Will Smog Destroy New Delhi’s $80 Billion Economy?

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By some measures, New Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. It is also one of the largest urban economies in the region, with a state domestic economy estimated at $80 billion. That puts it on par with New Mexico. New Delhi’s economy could collapse under the weight of air that chokes off the ability of its population to go to work or to school.

How bad is the air pollution today? According to the Times of India:

“Air pollution in Delhi-NCR is not just devastating the environment but harmful amount of gases, dust, fumes and odour are causing breathing problems to people,” said D S Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM while releasing the chamber’s survey.

“Companies should offer employees flexible working hours to cope with this problem,” said Rawat. “Environment and air pollution related issues might hurt brand India and hit sectors like tourism, outdoor recreation as people tend to stay away from polluted areas so as not to breathe in dense and toxic air,” he said.

“Sick days together with vistis to hospital might impact middle class people the most as high levels of pollution are linked to serious chronic illnesses, like heart disease and lung cancer, which are costly to treat,” added Rawat.

Currently, schools are shuttered in the city, due to high air pollution.

The problem will persist indefinitely, as it has in the recent past. According to National Geographic:

From the skies above to the ground below, Delhi is polluted. This Indian territory, which includes the capital city of New Delhi, is half the size of Rhode Island, and is home to twice the population of New York City.

Beijing, China, often makes headlines for its polluted air, but a global study of air pollution in 2014 by the World Health Organization found that Delhi’s air contained several times more fine particulate pollution than Beijing’s. By most measurements, it’s the most polluted area in the world.

The city is essentially shut down several days of the year. As the pollution gets worse, that could grow to weeks or longer. No economy can thrive under these conditions.

New Delhi may be the first large global city to have its financial strength ruined by air pollution.