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15 Nov, 2019 09:40

‘Theater of the absurd’: Delhi kids run mini marathon as city drowns in toxic smog (PHOTOS)

‘Theater of the absurd’: Delhi kids run mini marathon as city drowns in toxic smog (PHOTOS)

Delhi residents are incensed that children were allowed to run in a mini marathon as the city continues to choke on toxic smog which forced schools to close on Thursday and Friday.

Roughly 1,000 kids participated in the ‘Run for Children’ marathon, which took place on the morning of November 14, despite the Air Quality Index reaching over 500 in at least five city boroughs, indicating extreme respiratory risks to the general public.

The event was organized by the children’s NGO Prayas to celebrate Children’s Day and to mark the birth anniversary of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

India’s anti-pollution authority ordered the closure of schools across the greater Delhi metropolitan area while the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) warned people against working outdoors for prolonged periods and urged them to try to work from home. 

“Run for Children… in severe pollution? Theater of the absurd,” said Shashank Jaitely, a Twitter user, in response to the event.

“What the Hell?!!! They have closed schools for two days due to Delhi Air Pollution and these people are making kids participate in a ‘Run.’ Who were the organizers?!!! Parents too need to be blamed,” another irate user asked.

Prayas General Secretary Amod Kanth described the run as ‘symbolic,’ adding that the length had been shortened due to the appalling atmospheric conditions. 

“The children did not run a long distance. It was a short run,” Kanth told Reuters.

“They come voluntarily here... We got permissions from the police, permission from the government, permission for this place.”

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While Delhi itself is home to some 20 million people, health experts estimate up to 200 million people could be affected by the smog, which has largely been blamed on unrestrained crop burning, as well as vehicle emissions and industrial fumes. 

“It is a national health emergency the kind no country has ever known before that is gravely affecting hundreds of millions of Indians,” prominent historian on the environment and columnist, Ramachandra Guha, told Reuters.

Thus far, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has remained largely silent about the escalating Delhi air emergency, which has also been dubbed a “major national health catastrophe.”

India has 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, according to Greenpeace.

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