Air Quality in India

In November 2018 during massive wildfire breakouts air quality creeped past 200 in our area. Schools were shut down and everyone sheltered in place. We fled to the Eastern Sierras where Air Quality was in its 40s.

AQI  (Air Quality Index) is a measure of particulate matter in the air and a rating of how healthy the air is.  Generally:

We knew Air Quality would be bad in India but here were the numbers:

  • New Dehli: 250-500 (During our 3 day stay)
  • Jaipur: 150
  • Sawai: 84
  • Bhatapur: 155
  • Agra: 170
  • Vrindivan: 170

4pm in Delhi AQI>300
200 meters away from the Taj Mahal and we could barely see it. AQI=170

India has a plan (click here)!    The essential components are:

  • Monitor air pollution levels
  • Develop clear air targets
  • Electric Car initiatives
  • Smart City Initiatives
  • Target known sectors that contribute to pollution such as
    • road dust control
    • construction and demolition related dust
    • power sector and industrial emissions
    • transport sector emissions
    • agricultural emissions
    • emissions from unsustainable waste management practices

A critical component according to the plan will be cross-governmental collaboration.

Where is it coming from?

In a 2015 study researchers identified the sources of pollution:

Source Here

Everyone burns whatever they can to keep warm. Roadside trees by the dozen where hacked down and being burned for fuel during our two day stay in Sawai.   On every street in Delhi people huddled around small fires.  People burned whatever they could:  Heaps of plastic, coal, wood, whatever would sustain flames.   A lasting image for me was a homeless woman huddled around a fire in Vrindervan. A giant plastic wheel was in the fire bellowing thick black smoke.  Insider her sari she rocked baby who was crying.  Aside from keeping warm, vendors used open flames as well as gas for cooking.  The air was frequently thick with the smell of burning garbage, plastic, and wood.

A fire on a cold day is commonplace on every block in every city we were in.
Inside a tandoori oven!  This one had charcoal at the bottom.  Others had a fire below the oven.  Both emit a lot of carbon and particulate matter in to the air.

Like many I’m hopeful about India’s plan.  In the final analysis, the proof will be in the pudding.

Due the air quality we cut our trip in India a short.

One comment

  1. […] The Great Wall, Petra, Borobudur, My Son and many more) and some of the worst human failures like air quality in India, the killing fields in Cambodia,  or the wartime atrocities in Vietnam’s  The War Remnants […]


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