Have you been to India? If you haven’t, make sure it is on your bucket list. The country is a festival for the senses. You will be astonished by the number of colours, smells and noises that surround you. If you like to travel, India is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary places on earth. Paradise for photographers, India will forever stay in your mind.
I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in India in early 2017, and a few days in Delhi. This vibrant place is so rich for history lovers. Visit Humayun’s Tomb, The Red Fort or Akshardham Temple among others.
Upon arrival, you will be greeted with the biggest smiles. But you will also notice the extreme poverty, the hundreds of families living on the streets, the crazy traffic and the chaos all around.
It is very common to feel overwhelmed and claustrophobic by this intensity at first. Delhi is overcrowded and the hustle and bustle of this vibrant city is really intensified by another major problem: air pollution.
With a metropolitan population of nearly 19 million people, Delhi is the second most populated city in India. The pollution problem is getting worse year after year and the pollution standards were exceeded on 95% of days in 2015. Rural areas are as affected, and the same year around 1.1 million people died from pollution-related problems outside of the main cities.
According to Dr. Arvind Kumar, a chest surgeon, the levels of pollutants in some parts of Delhi are compared to “smoking 50 cigarettes a day”.
The Capital has had to declare a “health emergency crisis”.
End of 2017 the levels were 42 times higher than the limits considered by the World Health Organisation as safe.
In Delhi, transporting yourself from one part of the city to another can be challenging and very time-consuming. One can use buses, subway or taxis but one of the most popular means of transport is tuk-tuks (also called auto-rickshaws).
There are thousands of tuk-tuks everywhere. Unfortunately, they are highly polluting and run on petrol. I admit using them a lot as they were very convenient to hop on and off.
When in Delhi, I walked for hours from one monument to another and spent a lot of time sitting in traffic in tuk-tuks. I knew it was very polluted but I did not expect it to be this bad. After several hours, my eyes and throat started burning and I started coughing. It didn’t take me long to decide to wear a scarf over my mouth and nose. A solution to this is to use taxis and subways rather than tuk-tuks, whenever possible.
What is the Government doing to face this issue?
Despite the problem getting bigger, there are some positive news and solutions put in place. Here are some examples :
- All of the public transport system in Delhi runs now on Compressed Natural Gas (or CNG) which emits around 25 percent less carbon dioxide than petrol.
- More controls of the air pollution are being done. Mass emission standards have been tightened for new vehicles.
- Private cars are a great cause of pollution as well so the Municipal Corporation of Delhi increased the parking fees by four, trying to discourage locals to use their cars
- The city has built a “Mass Rapid Transport System” (MRTS) aiming at providing a non-polluting, faster and affordable rail-based mass rapid transit system.
As travelers, one of the most efficient ways for us to contribute to reducing this pollution is to use buses and metros instead of cars and tuk-tuks. More people can be taken on board and they run on CNG.
I will definitely apply this rule next time I visit Delhi.
For the people to live and work in a healthier environment, Governments and authorities need to work together, set their priorities and come up with some fast solutions.
It will not change overnight but let’s keep on hoping that the world will take on their “green responsibilities” seriously.
Remember, wherever you travel in the world, manage your waste, reuse and recycle and use public transport as much as you can in big cities.
If you’re interested in reducing your waste in everyday life here!
Julie is French/Swedish and has been traveling the world since a very young age. Born in Stockholm, she has navigated between France and Sweden and she is currently living in Auckland, New Zealand. Having worked in tourism for more than 10 years and have been on all continents, her passion for people and places is really strong. Her goal is to use her photography and work on raising awareness of environmental and communities' issues.
Her happy place is by the ocean or in the mountains.
You can find her on Instagram: @julie_chandelier