Pressure mounts for clean air in Delhi

  • 04/11/2015

World leaders will meet later this month to discuss a new approach to tackling climate change.

The United Nations wants every country to sign a legally binding agreement to cut carbon emissions.

The resolution would target countries like India, which is home to the world's most polluted city, Delhi, where air pollution kills someone every 18 minutes.

There are more than 8 million vehicles in Delhi, with almost 1500 more added every day. Each one belches out toxic clouds of tiny particles that can reach deep into people's lungs.

Every hour, three people in the city die because of the bad air. But those clouds also contain greenhouse gases, such as ozone and carbon dioxide, whose impacts will be felt by all of us around the world.

The city is growing fast, and its people are choking in the process.

In Chandni Chowk, at the heart of Old Delhi, it's a continual stream of people and traffic – one of the most polluted parts of the city. A few minutes there and it is hard to breathe. Your eyes begin to water.

There are 10 times more dangerous particles in the air in the city than in London. It's 20 times worse than international safe guidelines.

At the city's leading chest hospital, doctors are having to keep their clinics open longer every day to deal with the growing numbers coming in with asthma, lung diseases and worse.

Twenty-two-year-old Mangal Yadav is a Delhi local who's had breathing problems for years.

"This is what should happen to someone 70 or older. It shouldn't have happened to me."

Cleaning up the environment is a priority, says Indian Nobel laureate and children's rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi.

"We will make suicide if we are not able to do it now. Are we not going on the path of suicide if we are not able to protect air and water and earth? We have to do it now. We are already late. We have to be accountable to our children, not just for their safety but for the safety of the planet."

Doctors in Delhi are already seeing the possible impacts of polluted air on newborns. Some have birth defects; others are born drastically underweight.

There are signs of that already in the local children who have no option but to grow up in the pollution. They already carry permanent damage.

The dust and the pollution mean their lungs and hearts won't develop properly – problems they will carry until adulthood.

The government in Delhi has managed to clean up the air in the past by forcing buses and taxis in the city centre to use cleaner fuels.

Public pressure to deal with the pollution is growing once more, and campaigners are confident that if the problem was tackled once, they could tackle it again. They're demanding tougher emissions standards for vehicles and investment in better public transport options.

Until the city can show concrete steps to clean its air, its citizens will continue to choke, and the rest of the world needs to stay on alert.

Watch the video for the full ITV News report.