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“Till just a few days ago, a choking Delhiwas on top of the minds of many Indians, particularly the chatterati and opinion-makers. It seemed like a momentum was building up towards finding potential permanent solutions to the problem of chronic pollution in India’s capital.

 With the Narendra Modi government unleashing a whole new issue to debate—demonetising some of the currency denominations—on Nov. 08, the big story of Delhi’s still-deadly air pollution took a backseat

While visibility has improved and particulate matter (PM) has declined from the alarming levels seen in the past few weeks, the national capital’s air quality index (AQI) still remains unhealthily above the safe limit of 50. For environmental activists, this proves that public health is still seriously at risk.

“There was a public momentum that was building up (against air pollution). The news of demonetisation has shifted the public focus, as well as media focus, from that public health emergency we are facing,” Sunil Dahiya, a campaigner for Greenpeace India, said.

After the government decreed that existing Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes were no longer legal tenders, millions of Indians desperate to buy daily needs, have thronged ATMs and banks looking to exchange their now-worthless cash. For Delhi residents, this has meant spending long hours of exposure to filthy air. They have little choice. Unfortunately, there’s been no similar order to tackle the much more pressing concern of air pollution.

India’s supreme court, the national green tribunal, and the Delhi high court have pushed the city’s government to step up efforts to combat the problem and implement better monitoring and response systems. Still, Delhi and indeed India itself are a long way from taking tough steps.

But these steps are sorely needed as an estimated 600,000 Indians died of air pollution-related illnesses in 2012, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The country, thus, accounted for a fifth of such deaths worldwide.

The alarming smog that has shrouded Delhi for days over the past few weeks, capturing global attention, was in fact just the most visible symptom of a much larger problem the city has been battling for years: an overwhelming number of polluting vehicles…” Quartz. Read the full article on

India’s demonetisation may have killed a golden opportunity in the fight against air pollution