India’s cities, especially New Delhi, have historically faced high levels of pollution. The smog in the city and associated consequences are exacerbated around the winter months as farmers burn fields to make room for new harvests. A combination of human and environmental factors have made the pollution situation so severe this year, with many calling the city a “gas chamber”, that the government has declared a public health emergency. The hazardous levels of pollution, around 60 times the global safety threshold, have paused life in New Delhi, with the government cancelling flights, shutting down schools, and halting construction projects.
While the Indian government has taken steps towards implementing short-term solutions to the problem, such as distributing masks, restricting car use, and banning slash-and-burn methods, more long term solutions are required to confront the underlying problems. India’s toxic levels of pollution reflect a global trend of rising air pollution levels, indicating the reality of and urgency required to deal with climate change and associated public health issues. Transitioning to cleaner renewable energy sources can help countries deal with both the long term global threats associated with climate change, and the immediate public health issues at hand.