A Glimpse Through the Smog: New Delhi Counterparts Describe Their Pollution Woes

While we Beijingers often gripe about dismal air quality levels and unsettling red alerts, many residents of India's capital city, New Delhi, look on with envy. 

That may come as a surprise to those of us living in Beijing, whose smog has become infamous in the international media, especially as of late.

But for Anu Anand Hall, an American of Indian descent who works in New Delhi for the BBC World Service and a young mother of two, the conditions in Beijing are comparatively desirable. That’s because the level of PM2.5 particles is not only higher in New Delhi, but the use of air purifiers and masks is far more prevalent in Beijing.

“Masks and purifiers are extremely uncommon still,” Hall told thebeijinger's sister magazine beijingkids on Dec 24, shortly after New Delhi recorded its most polluted day of the year.  “[While there's a] growing awareness among the upper classes -- many are buying filters and masks, and some have already moved their families out of Delhi -- the vast majority of people are aware, but either resigned or indifferent.”

Meanwhile, the famous anti-pollution domes erected at many schools seem futuristic and highly desirable to Delhi-based parents like Hall. “My son goes to the British School here. I've read in Beijing they have or plan to cover the playing fields with a hi-tech bubble. Here they've just installed a purifying system … Apart from three or four international schools who have taken imperfect measures to protect kids, other private schools are just waking up to it. And still others are in complete denial … [And] they only stop kids from playing outside when the AQI hits 250!”

She adds that the local population lacks access and information about air pollution protection. “Expats definitely use purifiers and masks more. A guy who sells purifiers here says many of his Indian customers insist purifiers will weaken the immune systems of their children.”

New Delhi’s Bubu Shinki, a New Delhi resident who frequently posts on Facebook forums about his city’s smog, says many locals are as surprised as Beijingers that the Chinese capital’s AQI gets more media attention, considering its air quality is better than that of its Indian counterpart.

“I realize that because of a lack of pressure from abroad, Delhi doesn't feel the urgency to take care of its reputation," he said. "There is no sense of responsibility whatsoever. And maybe China wants to show the world that they are willing to change. As opposed to India, which is preoccupied with local nonsense.”

That lack of action frustrates parents like Hall, whose children appear to be resigned to spending their recesses indoors with no better prospects in sight. She says: “They're essentially caged. You just can't be outside in winter. It’s certainly making parents crazy.”

A version of this story originally appeared on beijing-kids.com.

Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia commons, pixabay.com

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