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Going undeterred, against the odds

Going undeterred, against the odds

Despite the unprecedented levels of pollution that enveloped the Nation Capital Territory, the Delhi Half Marathon saw significantly more people than last year register themselves. There was a variety of people from far and wide who participated. From the 30,000 that had taken part in the race in 2015, the numbers soared to 35,000 this year. Among the elite runners were 24 top contestants from abroad who will vie for the top prize of USD 27,000 each in both men's and women's category. One of the top half marathons of the world in its just concluded 13th edition was not spared from controversies for being in Delhi. The Indian Medical Association insisted on its cancellation due to the heavy smog in the national capital. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is calculated on the basis of five major pollutants - the ground level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

The AQI levels have been graded in the range of 0-500. AQI level from 0-50 are satisfactory and pose little or no risk. Moderate AQI is from 51-100, posing risk to a very small number of people, particularly those who are sensitive to ozone. The levels from 101-150 can be harmful to persons who are already suffering from respiratory problems or heart diseases; children and elderly are at a higher risk. From 151-200 are unhealthy levels for every citizen while the sensitive groups may experience more serious effects and levels between 201 and 300 send more serious alerts. AQI levels beyond 300 indicate an emergency situation. Just a fortnight ago in Delhi, the AQI levels that touched 999 and the state government had to declare a public health emergency.

Despite this alarming situation, very few runners wore pollution masks during the race, presumably because it hampered their efficiency in finishing the race. It has been emphasised and asserted time and again that air pollution and environmental degradation are not concerns limited to the physical environment. The repercussions of degraded air quality go far beyond the air and eventually hampers the performance of people. Most migrants labours do not have any medical cover and in the event of any sickness are left to suffer without any significant care. They contribute significantly to the economy despite being unorganised. It must be foreseen that jeopardised public health can certainly impact the economy adversely. The instances of US-based United Airlines refusing to fly to Delhi asserts this concern. The slowdown in inbound tourist traffic could hit hotels and commercial businesses that ultimately cuts unorganised employment in tourist spots. Controlling pollution has to be a top priority because only then, other measures of development will bear fruits.

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