Teen describes what it’s like to live with the smog in New Delhi, India

Story by CBC Kids News • 2019-11-07 13:28

Burning crops and firecrackers are partly to blame

Kids in New Delhi, India, are being told to stay inside for their own safety this week.

Air pollution in the city has reached dangerous levels.

It’s so bad, schools were closed and cars are being ordered off the roads.

This picture, taken from an apartment building in New Delhi, shows the smog worsening over a six-day period. (Submitted by Dakshita Shandilya)

The smog settles in every year around this time, and it’s caused by several factors:

On Wednesday, CBC Kids News spoke to 16-year-old Dakshita Shandilya via a messaging app.

She lives in New Delhi.

A 16-year-old teen

Dakshita Shandilya worries the situation is inevitable because farming is an important driver of the economy and traditional festivals are taken very seriously in India. (Submitted by Dakshita Shandilya)

Q: What does it look like outside? A: The atmosphere outside is a mix of smoke and fog. In the early morning the visibility is very poor. Q: Are you going out at all? Or staying inside? A: My parents are trying to avoid sending me and my brothers outside but for important work and for coaching classes we have to step outside. Q: What does it feel like? A: We are recommended to wear pollution masks, our eyes are itchy sometimes, it’s hard to breathe without the masks.

A woman and 2 children walk across a bridge in a smoggy city wearing masks.

Authorities have been handing out free masks to children in New Delhi. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

Q: That must be so hard! Have you lived through this before? A: Not really but it’s getting worse year by year.

The government has declared a public health emergency and has taken a few measures to improve air quality:

Q: Are you going to school? A: The Directorate of school education declared a holiday for the 4th and 5th of November. So today was working. Q: So you went to school today because it was better? A: Yes, as compared to the past few days. Q: How do you get to school? A: By the school bus. Q: Did you wear a mask? A: It wasn’t necessary today. Q: Oh good. I heard the sun even came out a bit. A: Yes, in the morning and around noon.

Doctors in New Delhi are warning that this could have serious impacts on people’s health, if it continues.

“It definitely would affect the growth aspects of children,” said Dr. Sai Kiran Chaudhari, a doctor who works in New Delhi. “They would be prone to recurrent infections. The immune system would be affected.”

Q: Do you cough a lot when you go outside? A: I could sense some irritation in my throat when I wasn’t wearing a my mask. Q: How does it make you feel about the future in your city? A: It makes me worry a lot, I felt being caged inside my house and even after going out it was suffocating.

Demonstrators wearing face masks are demanding the government take measures to curb air pollution in New Delhi. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)

Q: Does it inspire you to take action? A: Yes, it absolutely does. I want to contribute as much as I can, even though people may say how much can a teenager do, I believe that every little step toward a better environment is very precious. Q: What do you think you can do? A: Planting more trees for one and planting is not sufficient. Taking care of those trees is equally important, carpooling is very good and efficient way to get to places reducing carbon emissions, reducing or completely stop burning crackers on festivals and look forward to having a cleaner and greener festive season.

With files from CBC Radio and The Associated Press

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