Clean bowled by smog

Published: Saturday 30 November 1996

The English said it before. And the Australians have said it now. But the fact remains that New Delhi continues to display its polluted profile to visiting cricketers, so much so that the Australian cricket team has vowed not to have the capital city in its itinerary as a future venue for tournaments.

Said the Australian team manager and Cricket Board director Cam Battersby, "The pollution in Delhi is such that we should give serious consideration before coming back to play any more cricket here," and added cuttingly, "I have heard it said that Delhi is the fourth most polluted city in the world -- if that is so, I would like to see the other three." According to a report in The Australian , a newspaper published from Sydney, the visiting team members have suffered from eye and respiratory problems while staying in the city.

Reacting with undue alacrity, environment officials were quick to defend the air in Delhi and trotted the cliched retort that the Australians complained of pollution only after losing to India in the test match and that such statements were simply not cricket. Instead of accepting that the capital's air had gone from bad to worse, Delhi's environment secretary D S Negi said that Delhi, compared to other cities in the world, fared similarly with respect to carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide pollution. The tag that Delhi so ignominiously bore about it being the fourth most polluted city in the world was more due to suspended air particles, a direct result of the presence of many industries, felt Negi.

Earlier, it was the turn of the English cricketers to complain of perennial 'smogscreens' during the 1992-93 series with India ( Down To Earth , Vol 1, No 20). It is indeed a matter of shame that Delhi's citizens and tourists from abroad are forced to inhale polluted air while the mandarins in the environment ministry continue to adopt an indifferent stance.

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