Commuters drive along a road amid heavy smog conditions in New Delhi, India. (Photo by MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images)
COME winter and a vast part of India’s north comes under a thick blanket of pollution that raises a serious alert over public health. This year it has been no exception and government agencies have warned that pollution levels could become worse over the next few days despite efforts to reduce them while toxic haze covered New Delhi, the national capital.
The menace has come to the fore again at a time when the 50-over cricket World Cup is taking place in India with a number of foreign teams, their supporters and journalists are in the country.
The dip in air quality in the capital region during the winter is often accompanied by a rise in respiratory illnesses, leading to closure of schools and factories. The local government has put a ban on diesel buses and said construction activities will be stopped if the situation does not improve.
Along with Lahore in Pakistan, New Delhi on Thursday was at the top of a real-time list of the world’s most polluted cities compiled by Swiss group IQAir.
Delhi will host one more match of the ongoing World Cup — between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In 2017, several Sri Lankan players were seen wearing masks during a Test match at the same venue against India. Mohammed Shami, an Indian cricketer, was also seen vomiting on the pitch.
But Delhi is not the only city which is facing such a challenge. Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, also featured in the list of polluted cities, prompting none other than India captain Rohit Sharma expressing deep concerns.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Mumbai hovered around the 200 mark ahead of India’s game with Sri Lanka on Thursday. An AQI between 0-50 is considered healthy. In Delhi, it was above 400!
On Wednesday (1), Sharma spoke about the vitiated air quality in several Indian cities, cautioning that the current situation is not ideal and it is important that future generations “get to live without fear”.
The Indian cricket board announced that it will not allow display of fireworks during the remaining World Cup games in Delhi and Mumbai.
“In an ideal world you do not want a situation like this but I am pretty sure that the concerned people are taking the necessary steps to avoid this kind of situation. It is not ideal and everyone knows that,” Sharma, who has a five-year-old daughter, said the future generations deserve a clean environment.
“Looking at our future generations, your kids, my kid. Obviously it is important that they get to live without any fear. Every time I get to speak outside of cricket, or not discussing cricket I always talk about this. We have to look after our future generations,” he said.
Mumbai is the ace batter’s home ground.
The city will host two more matches — one between Afghanistan and Australia on November 7 and the first semi-final on November 15.
England’s Joe Root also complained of breathing difficulties during one of the games in the World Cup. Ben Stokes, England’s Test captain who returned from retirement to play the 50-over World Cup, was seen using an inhaler ahead of the match against Sri Lanka in the southern city of Bengaluru, located more than 2,000 kilometres away from Delhi, last week. Some other members of the England team were also seen using the same during their stay in India for the mega event.