [Photo Essay]
“Photos of India's capital before and after the light show for Diwali, which lasts for five days, show landmarks first visible through the city's smog, then nearly erased by the spike in pollution. Residents of New Delhi have been advised to remain indoors Monday, The Associated Press reports, with special cautions for the young, elderly and those with health problems.”
- Official Release of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee [CSE India]
Maximum level of tiny particles (PM2.5) has worsened: According to the data released by the Delhi Pollution Control Board the minimum and maximum range of PM2.5, the tiny killers, show that this year it has ranged between 180 microgramme per cum to 440 microgramme per cum compared to 184-369 microgramem per cum last year. Thus, maximum levels have remained more than seven times the standards and worse than last year.
Nitrogen oxide worse: The minimum and maximum levels of NO2 this year is 70-123 microgramme per cum compared to 37-79 microgramme per cum in 2015. The maximum levels have increased by nearly 1.5 times. The lower level has doubled.
Carbon monoxide (CO) otherwise declining in Delhi also shot up: CO levels, that otherwise is declining in Delhi increased during this year compared to last year. This year CO has ranged between 2000 microgramme per cum to 4200 microgramme per cum as opposed to 1100 microgramme per cum to 4000 microgramme per cum last year. High level of CO can curdle blood and lead to instant deaths.
Sulphur dioxide levels (SO2) which otherwise records very low level in Delhi also escalated significantly: This year it has ranged between 20-131 microgramme per cum as opposed to 26-64 microgramme per cum last year. The maximum level has exceeded the standards and doubled.
Rapid build up of pollution: Further analysis of daily data by CSE shows how rapidly pollution built up during October 29-30 from the average level of pre-Diwali days (October 25-28). This increased by 45 per cent. Also night time pollution during Diwali builds up was very severe. It increased from day time by 3.2 times.
High exposure in residential areas: CSE has also tracked the real time air pollution data reported in the official website of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee on the night of Diwali. This shows rapid build up of pollution after 5 pm and very high peak levels during night. Calm weather with nearly no wind blocked quick dispersal of smoke and pollutants. The crackers are burst maximum in residential areas. Such high level of exposures can lead to escalation in hospital admissions related to respiratory and cardiac symptoms.
posted by Fizz (8 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
*I hope everyone in India finds shelter and stays safe. Also, as a random aside, this is my 1000th post on MetaFilter. Huzzah.*
posted by Fizz at 9:53 AM on November 5, 2016 [21 favorites]

Oh, all those people (and cattle and dogs) who have to be outside. How awful. Delhi's good air days are pretty terrible, I can only imagine how stank (and poisonous) this must be.
posted by janell at 12:22 PM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Having lived more than one Beijing Airapocalips my heart goes out to them, and my rage to the inefectual politics blaming the small fry (Diwali fireworks) and not the real polluters'.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 2:09 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

How is this the wrath of nature? The pollution is caused by humans. Even if atmospheric conditions are exacerbating it, it's not the fault of nature.
posted by Splunge at 2:39 PM on November 5, 2016 [9 favorites]

That's just, well, literally appalling. Every time I vote, I try to remember what it was like before the US had even our pale environmental regulations.
posted by theora55 at 3:02 PM on November 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Anticyclones or inversions are natural events that can concentrate pollution to dangerous levels. Nature does play a role, but men can do a lot to mitigate the problem.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:03 PM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

More on New Delhi's horrendous air quality and its effects on natives (The Guardian) and on visiting white people (New York Times)
posted by kozad at 8:52 PM on November 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Smog Chokes Delhi, Leaving Residents ‘Cowering by Our Air Purifiers’ [The New York Times]
“Changing weather conditions are likely to disperse the dense cloud of pollutants over the next few days. But they will also bring the beginning of the widespread burning of trash, including plastic and rubber, for warmth by Delhi’s poor. Among the persistent problems for policy makers is that the sources of the pollution — vehicles, construction, crop burning, and holiday fireworks — fall under the authority of half a dozen city, state and federal government bodies, which are in some cases at odds with one another politically, Mr. Krishna said. “Where exactly is the responsibility for implementing these plans?” he said. “At whose desk does this all lie?” He added, “The diffuse nature of power means that it is easy to pass on responsibility to others.” Public anger over Delhi’s air is more palpable than in previous years, and people are more likely to identify pollution as the cause of their health problems.”
posted by Fizz at 4:57 PM on November 7, 2016

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