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Record level of poor air

Doctors confirmed that continuous exposure to such high pollution can trigger temporary or permanent ailments in players

Jayanta Basu New Delhi Published 04.11.19, 08:47 PM
In this Sunday, November 3, 2019, photo, vehicles wait for a signal at a crossing as the city enveloped in smog in New Delhi, India

In this Sunday, November 3, 2019, photo, vehicles wait for a signal at a crossing as the city enveloped in smog in New Delhi, India AP

The national capital's air pollution broke all records on Sunday, both during the day and the evening, when India and Bangladesh played the first T20I, prompting environmentalists to demand consideration of air pollution as a key index in scheduling or continuing any international cricket match.

Doctors confirmed that continuous exposure to such high pollution with enhanced physical activity can not only trigger temporary or permanent ailments in players but may also impact performance.


The Telegraph checked the air quality index (AQI) values of three automatic air pollution measurement stations - Lodhi Road, Chandni Chowk and PUSA - around the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Sunday evening and found that the values hovered around the 700 mark, considered a severe level. Delhi overall touched the 999+ AQI figure during the day on Sunday, the highest measurable pollution. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, if the AQI falls in the 'severe' category, it affects healthy people and seriously impacts those with prevailing diseases. When the match ended around 10.25pm on Sunday, while Lodhi Road and PUSA AQI figures were still above 700, Chandni Chowk had come down to 464, still severe.

'Now's the time that ICC and BCCI should start thinking about integrating air pollution consideration within the scheduling of games as well as its continuation on a particular day. As we have bad light, rain or other clauses when the match has to be temporarily stopped, similarly ICC should come out with a standard below which the game should not continue,' Harjeet Singh, climate head of ActionAid, told The Telegraph.

Singh said it was intriguing how the match could continue when the government had closed down schools and advised as little outdoor and physical activity as possible to save one from choking the lungs.

Anumita Roy Choudhury, an air pollution expert with the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said that in future the scheduling of cricket matches should be done considering air pollution. 'BCCI president Sourav Ganguly has himself acknowledged that in future they will be sensitive to air pollution,' said Roy Choudhury.

Former cricketers agreed that though not much thought had gone into such issues earlier, in this era of acute air pollution something needs to be done. 'Once a cricket match of such scale is organised, it is difficult to be changed at short notice, but the BCCI can take help of experts to find a solution,' said former cricketer Arun Lal.

Raja Venkat, a former first-class cricketer and national selector, proposed that the ICC and BCCI could think of using some technology to reduce the pollution impact on the ground or adjoining areas, if possible.

'Exposure to extremely high air pollution load, as was the case in Delhi on Sunday, may trigger respiratory and related ailments in those cricketers who already have some underlying problems, and can also impact fully fit cricketers. The impact may be temporary like sneezing, bronchial issues and likewise or permanent lung problems,' said pulmonologist Raja Dhar.

Dhar pointed out that physical sports force a player to gulp in more air - and hence more pollutants - and thus make them more vulnerable compared to normal people.

'Not only physical threats, their performance may also suffer,' said Dhar.

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