The national capital’s air is certified unbreatheable. The latest in a long line of studies that have come down heavily on Delhi’s carcinogenic atmospheric conditions is the World Health Organisation’s 2014 report, which categorically brands the Indian capital as the most polluted city in the world, overshooting Beijing’s rather fuzzy figures. The WHO study of 1,600 cities not only underscores the observed fact that air pollution has worsened over the last few years, it also nails the truth about the cost of unchecked ‘growth and development’, which extracts a humongous price from our environment. WHO estimates show air pollution was the leading cause of deaths in 2012, killing about seven million that year, becoming the single biggest environmental health risk, according to the United Nations agency. In addition, Delhi’s unenviable average of 153 micrograms of small particulates, known as PM2.5 per cubic metre, makes it particularly susceptible to all the health risks associated with exposure to cancerous matters, apart from exacerbating heart and lung diseases and worsening breathing disorders. While the chief cause of air pollution remains vehicular emissions, other factors like industrial effluents, burning charcoal etc also contribute to the escalating pollution troubles. Without adequate environmental regulatory mechanism in place, with green norms ritually flouted at every level of operation, it is obvious that quality of air, water and land in the city, as well as other metropolises and townships in the country, has been on a downward spiral for years now. Moreover, the ever-growing city, like a monstrous black hole, threatens to gobble up the ecologies of adjacent areas as well, encroaching into forest territories, arable tracts and grasslands, only to satisfy its mammoth hunger for fuel and power. Delhi’s mushrooming suburbs drive reckless urbanisation which, in turn transforms fragile green spaces into barren lands, heedlessly cutting down forests and wildlife corridors to support deregulated industrialisation. If the IPCC report is to be believed, severe threats to environmental well being have already been unleashed and South Asia remains one of the world’s most heavily populated and polluted swathes.