With winters knocking at Delhi’s door, the city woke up to its worst annual nightmare on Tuesday – a thick blanket of smog, comprising of death causing deadly particles, most of it resulting from the winds from Punjab and Haryana where farmers burn crops at this time of the month. As a result of the hazardous pollutants in the Delhi air, the Indian Medical Association has written to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, demanding cancellation of Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on November 19, citing a very ‘high level of air pollution’.
Telecom giant Airtel also the title sponsor of the event had earlier also threatened to withdraw sponsorship of the decade-old event held in the capital every year.
“Air pollution poses serious health risks and it is important that these concerns are addressed urgently and appropriately by the authorities for Airtel to continue associating with the event next year and beyond,” Airtel had said in a statement.
“Airtel is proud to have made this event an integral part of the city. However, as a responsible brand, Airtel is always conscious of any event/media property association. We have received a lot of feedback from our customers and citizens at large expressing concern on holding the marathon in view of the prevailing air pollution in the city,” added the statement.
It further said, “Bharti Airtel has been a strong supporter of the Delhi Half Marathon over the last 10 years, given its positive impact on the city and it being a vibrant platform for all citizens to come together to celebrate the spirit of running.”
Airtel also said that the company was in talks with the organisers of the event who have assured that the marathon will be held with proper safety guidelines.
“For the upcoming edition we have discussed the air quality issue with the organizers, Procam and they have assured us that it is taking several measures to minimize the impact of air pollution on the runners.
“Procam have made sure that the event is consistently conducted as per international standards, with all necessary safety guidelines in place. A team of professionals is being deployed by Procam before the race day to sprinkle salt mixed with effluent treated water across the entire track to ensure that the dust pollution is negated. Furthermore, no vehicles will be plying on the route of the marathon” it said.
Despite the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banning the practice in 2015, an estimated 35 million tonnes of crops are set on fire in Punjab and Haryana alone to make room for the winter crop.
Images from NASA also showed a cluster of red dots in and around New Delhi.
Alarming numbers of pollution was recorded all across Delhi while the quality in neighbouring Noida and Ghaziabad was rated ‘severe’.
Punjabi Bagh recorded an air quality index (AQI) of 999 while RK Puram recorded 852. The air quality in Dwarka and NCR also reported to be in the range of 400-420.
AQI level from 0-50 is considered “good”, 51-100 is ‘satisfactory’ 101-200 is ‘moderate’, 201-300 is ‘poor’, 301-400 is ‘very poor’, and 401 and above is ‘severe’.
Earlier in October, Delhi had woken up to low visibility the day after Diwali on October 20. The Supreme Court had banned the sale of fire crackers in the wake of deteriorating air quality in the capital which has been a major concern for the authorities and residents alike. In 2015 and 2016, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had also come up with the odd-even scheme in an attempt to curb pollution emanating from vehicles. It was not brought in after the second installment as the results of the move could not justify the inconvenience caused to the public.