On one November morning last year, residents of India’s national capital woke up to a thick layer of acrid smog that made their eyes burn. By mid-morning, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), a voluntary association of doctors, had declared a public health emergency in the city.
The state government ordered the temporary closure of all of Delhi’s private and public schools and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called the city a “gas chamber“. Although the worst days of pollution are now over, doctors in the city blame a lack of will to address a problem whose worst victims are children.
“As a people we’re not very health conscious,” Dr SK Chhabra, a renowned pulmonologist with over three decades of experience treating patients in New Delhi, told HuffPost India. “Health doesn’t figure at all for us, as public education is not there.” This blasé attitude towards pollution is also one of the reasons why policy-makers rarely approach the problem with the seriousness it deserves.