An outdoor activity organised in Delhi on Children’s Day by NGO Prayas on Thursday has attracted severe criticism on social media for exposing kids to severe air pollution.
The activity named “Run for children” was organised at a time when the Delhi government has been forced to shut schools for two days to prevent children from getting exposed to the high level of pollutants in the air.
Soon after the news about the activity was published in the media, Twitter was flooded with posts criticising the event and the organisers.
“Doctors in AIIMS are advising to put a halt on morning Walks and Exercises outside. Delhi kids doesn’t have the Lungs of Iron. What a pity (sic),” tweeted @Peaceful_Foodie.
Doctors in AIIMS are advising to put a halt on morning Walks and Exercises outside. Delhi kids doesn’t have the Lungs of Iron. What a pity.
— Dev 🇮🇳 (@Peaceful_Foodie) November 14, 2019
Another Twitter user @ragarwal said, “On one hand schools are closed due to pollution, on the other hand, this. Who’s the organiser?”
On one hand schools are closed due to pollution, on the other hand this. Who’s the organiser?https://t.co/kEtLfuxxn4 — Rohit Agarwal 🇮🇳 (@ragarwal) November 14, 2019
The activity which was publicised as a run in the media attracted criticism because the outdoor activity is strictly against the health advisory issued by experts, given the national capital’s hazardous air quality.
As per the latest air quality index published by Skymet, a weather forecast company, the index was at 517 in Dwarka Sector 8 and at 493 in Rohini on Thursday.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered ‘good’, 51-100 ‘satisfactory’, 101-200 ‘moderate’, 201-300 ‘poor’, 301-400 ‘very poor’, and 401-500 ‘severe’. Above 500 is ‘severe-plus or emergency’ category.
“Outdoor activity in this ambience should be minimised as much as possible. The outdoor air quality can cause chronic and acute health complications among children,” says Polash Mukherjee, an environmentalist based out of Delhi.
He added that chronic effect on health would show up in the long term such as reduced lung capacity, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases.
“Acute complications such as breathing problems asthma would exacerbate under such condition,” he warned.
But significantly, Vishwajeet Ghoshal, one of the directors of the NGO claimed that all requisite permissions were acquired from the authorities to hold the outdoor activity.
“The programme ‘Run for children’ was organised as an awareness campaign against child sexual abuse. But by half-past 10 in the morning, we were informed that the Government of Delhi has decided to shut down schools on 14 and 15 November. So, we decided not to keep the activity in the form of a run but in the form of a symbolic walk for a stretch of 300 metres,” he asserted.
Significantly, the air quality in Delhi has continuously been in the “very poor” category for more than two weeks. The All India Parents Association (AIPA) termed the Delhi government as ‘irresponsible’ for granting permission to organise outdoor activities involving children in the current atmosphere.
“If you (the government) permit outdoor activities for children amidst this crisis, then how is shutting down schools to avoid pollution is going to help the well-being of the children?” asked Ashok Agarwal an office-bearer in AIPA.
He also said that the Government of Delhi should avoid permitting such activities at any cost.
Earlier, the Delhi government had shut all schools for four days after a Supreme Court-mandated panel declared a public health emergency. The schools had reopened on 5 November after the air quality improved.
Later, Skymet issued another warning on 11 November. “We expect pollution will continue to remain in the very poor category until 15 November as two successive western disturbances are going to affect the western Himalayas. After the passage of the western disturbance, normal northwesterly winds with moderate speed will commence from the afternoon of 15 November,” it had said.