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Delhi: The Toxic City

Jama Masjid, Delhi – December 2016. Delhi is currently the world’s most polluted city. India’s largest mosque shrouded in pollution during the Noon Prayer, as pollution levels cross the safe limit by 17 times.


Delhi: The Toxic City, photo essay by Alice Rowsome


“Today, there is not so much pollution”, announces a bus driver with a smile. Although the sun is peaking through the smog today, PM2.5 levels are alarmingly high, around three times those of Beijing. The fact the bar has been set so low by residents is worrying.

This photo essay captures Delhi’s deadly shades of grey. As new research brings to light the devastating impact of air pollution on the capital’s resident’s health, turning a blind eye on this killer, is no option. With 48,651 premature deaths in Delhi in 2015, double what is was in 1995, more lives will be taken to pollution unless something is done, fast.

(by Alice Rowsome)


Hundreds of flights are regularly affected due to low visibility.

A man covers his nose during busy traffic. Many residents have been suffering from breathlessness, bad coughs, and stinging eyes.

The city’s Red Fort ‘Lal Qila’ goes grey.

Street children’s clothes are stained by pollution. A study found that just under half of Delhi’s 4.4 million school children are suffering irreversible lung damage. In fact, according to UNICEF ‘Clear the Air for Children’ a child is more likely to die from pollution than both malaria and HIV/Aids combined.

A construction site at the entrance to Chandni Chowk.

There are around 10 million vehicles in Delhi, nearly 5 times as much as in London. Efforts have been made by the government to reduce the amount of vehicles on the road. “It helped for a little bit,” a tuk-tuk driver shrugs, “but then people got round the legislation and now it is back to the same as before.”

For most people life goes on as normal.

Rush hour.

New research has shown that air pollution contributed to a total of 48,651 premature deaths in Delhi in 2015. This figure is double what is was in 1995.

All trees in Delhi are covered in a thick layer of grey dust.

Tuk-tuk drivers in their open vehicles are extremely vulnerable to the toxic fumes despite the fact that they, themselves have been made to use only compressed natural gas. “The pollution is so bad. My eyes sting when I’m on the road and when I go home”, complains a tuk-tuk driver, “I have to wash my face four to five times before they stop itching. But until then my eyes just sting a lot.”

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