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Delhi, a 'Hardship Posting'? Diplomats Leaving City Due to High Levels of Pollution

The Mexican Ambassador Melba Pria while speaking to CNN News18 said, “There’s no politics when it comes to immunization. Why? Because it’s about our children. In the same way everyone should come together to fight pollution. Why do cars exported out of India to Mexico have catalytic convertors but the ones used in India don’t?”

Zakka Jacob | CNN-News18

Updated:November 16, 2017, 5:45 PM IST
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New Delhi: Some embassies are considering whether to call Delhi a “hardship posting” because of the smog. Another one, the Costa Rican Ambassador has fled to safer environs of Bengaluru. And the envoy from Mexico, whose capital was once the most polluted city in the world, has asked Indians to move beyond politics and fight pollution.

The Mexican Ambassador Melba Pria while speaking to CNN News18 said, “There’s no politics when it comes to immunization. Why? Because it’s about our children. In the same way everyone should come together to fight pollution. Why do cars exported out of India to Mexico have catalytic convertors but the ones used in India don’t?” she asks.

She further laments, “According to the WHO 2.5 million people die in India due to pollution. 10 out of the 25 most polluted cities in the world are in India. Are these medals we want to proudly carry?” She would know. Her city, Mexico City was ranked the most polluted city in the world by the WHO in 1992.

But over the years Mexico City has implemented a contingency action plan which kicks into force every time the Air Quality Index crosses 130. In Delhi, that limit is crossed almost every day.

The blog post of the Costa Rican Ambassador to India, Mariela Cruz Alvarez has gone viral after she declared that she had moved out of Delhi to the more environmentally friendly Bangalore. But News18 learns that she’s not the only one. Many diplomats have already left or are planning to leave soon because of the extremely high levels of pollution seen in Delhi this season.

The Costa Rican Ambassador wrote in her blog, “I am sick with a serious upper respiratory infection due to New Delhi’s unbreathable air. My tropical lungs couldn’t take the toll. It is not funny to see your lungs expelling a dark residue as if I was a smoker — which I am not. ..We need to wake up fast. India I love you and it hurts me to see you drowning in loads of plastic and toxic air. Where is the leadership? Clean air and water are basic human rights.”

That’s not all. Most embassies are reporting an increased number of sick leaves among its staff. A few of them have also got rid off non-essential staff. Some foreign missions are also considering whether to ask their governments to declare Delhi as a hardship posting.

Chutintorn Gongsakdi, the Thai ambassador to India, last week sent a letter to Bangkok, asking whether Delhi can be declared as a “hardship posting”. Many countries pay “hardship allowance” for its diplomats serving in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Some stations are also tagged “non-family postings”, which is a notch below a hardship posting. Kabul and Islamabad are both non-family stations. Many fear if Delhi doesn’t do something on an urgent basis, then it too, could go the same way as its neighbours to the west.

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| Edited by: Ananya Chakraborty
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