As air in Delhi NCR turns toxic, 7 in 10 families surveyed already have someone having difficulties
- ● Elderly at home most impacted along with those with medical conditions
- ● Only 1 in 3 homes have an air purifier with majority relying on masks or immunity foods to cope: 28% can’t afford to or will not take any measures to protect themselves from toxic air
- ● 27% planning to travel out of Delhi NCR during the next 3 weeks
October 30, 2022, New Delhi: For the last several years, Delhi and NCR cities of Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurugram and Faridabad have been on the most polluted cities in not just in India but also globally. Air pollution in Delhi seems to be worsening after Diwali with stubble burning in neighboring states like Punjab, Haryana and UP rising each day. The air quality index in many parts of Delhi and NCR turned severe with AQI in the 375-500 range in most areas. On Friday, over farm fires were detected in Punjab alone. These incidents of stubble burning in Punjab and states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh serves as a key driver for pollution and toxic air in Delhi-NCR. Other contributors include vehicular pollution, pollution due to crackers during Diwali, etc.
Every year, through the months of October and November, LocalCircles tracks issues of pollution closely and people share their experiences and feedback. Some of the public feedback is escalated to Central and State Governments to take timely action. This year again, LocalCircles has been receiving feedback from residents of Delhi NCR since mid-October about deteriorating air quality. To understand how residents are feeling the impact of toxic air, what measures they are taking or plan to take, LocalCircles conducted a survey that received over 26,000 responses from residents of Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram & Faridabad. 65% respondents were men while 35% respondents were women.
70% of respondents to the survey or their family members are already facing difficulties due to poor air quality
The first question in the survey attempted to understand the impact on people and it asked respondents, “who all in your family is currently struggling due to bad air quality in the Delhi NCR”. 70% respondents have one or more family members or they themselves are feeling the impact. Out of 9,123 respondents to this question, 30% indicated “elderly parents/ grandparents at home” were already impacted; in 10% families school going children are feeling unwell; 20% respondents are themselves impacted due to their health conditions; there are another 10% respondents who indicated that they were not feeling well though they have no preexisting medical conditions. Only 30% of the respondents indicated that they and their family are facing no health issues due to poor air quality in the Delhi NCR.
72% of families are taking one or more measures to cope with toxic air
The next question in the survey attempted to understand the measures families in Delhi NCR were taking to cope with toxic air. It asked, “how do you and your family plan to cope up with the deteriorating air quality in the next three weeks” 9% indicated they will use anti-pollution masks; 21% indicated they will use air purifiers at home; 14% are planning to increase consumption of immunity boosting foods. Out of 9,064 respondents to this query, many opted for more than one measure to protect themselves and their family members from the impact of air pollution. Thus, 14% indicated using all the three measures and another 14% indicated using anti-pollution masks as well as taking immunity boosting foods to combat air pollution. There are however 7% respondents who said they “do not plan to do anything as the toxic air quality doesn’t bother us or we don’t want to use all these” measures, and another 14% who said they “do not plan to do anything as we can’t afford all these” measures. There are also 7% respondents who have not decided on any course of action. In all there are 72% families in the Delhi NCR who are contemplating taking one or more measures to protect themselves against toxic air. It must be noted that despite 2022 being 8th year of toxic air quality, only 1 in 3 households have an air purifier and majority will rely just on a mask or some immunity boosting foods or both. The masks as an anti-pollution measure was used by a small percentage of people till COVID but since the pandemic, many now have a mask and they are likely to use it.
Further breakup of the survey data shows that 42% of respondents are planning to increase consumption of immunity boosting foods; 37% are relying on anti-pollution masks to safeguard their health; and 35% are banking on air purifiers at home to keep out ill effects of air pollution. At the end of the day, these safety measures can only provide limited protection to the over 32 million population of Delhi NCR.
27% of Delhi NCR families likely to travel during the next 3 weeks for atleast a few days
Many families who have senior citizens or those with young children try to get away from Delhi NCR to escape from toxic air. To quantify such travel, the next question in the survey asked respondents “Given that the air quality has deteriorated in Delhi NCR and is likely to be bad in the next 3 weeks, do you have travel plans during this period” to which more than half the respondents shared that they have no plans to travels. Out of 8,425 respondents to this question, 55% shared “we have no plans to leave Delhi NCR in the next three weeks”. However, 27% respondents indicated that they plan to get away from Delhi NCR. The survey data shows that 18% of the respondents and their family are planning to go out of Delhi NCR for a week or a fortnight and 9% are planning a getaway for a few days. In addition, 18% of the respondents are as yet undecided.
According to a large number of people who have been very active in the various local circles of Delhi NCR, the rise in pollution and poor air quality is a reflection of the collective failure of several arms of the Government. Despite Delhi and Punjab now being governed by the same political party, there have been no or limited efforts to stop stubble burning. Similarly, there is no coordinated effort by Central Government that bring together all the State Governments and other relevant agencies to address the root cause of air-pollution. Corporate Social Responsibility funds and PSU resources have also not been tapped to increase the amount of seeders made available to the farmers or create a stubble pick up and recycle service. Feedback from LocalCircles members based in Punjab also indicates that enforcement on the ground is missing and all efforts are last minute, while efforts were needed from earlier this year to ensure water and power supply in a way that farmers got enough time to let their farm stubble decompose naturally for the next crop cycle.
To summarise, it is a matter of great concern that 70% of Delhi NCR residents surveyed or their family members are already facing health issues due to the air turning toxic while 72% of families are already using or contemplating safety measures to minimize impact of the polluted air. 27% in the survey indicating that they plan to leave the city for some period during the next 3 weeks to escape toxic air is another indicator that people have no confidence in the ability of the authorities to manage the situation. Despite tall claims made by the authorities that pollution is reducing each year, the sad reality is that the air quality in Delhi NCR is in the severe category and it is a matter of just a few days before it turns hazardous. The severe category means the air quality may cause respiratory illness even on healthy people and serious impacts on people with heart/lung disease. With COVID already having impacted hearts and lungs of many, such high levels of air pollution only makes things worse for the residents of Delhi NCR in the short and medium term with no idea about the long term.
LocalCircles as always will share the findings of this survey with the Ministry of Environment, CPCB and the leadership of the 4 states of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh so atleast they are aware about the pain people are experiencing and find some solutions.
The survey received over 26,000 responses from residents of Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram & Faridabad. 65% respondents were men while 35% respondents were women. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.