19 September, 2020

Winter's Weight

Delhi's residents are in danger of being smothered by smog

Winter's Weight

IT'S an early winter morning. A plane homes in on the Delhi airport. The coordinates tell the pilot he is flying right over Delhi. But looking out of the window, he can't see a thing. Only a black shroud spread over a large area. What's wrong? Have his controls gone haywire? The answer comes through the ATC: "Delay landing. Visibility poor due to heavy smog."

And smog levels have been rising over Delhi, which is slowly but steadily choking the city. What is this smog made of? One seventy nine metric tonnes of sulphur dioxide; 135 metric tonnes of suspended particles; 1,063 metric tonnes of carbon monoxide; 323 metric tonnes of nitrogen oxides; 320 metric tonnes of hydrocarbons. Total: about 2,000 metric tonnes. Rising over rivers and open spaces.

A complex mixture of solid and liquid particles, the smog descends from its summer zenith to its nadir (which can be as low as 70 feet) in winter. The colder it is, the more smog descends. Explains B. Sengupta of the Central Pollution Control Board: "It's because of a...



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