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How toxic smog turned Delhi into a gas chamber


Bobby is the headache. Go to school and become friends in the House House. What kind of people having headaches having fevers they're having the EIZABURO name sniffing and it's just edible to people with existing issues news Find it was and it is a public policy failure. Actually visu winning our future by doing this. The Aaron Delhi India's capital with almost twenty million residents is unbreathable over the last week levels of dangerous fine particles Leeann owners PM. Two two point five have ranged eight to sixteen times. The safe limit humid. It's toxic. Mix a pollutants Delhi Chief Minister of in Castroville. It was likely to a gas chamber. Emergency measures have been taken by deadliest govern including casting school halting construction diverted flights handing out face masks and rationing the number of vehicles allowed on the street but all these just ineffective stopgap measures in a country where diseases related to air pollution. Kill an estimated one point point five million people a year. Hello I'm Nathan King and welcome to the heat. PODCAST with us to discuss. The crisis in Delhi is Dr a shadow Chakrabarti she. He is a risk of behavioral scientists. Also an expert on climate science. Welcome to the show. Thanks so much thank you. We've all seen the videos coming out deli before our well. Listen kind of paint. A scene of what actually is going on in the because it's quite incredible. The best way to describe it is gas chamber. And so I've I've been to Delhi myself. I've never been there During this time of year. which is this expected? Consistent pollution the great smog that rolls in every November in between between harvest between Rice and wheat. Right but I have friends there. I have extended family there. And they haven't been able to leave their homes except to go to the office and and you know. Just run to the car with their masks on. And it's been like that for the last five days and this is expected to consistently happen for at least a few more days And then we know it's coming back again next year so you said Rice and wheat burning. What exactly of the residents daily breed in what is so unique to this pollution? Shen right and air pollution is has particulate matter and is made up of nitric oxide and self rock side and there's all these different components but what really earliest contributing to the smog. In Delhi is The burning of stubble following rice harvest in the Punjab region. And so what's unique unique about this particular type of smog is that it is It is resembling a smoky fog. Which is why it's called smog? And it's visible and and the tiny levels particularly matter that you described as pm two point five can enter deep into the lungs and reach highest seven hundred micrograms per cubic meter in some areas and the World Health Organization recommends that PM two point five levels should not be more than twenty five micrograms per cubic meter in an average of twenty four hours so we wave past those levels over several days to go deeper into that this particular matter. What does it actually you too to people especially overseas the more vulnerable young an elderly so for young people it can cause severe developmental hold delays? You can imagine children that are inhaling that kind that kind of toxins are now going to have the same sort of brain and cognitive development that their their counterparts in other parts of the world that don't have to deal with this type of pollution and in fact studies have shown exactly that that there are developmental delays in children that are inhaling this type type of toxicity the elderly as well are experiencing chronic respiratory issues and it doesn't even matter necessarily how vulnerable in terms of age men and women across all age spectrums are being admitted to the hospital because of weasing because of asthma because of respiratory conditions that are stemming from these toxic harmful chemicals and this is something that again it happens every year hospitals report doctors report and it's worse this year than ever. This is the worst in three years in terms of health effects from breathing in these pollutants On the public services to. That's exactly right. It's a stress on the public services. And don't forget those who can afford. It can actually protect themselves much better than those. Who can't so? It's also creating this climate apartheid where you have those who are more vulnerable and the more exposed that are going to be affected not just in terms of health but in terms of productivity. So it's actually creating an even bigger gap between the rich and the poor more and more pollution hitting Deli just in the last few years. Is it increase in. Production is not a plan in terms of air quality and people saying on the streets. I've seen pretty pistol. Yeah as you can imagine because this is not. It's something that is that we shouldn't be prepared for right. This is something that has been more or less a problem for decades ever. Since the Green Revolution in India the idea Jio was to create the upper Indian states of job in Haryana as the bread basket of India so by incentivizing farmers to plant rice to plant wheat and the government made it easy for them to do that by making electricity free and so something like rice is very water intensive and you need to be able to have a lot of energy to pump that water for the rice paddy fields and so for that reason because the government made it easy for these farmers to harvest these crops crops. They started doing it. Why wouldn't they the issue though is that it was only a little bit of turnaround time between Rice season? We'd season it's just a couple of weeks and so ultimately how do you turn that land around so that you can start the new crop bright stable so you don't have to burn the stubble but that's the cheapest and easiest way to do it because ultimately what should be done is machine tilling of the fields Or fellow for a couple of months. Try and get the nitrogen back that he's Oklahoma exactly or reusing the stubble for animal feed but this particular stubble just doesn't is not nutritious for animals. It can't be re Packaged that way and Labour's actually just like cut down these crops and so the stubble is pretty high rated. We're talking about several inches and it's really sharp and so you also would I need to pay laborers a considerable amount of money to do this work. It's not the easiest work so the cost just made it not not prohibitive exactly. So what's what's the government doing. I mean During the very popular prime minister just