The social media is abound with articles and posts on the extent of pollution, the reasons for it and the dangers it is causing. The public pressure is mounting and it is not going to be long before the governments at the state and national level are forced into action. But protesting is only part of the solution. At the end of the day, we are suffering at this moment. The situation is like smoking 30 cigarettes a day inside a gas chamber! It is going to take at least a few weeks before the situation is contained. What can we do till this time? Here are something things I highly recommend if you are living in Delhi RIGHT NOW to tackle the air pollution.
Things you can do to save yourself and your loved ones
The best solution for your health and the health of your family is to take a week-long vacation. The weather is great around the country, not too cold and not too hot. The hills are calling you with lung-fulls of fresh air. Stay away from Delhi if you can, until the situation is contained at least partially.
If you cannot afford to take off for a week, then I advice you to invest in a good quality face mask. Not the cloth ones (called surgical masks; a good, sturdy mask preferably with filters to keep out fine particles. It costs about 80-200 rupees depending on what you are looking for (they are even available online), and it is an investment that might probably save you thousands of rupees later in life. You can also go for P95 and P99 masks, which protect you from oil based contaminants as well.
Try staying at home as much as possible. Keep the doors and windows closed, and if it get’s too suffocating, turn on the AC for a while (I regret that I have to suggest this, but there is little option). If you do have to go out, take the metro. The air-conditioned, closed metro will keep most of the pollutants away and you will avoid driving in the smog. If you do have to take a road transport, car pool as far as possible. You don’t want to add more pollutants into the air this time. Even a standing vehicle with it’s ignition turned on can release significant amount of toxic gases and particulate matter into the air. If you are in a car, always keep the windows shut.
It’s a very good time to get some potted plants for your home. They can really contribute a lot to keeping your home environment relatively cleaner than the outside, and it will certainly improve your mood from staying at home all day! (Here are 5 benefits of keeping house plants.) Plant leaves and roots can play a big role in removing trace toxic levels in the air.
The bigger picture: What a community/government can do to clean things up
In the immediate future, the government and local RWA (Resident Welfare Association) need to come up with a solution to dispel the smog that is already present in the city. The government has already woken up, and has suggested a range of emergency measures to prevent further pollution. Apart from shutting down schools, the government has banned all construction work in the city and the Badarpur thermal plant will also be closed for 10 days.
Your society can spray water on the roads. The water will absorb the particulate matter and make the air cleaner (however, there is a downside to this. The water with all the particulate matter will either percolate into the ground water or flow into the sewers and eventually into Yamuna. Further environmental degradation). The government plans to do this anyway, along with vacuum cleaning all roads. Let’s see how that works out.
It’s getting quite cold, especially in the night. People living in the slums do not have the luxury of warm clothes/blankets, and often resort to burning open fires. If you see anyone doing that, advice them against it (go one step further and give them blankets, if you can spare them). The government needs to try and enforce the already present ban on open fires and get NGOs to support these people.
Air filters should become mandatory in all major buildings and housing societies. This will not just help us now, but in the future as well. Again, it’s as good an investment as the masks.
The situation is critical; do these things to keep yourself safe. Support the authorities if they come knocking to take help and/or want to help you. We need to work together to make things right again.