Home World UNITED KINGDOM Smog-infested Delhi slum that may prove link between pollution and Covid-19 levels

Smog-infested Delhi slum that may prove link between pollution and Covid-19 levels

The record-breaking pollution levels in Sukhdev Vihar are exacerbated by a waste-to-energy plant that pumps out toxic gasses every evening.

“I receive a lot of patients with breathing difficulties, especially in October and November” explains Dr M. Rehman, who runs a clinic in the neighbourhood.

“Many inhabitants are asthmatics and are forced to use inhalers, even the younger generation, and I have seen many people die of pulmonary disorders.”

Fazlul Haq, 78, lies motionless in bed waiting for his daughter to change his oxygen cylinder. He considers himself one of the lucky ones.

Mr Haq, who lives 800 metres away from the plant, developed interstitial lung disease (IDL) two years ago and his doctors say there is “no other explanation” for his condition other than long-term exposure to pollution.

IDL causes stiffness in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe and get oxygen into the bloodstream.

“Every year my father faces difficulty during the pollution months but this year was the worst for him after he contracted Covid-19,” explains his daughter, Nausheen Fazal.

With his lungs crippled by exposure to long-term pollutants, Mr Haq has spent six weeks battling Covid-19 on an intensive care unit ward in Holy Family Hospital.  

To the surprise of doctors he survived but Mr Haq faces an uncertain future, according to Dr Ray, as his lungs are once again exposed to the toxic air.

Despite growing public outrage the Delhi Government has failed to make any dent in lowering pollution levels.

Politicians are cautious to limit industrial growth and attempts to curb stubble burning have failed in surrounding states, with the practice so entrenched.

The Delhi government did not respond to requests for comment.

The Indian government has warned that the city will see 15,000 new Covid-19 cases by December and the fatality rate could rise, due to hospital staffing shortages and a lack of ICU beds.

“I was in the hospital for over two months because my lungs were already only working at 30 percent capacity. I’m now forced to use an oxygen cylinder,” gasped Mr Haq.

“It is because of the pollution and the government’s neglect of it that people like me are suffering.”

Additional reporting by Cheena Kapoor

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