New Delhi resident Tina Chadna writes often about life in New Delhi with children, sharing her experiences and recommendations on activities, air pollution health concerns, and more at the Huffington Post’s MyCity4Kids. Chadna is also a co-founder of Delhi-based Care for Air, an organization whose mission is “to create an aware and informed society mobilizing towards clean air in India through creative, awareness-building campaigns to broaden society’s understanding about the causes and effects of air pollution and the dangers to individual health.”
By Tina Chadha
Ask any Delhi resident these days to describe the city’s summer weather and they will report “scorching hot” conditions, but for those who check their mobile weather app the current conditions reveal a more sinister story that goes well beyond the record-breaking heat. Dust. Smoke. Haze. These are the words one sees instead of the usual expected adjectives of “cloudy,” “sunny” or “rainy” alongside temperatures reading in the 40s Celsius. The sky outside doesn’t always reveal the entire story when it comes to the air we are breathing. Air that is often filled with tiny, dangerous particles that harm our health, particularly the most vulnerable–children and the elderly.
Declared the world’s most polluted city by the World Health Organization in 2014, Delhi’s air leaves a lot to be desired. There are plenty of villains in this air apocalypse: outdated fuel standards for our vehicles yield astronomical emissions; nearby factories, coal and gas plants sputter out toxic smoke; annual crop burning in neighbouring states is so massive in scale that NASA can track it from space; waste burning both inside our local colonies and massive landfills spews poisonous fumes every day.
As a mother to three young children, a professional and a person who loves to get off the sofa and get outside to move, Delhi’s air concerns me. A lot. I go to sleep at night and wake up most mornings wondering what outdoor activities we should shorten or reschedule altogether. I think twice before opening the windows until I’ve checked my air quality apps to see what air I might be letting into my home. I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that I have nearly year-round allergies and a dry cough after a four-decade-long allergy-free, healthy life. And my heart was shredded when my otherwise uber-healthy eight year old recently developed breathing difficulties and had to be started on inhalers.
Short of packing up and leaving town what is one to do? When faced with an obstacle we try to tackle it. Or so I was taught from childhood. There is always a solution. So I’ve tried to learn a lot about this health and environmental emergency facing India and many other countries too. Many solutions are beyond our reach as individual citizens. They require institutional changes by government and improvements to local infrastructure. But there are, thankfully, some things we can do. There are some short-term, interim measures we can take to help safeguard our health, and the health of our children, from air pollution.” The Huffington Post – India (Blog). Read the full column and Chadna’s 5 suggestions on ways to protect your kids on delhiair.org.