re elected This is a big crisis. Firmness seconds of so Angela Merkel Chancellor from Germany was visiting Delhi when this kicked off last week and her and mody went into the smog for a public appearance despite how toxic the levels were and McKell Said very clearly that this is unacceptable and we can help you figure out ways to reduce this through enhancing vehicular transport to green systems. uh-huh there's real obvious measures that can take place here but we need to talk about the difference between short term solutions and long-term solutions. These pledges an overhaul of the transport system Overhaul of agriculture and making it more sustainable there's ways to look at it that can immediately take effect versus really transforming the society as a whole Hawk you know lot developing countries especially India have said look we understand. There's a climate crisis but you guys in the developed world had terrible pollution hundreds of years when you went through your industrial religion. I remember my dad growing him in London he got asthma. Because of all the smog remember the Churchill smokes kind of is now India. The reason why shouldn't there be some robin lecturing. Germans were not feeling right. Yeah I mean can you imagine so. The West had its opportunity unity to go through the industrial revolution to really prosper and grow with economy. And now you have. Countries like India Brazil China that are saying what about our turn. Why do we have to do differently? Friendly but ultimately if we don't change the practice if all of these countries did the same thing the US and the West did too. Oh Yeah we just can't afford it. We can't on a global populace afford it. You can see how much it's hurting. The citizens at in the urban centers and Delis Not Unique Deli is In the list of thirteen of the most polluted cities or fourteen of the most polluted of the fifteen cities that the World Health Organization has really red flagged so it's not only hurting the domestic domestic population climate change air pollution are not impacts that Respect national borders so having a city or a region that it is suffering from pollution. We're going to see that shift from across borders and so these aren't sovereign decisions that are being made by the countries that are facing the impacts alone. This is something we really need to look out as global populous because those individuals nation-states decisions impact neighboring countries and also domestically. Because as you know you've got a very Agra Delhi residents right and they should be angry because this is something. This is a government failure right. This policy really bad policy. That could have been been looked at carefully. And now we're at a point where a lot of farmers and the state open job is used to it. This is guaranteed buyout procurement of rice and wheat by by the government to ration out to the rest of the country whereas this type of procurement could have been done in states that made more sense to actually raise the rice crops like West Bengal Bengals. That actually has the water indigenously on the crop and digital ously as opposed to the unnatural measures in which it's being cultivated in places like Ben job also. Oh nobody in Punjab eats rice. I mean that's true there is. You're going to see some rice eaters but it's a rotea eating state so it's exactly and so it really just didn't didn't make sense how this was set up a region like Ben job should be growing things like maize. They should not be doing rice. So that's an issue and then ultimately the government needs to stop stop making electricity free. We don't have the luxury of just handing out energy like that because that is ultimately why we have carbon emissions increasing despite the recognition and awareness that we need to reduce our consumption we we increase globally energy consumption by two point nine percent last year. And that's because of water intensive practices like rice cultivation. There's little finger pointing going on right now in India politically what stake here. I think the future of you've the economy really is at stake and I'll give you one example. I very good friends who are from London. Which is where I spent my twenty s and they decide? They're they're originally from Delhi and they decided that they were going to move back to India to grow their business And there's a great entrepreneurial seen right outside of Delhi in in Delhi and in Gurgaon which has really attractive to young entrepreneurs globe entrepreneurs and so you had these Ethnically Indian students who studied abroad in the UK. Go back to Where they were born and raised and regret it now so I was having a discussion with my friend who started in a business? That's doing incredibly well. In Asia based out of Delhi and and she says there's a lot of talk about whether or not future entrepreneurs should bother going back to the country that they wanted to build their business out in so it's not necessarily certainly good news for the future of India and its economy. Government have been having out half a million face Mars. They know that there's a little political heat for them. Especially because you know jellies Philip Middle Class voters who pay taxes Is this enough. Well I do appreciate some of the solutions that the government is attempting to put forward in addition to protecting people in the short term just looking at health. Because of recognition of the respiratory issues the chronic not just even respiratory but the developmental delays and other a chronic issues that come from breathing in two packs of cigarettes equivalent of two packs of cigarettes. A day So what they're trying to do is get this technology called happy this cedars which are attachments mounted on tractors that whole plant weed seeds without getting jammed up in the rice straw stubble from the rice crop. So the issue is that they're really expensive and they They guzzled diesel. And so they're out of reach for a lot of farmers and this is these are the types of technologies that the government can really get out and incentivize or subsidize so that farmers actually start using them. So it's these kinds of things that in the short run immediately in in addition to protecting the public also helps farmers and helps their livelihood and helps incentivise them do the right thing not just for their personal economic gains but also for the health of the Community Kennedy as a whole when it comes to warming of the climate and smog and stuff like that India has made moves to move away from fossil fuels. So be it reluctantly. Because they have a growing dynamic population developing-country argument of