Why Is Delhi’s Air Quality so Poor?

When you step outside in the morning during a visit to Delhi, you will see clouds of smothering dust and smoke descending on the city. It tends to get worse during the winter months, but the problem in 2019 reached emergency levels.

The Chief Minister of the city went on Twitter to describe the conditions. “Delhi has turned into a gas chamber due to smoke from crop burning in neighboring states.”

Conditions are so problematic in Delhi that schools are closing, flight cancellations are routine, and a public health emergency is in effect. The air quality index monitors show that people are breathing air that is 50 times dirtier than what the World Health Organization deems to be a minimum safe level.

A Day of Breathing in Delhi is like Smoking 50 Cigarettes

Air pollution surges in Delhi are not uncommon, but the outcomes are becoming much worse. It’s an issue that all of India faces. The World Health Organization ranks the most-polluted urban areas in the world each year, and 11 out of the 12 worst global cities are all in India.

Agricultural burning has a significant impact on the air quality of Delhi and other cities, but it isn’t the only reason why pollution levels are so high. Homes use wood and coal for cooking, heating, and similar activities. Forest fires lead to dust storms that impact almost the entire country.

The mountainous geography of India doesn’t help matters either. The various summits and valleys act as basins that can trap toxic air in specific spots for months at a time. 

It can get so bad some days that the air is too dangerous even to breathe.

How Did Things Get so Bad in India?

It’s a combination of poverty, urbanization, and industrialization coming together to create a perfect storm of problems.

Poor governance by the Indian government is another significant factor. Lax standards and enforcement are in place for construction activities, car exhaust, and agricultural work. That means the particulate levels tend to be high, leading to potential health problems in the future.

The marble walls of the Taj Mahal used to be white. Because of the pollution in the region, they are now green. Over 1.1 million people died in 2015 due to this problem, and the statistics continue to tell a bleak tale.

Unless the government is willing to set and enforce stricter regulations, this issue is only going to get worse.

Why Did India Pass a Citizenship Bill that Excludes Muslims?

The government of India passed legislation in December 2019 that would create a pathway to citizenship for many immigrants. It fast-tracked the ability to gain the rights and privileges of naturalization based on a person’s religion.

India is certainly not the first to raise eyebrows with changing in policy. China’s social credit system is an example of a policy that is part of an ongoing discussion.

What makes this policy stand out is that Islam is excluded from the list of eligibility.

Anyone who came to the country from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan before 2015 would be eligible for this program, regardless of their faith. The people who moved to India after that deadline must belong to one of South Asia’s major religions, as described by the government.

The reason for the exclusion seems hidden in the words of government officials like Sudhanshu Trivedi, who is the spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party. “We have to distinguish between the infiltrators and genuine persecuted refugees,” he said during the bill’s passage. “This is the right time for India to assert its security concerns because we are living with neighbors that are the biggest security threats in the entire world.”

What Does the Path to Citizenship Entail?

The exclusion of Islam comes because the goal of the government was to protect those who come from minority religions in the region that face discrimination.

Article 9 of the Indian constitution requires anyone who voluntarily acquires citizenship from another country to surrender their rights in India.

Being 100% legal isn’t always easy. Just ask some of the world’s top hemp brands, like Charlotte’s Web and Hempfusion, that face restrictions in India and around the world. Even companies that manufacture liquid herbal extracts like Herb Pharm face segregation from the marketplace because their ingredients are “different” from what society finds to be “acceptable.”

When unequal paths to citizenship exist, then a country is no longer united. History teaches us that a divided culture is one that will eventually fall. 

The other issue under consideration with the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 is that it recasts India as a majority Hindu nation. That means anyone who falls outside of that spiritual spectrum automatically becomes a second-class citizen. 

Anyone who enters India without a valid travel document or remained beyond their visa will now be ineligible to apply for citizenship. Muslims with similar origins to Christians, Parsi, Jain, Sikh, or Buddhism will not gain the same fast-tracking rights.

Our planet is healthy when we celebrate diversity. If we can encourage this approach in daily life, then there is nothing that can stop us from being at our best.