Ever wondered what breathing in Delhi does to one's lungs? The Air Quality Index (AQI) in the National Capital Region has been rapidly deteriorating over the past two weeks. Things came to a head on Wednesday evening, when Delhiites flouted the Supreme Court ruling and freely burst toxic crackers well beyond the permitted hours of 8-10pm on Diwali.
To show the people of Delhi exactly how badly their lungs are being affected due to the air pollution, a group of concerned individuals came together last week to install a giant pair of lungs in front of the busy Shri Ganga Ram Hospital in Rajender Nagar. The initiative was taken by Jhatkaa.org, a Bengaluru-based non-profit organisation, in collaboration with local environmental NGOs Help Delhi Breathe and Lung Care Foundation.
"We recreated human lungs with help of HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters. These filters are used inside operation theatres to trap dust. To imitate the working of a human lung, we fitted the fake ones with fans to imitate breathing in and out," said Dr Arvind Kumar of the Lung Care Foundation. He said that he had been sharing images of lungs which he had been operating on with people and that was where he got the idea to put the lungs on display. He added that the management at Ganga Ram Hospital was only too encouraging and immediately accepted the offer.
"We had thought that it would take at least a month and a half for the lungs to get dark. But the lungs changed colour in just 24 hours. On Day 6, the lungs have become completely black," Kumar lamented. He said that the spike in pollution on Diwali greatly escalated the damage.
Speaking to News18, Jhatkaa.org's Shikha Kumar said that the installation was part of a project that had started earlier in which they set up these small lungs in various cities. After the lungs had been tarnished due to air pollution, bits of these lungs were sent to various politicians as well as pollution control boards of all states of the country. Shikha said that so far they had only heard from two states.
"They keep ignoring it but deteriorating air quality is going to affect all of us. I myself have felt the side effects in the last week in spent in Delhi. My eyes were watery, my nose was itchy, I was coughing and overall feeling dizzy," Shikha said. The organisation plans on moving the installation and getting a fresh one installed in front of a different hospital.
Despite the implementation of a ban on pollution-causing crackers and designating only two hours to burst only 'green' crackers, a move that was widely criticised by enthusiasts and cracker manufacturers alike, an estimated 5 million kilograms of crackers were burst in Delhi this Diwali.
The AQI was recorded at 999 in Delhi’s Anand Vihar and around Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, and at 459 in the Chanakyapuri area around the US embassy — all going well above the 'Hazardous' category. While some may enjoy the fireworks show, those that suffer the most due to the toxic air are children and old persons. Effects include breathing and respiratory problems, skin and eye infections, cough and continued exposure increases the chances of getting asthma or even lung cancer.