Smog in Delhi Alarms Diplomatic Community

Envoys posted in Delhi urge the Indian government to address the issue of air pollution.


The toxic smog and the high pollution level of Delhi has alarmed the diplomatic community residing in the national capital. Envoys of various countries urged External Affairs Ministry officials recently to request the government to address the concerns.

“The diplomatic community had asked me to share some of our concerns with officials of the Ministry of External Affairs, about air pollution in New Delhi, and how it is affecting the inflow of tourism from some of our countries and the daily operations of some of the Missions,” Frank Has Dannenberg Castellanos, the ambassador of Dominican Republic to India, who has been the dean of diplomatic corps of around 150 foreign missions in Delhi for the last two years, said, according to reports.

The diplomat noted that this is an issue that affects not just the diplomat community but the residents of the capital city as well. “We all breathe the same air,” he said.

Chief of Protocol Sanjay Verma of Ministry of External Affairs took note of the concerns. “The unusual deterioration in the quality of air is a product of multiple causes, most of which are indeed domestic, but have also been aggravated by a dust storm from a distant geography,” he said, alluding to the dust storm that hit Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and was said to have contributed to the worsening of the Delhi smog.

He also assured Castellanos that several new pro-active actions are being considered by the government to tackle the problem.

While air purifiers have been a fixture at the offices of the diplomats, many of them have also started installing it at home. “Not every embassy can afford to buy purifiers. And how many can one buy? With quality of life going down with air quality, this will become a hardship posting,” a diplomat told the New Indian Express.

Thai ambassador Chutintorn Gongsakdi had, in fact, written to his headquarters, asking for Delhi to be designated as a hardship posting, which is a diplomat category for sensitive and conflict-ridden areas. Many countries pay hardship allowance to officials serving in such countries. “The efforts of embassies are to seek additional measures from our own governments,” the ambassador, the New Indian Express reported.

The envoy of Costa Rica to India, Mariela Cruz Alvarez, relocated to Bengaluru to recuperate from respiratory illness caused by the toxic Delhi air. Her blog post about her relocation, which later went viral, said, “We need to wake up fast. India I love you and it hurts me to see you drowning in loads of plastic and toxic air.”

Verma, meanwhile, said that the conditions affecting India are historically not unique to the country alone. “These challenges are by-products of rapid economic growth and development, and are known to have affected several countries. We are committed to dealing with this issue, including learning from best practices emerging from countries that have traversed this experience,” he added.

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