In the News
March 9, 2023
March 9, 2023
When Covid-19’s delta wave subsided and the sirens stopped wailing, when the hundreds of thousands of funeral pyres burned out and the bodies stopped washing up on the banks of the Ganges, when the desperate pleas for oxygen and hospital beds no longer dominated social media, New Delhi simply hit “erase” on its collective memory and walked away.
It would be inaccurate to say nothing has changed in this mega-city of 33 million people since the pandemic struck. But the big things — the environmental, unemployment and health-care problems that dominate India’s capital — are as present today as they ever were.
Last summer’s heat wave broke records. New Delhi hit a maximum temperature of 42C (107F) and above on at least 26 days, reaching 49C in some areas. That season’s wheat crop was scorched by the heat. It was so hot the rubber seals on the glass jars in my kitchen melted into the lids. Untold numbers of people died, and we all wondered how quickly the city would become unlivable, when the limits of survivability would be reached. India is already forecasting fresh heat waves across the northwest in the next three months, after the hottest February since 1901….
…For a region that routinely rates as one of the world’s most polluted, it should come as no surprise that Delhi’s (which contains New Delhi) average annual small-particulate matter (PM2.5) levels exceed 107 µg/m3, more than 21 times the World Health Organization guidelines for safe maximum levels, according to data from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. With a highly infectious respiratory infection bringing the global economy to its knees, you’d think national and state governments would invest in enforcing the mitigation measures already in place. Yet we heard little more than health warnings and school closures. The arrival of increasingly poisonous air is now as regular as any other season.