New Delhi: For 63-year-old Sudha Babbar, who stays in Delhi's Dwarka area, it has been a difficult winter. As an asthmatic patient, the city's spiking pollution levels have worsened her condition.
"With every season change, comes more trouble. There have been times when I've stepped out and have collapsed with asthmatic attacks. This winter has been particularly difficult," she says. Her trauma is symptomatic of the smog enveloping the city.
Delhi has now overtaken Beijing as the most polluted city in the world, data from the Yale University Environmental Performance Index Report has revealed. India's rank has plunged 32 places to 155 among 178 countries on the global environment performance index 2014, further sliding to 174 when it comes to air pollution.
Director of the Centre for Science and Environment Sunita Narain told NDTV, "We've beaten China, unfortunately in this sector, but the crucial difference is that the Chinese government is doing something about the air quality there, we aren't." China has been proactive on the issue of pollution with several warnings being issued when pollution levels have spiked.
Data compiled by CSE show how Beijing's air quality has improved while Delhi's has progressively deteriorated.
The levels of PM10 or particulate matter 10, a harmful component, is now almost double in Delhi's environment. In fact, between 2000-2013, Beijing reduced levels of PM10 by 40 per cent. In roughly the same period, from 2000-2011, PM10 levels in Delhi's air jumped by as much as 47 per cent.
Ms Narain adds, "We had actually made a great difference to Delhi's air by converting to CNG, but we might have all but lost that advantage, since we are adding so many new cars every day and subsidising diesel and increasing CNG prices. That will be a disaster."
The manifestos of the political parties that fought the Delhi elections last month have been largely silent on the issue of pollution.
Aam Aadmi Party minister Manish Sisodia told the press today, "We will take appropriate action." The Central government meanwhile seems to be in denial.
Veerappa Moily, Union environment minister, who also has the Petroleum portfolio said, "I don't think the statistics are correct. In Delhi, because of CNG, the pollution level has come down steeply. Please check the statistics. I don't think you have all details."
The World Health Organisation has said that air pollutants are carcinogenic. As per data from WHO, in 2011, deaths due to respiratory diseases came second only to cardiovascular diseases in India and without a concerted effort on all fronts, this number will only worsen.