like. Let us develop what you did in. The West is very passionate and they nearly didn't silence the Paris climate accord's you know All that moves in India to sort of get real about renewable energy lied. China's costumed electric vehicles solar power over one step forward to stay spike. Sometimes I think there's a real growing recognition that this is an issue that they're not going to be able to develop in the way that we've traditionally seen around the world that there will need to be implementation of green technology across all sectors and the same amount AH prosperity can be reached given that the new technologies are really able to be skilled and able to actually be implemented. We didn't have that luxury fifty years ago so the fact that we have gotten to the point where at why wouldn't you take advantage of it if it's going to result in the same if not even better prosperity of your country but also really improve or not hurt the health of your citizens India gets it because even before the smog the yearly anticipated smog. There's a water crisis. There's real water scarcity issues throughout throughout the country they may run out grant groundwater in the next year. Twenty one Indian cities including Delhi are at risk for those so the the country really has to confront a lot of series of issues right so all of these are linked the planet warming all of these are linked to energy consumption And with it comes smog with it comes. Water scarcity with comes food insecurity vulnerability during heatwaves disease from deteriorating sanitation and potentially regional conflicts over water access so that awareness that India the complexity of the interconnected impacts related to the planet warming. There is that awareness there and there is definitely definitely support and desire to be able to take the new technologies that are up skilled them but the issue. The question that remains that you and I have been talking about is at what caused an. Is it fast enough. I WanNa read this from Justice Aroon Mischer in new Supreme Court. Had these things to say on Monday every year. This is happening every year. Deadliest choking mm for ten to fifteen days as you were saying before this can happen in a civilized country. They're a passing the buck to each other. They have no responsibility towards their own people. Everybody is only interested in gimmicks and elections and this lost elections is sometimes India's complicated complicated and vibrant democracy actually a hindrance when you're trying to plan these big rollout. Climate change initiatives the record by in from everyone everyone to sort of buying at the same time. Yeah no I think one word really sums it up. It's corruption and we have not been able to overcome the corruption that has led some of these really bad policies Still on the table they. It is very clear. What's wrong here? It's not that we don't know what the issues whose are it's just. Why haven't we been able to overcome them yet? It's literally because of those Very corrupt innate practices. That just haven't been. They found out and ratted yet. And so the vehicle for example the Switching out vehicles based on whether they're even or odd pleaded license from in Beijing right. It's not enough. It's not even close to enough it's the vehicle emissions is just one small component of. What's really happening here again? It's sustainable agricultural practices actresses that haven't been put into effect because it's really easy not to pay the fines. It's illegal to do this type of burning. That's causing the song. The majority of the smog is caused by this burning right fifty fifty percent. At least if you can just bribe a elected official to look the other way so that you can you know light a match and make it really easy for you to get rid of this double. Then that's what will continue and that's really why we're in the situation we're in. It is corruption so final so because you know we're all living in a fast paced modern world and you know ten fifteen days a year putting up with a bit of small. Maybe you know not driving as much. Stay indoors tape windows. Is this sort of a price that people labeling telia willing to pay I mean I'm going to India many very industrious people they just want to get on with life and you know and do their staff or is this just a price of modern life or do you think it's going to reach a tipping point. Yeah well let's put it this way. There's two million premature debts up to right because of this All the effects related to this air pollution being at the toxic levels that it is and India's already almost one point four billion people. So what's a few million people getting lost here there. No that people still. I think some people think like that but we're adding another almost half a million people to India's population it's going to overtake China by mid century is the most populous country. And here's is what people don't put together. As a behavioral scientist I study Is Cumulative risk so everyone year one to two million people is is one thing but every year as you increase the population and it gets worse because of more energy consumption because policies still haven't been shifted fast enough your we're looking at increasing numbers of deaths and we're looking at real risk that comes to your to your physical wellbeing in your health and that cumulative risk I think is going what if nothing else wake people up. It's like smoking a cigarette and nobody thinks about smoking one cigarette but smoking many cigarettes over time. It's the same exact thing these individuals living in my country. Smoking two packs of cigarettes for two weeks a year every year as their as their aging. And this is not good for you. You as you age. And as the population ages or for the half a million children that are going to be born with developmental delays. Because of this so yes real issue here should so really good point to think about the future generations as well talk to ship the Chakrabarti thanks for joining us. You of course are risk and behavioral scientists which is pretty key for this sort of thing but also an expert on climate change. I just want to say that the heat is produced by CDC in America or executive producer is tariff H.. Our senior producer is. Joan Gilmore. The Guest Booker Rosanna L.. Shape our digital producer. Of course. He's sitting in here right here. Is Joshua Bar and a director of digital development is Michael Sugary once get eighteen thousand. Thanks for listening and remember. If you have a comment or question about today's Poku send us an email. You can find us at heat pocus

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