Delhi is one of the largest cities in the world, with around seventeen million residents living in it. The city is also considered the second most avian-rich city in the world, behind Singapore. However, Delhi is also home to the world’s most toxic air. According to a study by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, the air quality in 2017 measured an index of 999 ppm, which is equivalent to smoking 45 to 50 cigarettes per day. Pollution in Delhi has led to 5400 premature deaths. Air contamination can cause deadly diseases like cancer, irreversible lung problems, epilepsy, and cardiac problems. The question is, what are the leading causes of Delhi’s high pollution?

27% of Delhi’s pollution comes from vehicle exhaust. New policies have restricted vehicle usage, allowing private cars to use the city roads on alternate days depending on if their registration plates ending with an odd or even number. This reduced road congestion and led to a slight drop in pollution levels. Vehicle pollution can also be reduced by simple things, like turning off your engine when you are not using it, switching to public transportation, or using electric vehicles with clean fuel. Delhi’s government is pushing for electric vehicles and public transportation, like buses, to be used more which shows promise for the future.

Farming also plays a major role in the pollution of Delhi. When farmers, who are mostly located in the north, start burning their crops in late September for the new harvest, the polluted air flows downward to Delhi. Satellite images showed about 3200 images of fires burning in Punjab and Harayana on a single day in October of 2020. Most farmers burn their crops because it’s the cheapest option available, which contributes to four percent of Delhi’s air pollution.

Power plants also play a role, contributing to about seven percent of the contamination in the air. Coal plants emit a substantial amount of carbon dioxide, which is responsible not just for atmosphere pollution, but for global warming too. Coal is known to produce pollution more than any other energy source. Burning coal leads to soot, smog, acid rain, global warming, and carbon emissions.

Delhi is projected to be one of the most populous cities by 2030, and if it continues on this path, it will not get any better for the future generation. Although the government and many others are taking precautions, more needs to be done in order to keep the residents living there healthy.