NEW DELHI: Temperatures are rising this winter among Delhi’s urban middle class over the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banning new diesel cars in the city, and the Kejriwal government’s alternate-day car policy. Lost in the smog of this anger is the fact that the poison of pollution, infecting India’s metroscape, is placing future generations in peril.
A plea by Dr Sanjay Kulshrestha, a paediatric surgeon, to the National Green Tribunal says that with the winter setting in, smog and the climbing rate of particulate matter (PM) level in the air is affecting “the lung, heart of the newborn and creates various types of respiratory diseases”. Studies on pregnant women have concluded that “air pollution can increase the chances of birth defects, foetal growth retardation and premature delivery especially in women living close to busy roads”.
“Air pollution is not only affecting paediatric and geriatric populations, but also babies still in the wombs of their mothers living in urban areas,” says Dr Neelam Kler, Chairperson, Neonatology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. She is part of a Central government committee set up to formulate an anti-pollution plan. Studies on the size of particulate matter by the International Council on Clean Transportation confirms that 40,000 premature deaths in cities each year are caused by vehicular PM10 emissions alone and between 20,000-50,000 premature deaths in 2010 were caused by PM2.5 emissions.
Alarmed by the vertiginous levels of toxicity in the air of Delhi and other cities, Dr Sanjay Kulshrestha, a paediatric surgeon, has approached NGT with a plea to ban all polluting vehicles in Delhi. Considering India’s annual birth rate at is .6 crores, about 65 lakh newborns are being affected by vehicular pollution.
In his petition, Dr Kulshrestha quotes a study, which states “pregnant women exposed to vehicular pollution are significantly more likely to have smaller babies”.