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How Delhi's Poor Air Quality is Creating 'Pollution Refugees'

While the administration may still be grappling for solutions, between implementing the rules and changing mindsets, the process of creating pollution refugees has started.

Sneha Mordani | CNN-News18

Updated:December 1, 2018, 10:18 PM IST
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How Delhi's Poor Air Quality is Creating 'Pollution Refugees'
News18 Creative by Mir Suhail.

New Delhi: As Delhi has earned the dubious distinction of being the most polluted metropolis in the world, its residents are being compelled to leave the city for healthier options.

The pollution levels turn hazardous particularly after Diwali. “There is no way to live,” says Tracy Shilshi, a former journalist. “After Diwali in 2017, the smog was unbearable for us,” she says, adding that the children had to be restricted indoors for their safety.

Shilshi decided to leave behind her home in Delhi and moved to Goa. Her youngest son, she says, had a mild cough and runny nose for the longest time. Her father also developed a constant cough. Both the ailments were linked to pollution, she says. It has been nine months since Shilshi’s family left Delhi and they are happy about the decision.

Not many people have taken the drastic step of leaving the city, but a lot of them are considering this option to avert the hazards of air pollution. According to a survey by Local Circles, a social networking site for civic cooperation, a whopping 35% of people living in Delhi and the National Capital Region are contemplating to leave Delhi and its adjoining areas owing to pollution.

The respondents in this survey spoke about lack of faith in the administration’s ability to deal with this problem. Twenty six percent of the respondents said they would stay back in Delhi but equip themselves with air purifiers and masks. Sachin Taparia, chairman and CEO of Local Circles says it is not shocking that people now want to leave the city because of pollution.

“If living in Delhi could lead to reduced life spans, any parent would be concerned and move if they have a choice’, says Taparia.

Nearly 57% respondents faced health issues because of bad air, shows the survey. This was reason enough for Gaurav Agarwal, another Delhiite to never want to return. Agarwal, an entrepreneur who chose Bengaluru as his safe haven, has decided to not come back to Delhi.

“I have been raised here and lived here. My parents have lived here since 1965,” he says. Work took him to Bengaluru but Agarwal had the option of moving back to Delhi where his mother still resides. But he chose not to. This meant letting his just widowed mother live alone. “It was a tough decision,” he says. “Moving back to Delhi would mean moving his children to this gas chamber.”

At the time of filing this report, Delhi’s air quality index stood at ‘poor’. PM 2.5 was at 247. PM 10 at 257 in Delhi’s Lodhi Road area. This is expected to worsen on Sunday to ‘hazardous’. The survey by local circles shows that 30% of respondents say they or someone in their family has visited a doctor or a hospital in the last 3 weeks regarding an air pollution related ailment but 56% of them either don’t have or cannot afford an air purifier or masks.

While the administration may still be grappling for solutions, between implementing the rules and changing mindsets, the process of creating pollution refugees has started.

“It is a trend that is picking up because people are bound to choose options which provide them healthier living options,” says Shiivani Aggarwal, CEO of Formula Group, a company that assists with relocation services. In the last two years, Aggarwal says there are a number of people who cite pollution as a reason to move out of Delhi.

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| Edited by: Sana Fazili
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