Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Way back in 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Delhi, largest city in India and site of its capital (New Delhi being one of its 11 city districts), to be the most polluted city on Earth. It’s now 2016 and nothing’s changed, or if it did then it’s only for the worse. The city air’s toxic levels have become hell not just for asthmatics but for most all of its long-suffering residents. The nigh-everlasting blanket of smog over Delhi has triggered scarcity in its shops of the most random item ever, one that has become mandatory for anyone wishing to stay for more than a minute. The item: facemasks.

According to BBC, the still-rising levels of air pollution coupled with Delhi residents’ increasing public awareness (and discomfort) of their situation has led to a buying frenzy of facemasks in every store that stocks them. Case in point is the Nirvana Being shop, part of a chain owned by Jai Dhar Gupta.

He recalls people years ago thinking him wasteful of capital by stocking on something frivolous as facemasks. Now, he says, one of his branches in the upscale Khan Market is recording lines of customers for up to ten business hours from opening. He claims that they have sold more masks in a period of 10 days than in all of last 2015, a shocking determinate of just how bad breathing has gotten in Delhi. And they are out of supply.

To lay down hard figures on just how dirty and dangerous the Delhi air has gotten, as of last week the WHO measured the amount of tiny particle pollutants at an alarming 800 micrograms per cubic meter. Mind you, that’s so out of hand compared to the average clean air standard set at an average of only 25 micrograms per cubic meter within 24 hours. Now think of all those 800mg-m³ potentially harmful particles going into your lungs with every breath you take in Delhi. Ouch.

It’s gotten so bad in the heart of India that some schools have closed. Working from home has become a far more appealing option for employment. And those who must brave the smoggy outdoors must rely on facemasks and air purifiers. Which is why when Gupta’s shop at Khan Market ran out of stock for their imported Vogmask facemasks from South Asia, the impatient line of customers flew into a rage.

Gupta believes that even the smallest step could start turning things around for air pollution in Delhi, such as the local government banning diesel-powered cars and pyrotechnics. Facemasks are but a temporary measure, he says. More permanent solutions like an intensified information campaign and stricter regulations are needed.

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