UNICEF: Delhi’s pollution mess is a wake-up call for the world

RSTV Bureau
Gurugram: People take protection against pollution as they commute through smog in Gurugram on Monday. PTI Photo

Gurugram: People take protection against pollution as they commute through smog in Gurugram on Monday. PTI Photo

The “record-high” air pollution in New Delhi is a “wake-up call” for the world, warned United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.

The UNICEF said that unless decisive actions are taken to reduce air pollution, the smog in India’s capital will become a commonplace phenomenon and have an extremely adverse impact on the daily lives of its citizens.

“With every breath, children in Delhi are suffering. Delhi is a wake-up call to the world on air pollution. It is a wake-up call to all countries and cities where air pollution levels have resulted in death and illness amongst children…It is a wake-up call that very clearly tells us: unless decisive actions are taken to reduce air pollution, the events we are witnessing in Delhi over the past week are likely to be increasingly common,” UNICEF said in a statement.

Air pollution level hit record high in New Delhi in the past week following Diwali celebration. The smog was said to be at its worst in the past 17 years. Air quality was so poor that more than 5,000 schools in the city were asked to remain close to minimise the risk for children to be exposed to the polluted air.

An estimated 4.41 million children missed school for three days, the United Nations Children’s Fund said.

According to estimates, air pollution levels hit beyond 999 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter in some areas of the national capital, more than 15-16 times the limit considered safe.

While highlighting Delhi’s situation, UNICEF said the alarming level of air pollution, which is major contributing factor to some of the most deadly diseases children face, is not just a challenge in Delhi but for many cities around the world.

The agency said almost a million children under-5 die from pneumonia every year and about half of those cases are directly linked to air pollution.

“Air pollution levels in other Indian cities, such as Varanasi and Lucknow, have been equally extreme in recent days. And over the past year, air pollution levels in London, Beijing, Mexico City, Los Angeles and Manila have exceeded international guidelines in some cases by considerable margin,” it said.

Globally, 300 million children live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution exceeding six times international guidelines, said UNICEF.

“Air pollution moves across borders, both national ones as well as subnational ones, and so we will need coherent government policies to address these transboundary risks,” UNICEF said.

(With inputs from PTI)