top of page

Breathless in Delhi: a taste of environmental Armageddon

It was 2am on Sunday in Delhi and a friend and I were travelling in a rickshaw, heading home from a party. It was a hellscape.

The highway was mostly empty, the air a greasy brown. On the shoulder was a group of men standing around a small fire. Ahead of us were trucks spraying the roads with salted effluent, used to keep the dirt in place so it would not spring up into a toxic cloud.

In the Delhi half-marathon that morning 30,000 people ran, some wearing breathing masks, with levels of the most harmful airborne pollutants hovering near 200 – eight times the World Health Organisation’s safe maximum.

All that week and the last, the pollution was the only story in town. My friend had seen a near riot in an upmarket shopping mall as a group of women fought to buy up the last of the air masks. In a hospital, another friend saw smog in the hallways, making all the doctors red-eyed.

We monitored the air pollution compulsively on something that looked like an egg-shaped portable lava lamp, as well as various apps. “It got to 999 which is the highest the app recognised! It’s literally off the charts!!”

photo credit: jepoirrier

bottom of page