This Article is From Nov 17, 2020

Unwilling To Breathe Delhi Toxic Air, Many Families Are Simply Abandoning The City

Worsening air quality and the third wave of COVID-19 are fuelling fear and anxiety.

Not all can make a complete shift out of Delhi, though.

New Delhi:

A good number of Delhi families may be giving up on the city. If Manas Fuloria's impending shift from Gurugram to Dehradun is any indication, a wave of migration out of the seasonally choked Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) may be in full swing. Nothing that the senior IT executive has done till now - multiple air purifiers, air quality monitors, indoor plants - has made his family, or others like it, breathe easier in the region's miasma.

The day after Diwali, the national capital recorded the worst air quality in four years. Add to that the frightening third wave of COVID-19 sweeping the city, pushing it today to the top of the list of states with most deaths - nearly 100 in 24 hours - due to the disease.

Together, the fear and anxiety this situation fuels in people is only expected.

"We keep the windows shut and some doors as well. But with no fresh air coming in, we also have to monitor carbon dioxide levels. We have air purifiers, air quality indicators running all the time," Mr Fuloria, who heads a software company with up to 6,000 employees, told NDTV.

Shifting to Dehradun, he will have to work remotely from his new home but that is acceptable to him unlike seeing his two children suffer. "I am allergic to dust. So, it is kind of sad we are not able to go outside and play. Now with the virus, we are a 100 per cent at home," says his 11-year-old son Ekagra.
Risk advisor Vibha Batra moved sooner. After having lived in the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) for 20 years, she, along with her family, left for the tropical climes of Goa two weeks ago. Needless to say, the shift wasn't easy.

"NCR is where we grew up, both professionally and personally. But in past 10 years, I have been seeing changes in the city...the heavy son started getting sick," Ms Batra says.

It was her son's paediatrician who advised her to not let children play outdoors, making her think of the kind of childhood the kids were experiencing.

Ruchika Sethi Takkar, the founder of two citizens' collectives in Delhi, including Citizens For Clean Air, says that in one of her WhatsApp groups related to pollution, she sensed at least 40 families willing to leave the city.

However, unlike in the case of lockdown, not many citizens can make such a move this time.

Dr Neha Kashyap, who stays in Delhi's Munirka locality, has her old mother to take care of, besides her work commitments.

"My husband and I are also planning a baby. But should we really bring another life to this world in a situation like this?" asks Ms Kashyap. She is experiencing what she calls eco-anxiety, making her worry for her future.

Ms Takkar, too, agrees that not everyone can make such fundamental shifts.

Many people have spent savings of a lifetime to build homes in Delhi NCR. The two-fronted battle against COVID-19 and air quality may have turned something as basic as fresh air into a luxury, but even that may not be enough for most to leave the city.

"Emotional distress, particularly during lockdown, has grown. Leaving your own home is extremely difficult in times like these," Ms Takkar says.