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The Air in Delhi

by James Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage all to consider their own contribution to global pollution.

Preparation and materials

  • Gather some images of air pollution, together with how people cope with its effects in cities such as Delhi and Beijing, and have the means to display them during the assembly.
  • Choose some music that reflects the sombre nature of the images and have the means available to play it at the end of the assembly.


  1. Display the images of pollution and so on during the assembly.

    Pollution affects people all over the world. Whether it is dirty water, rubbish or noise, it always makes their lives worse. Air pollution is also common – caused by what comes out of cars, power stations and airplanes. Imagine air pollution so bad that it becomes life-threatening. For millions of residents in New Delhi, the capital of India, they don't have to imagine it, it is all too real.

  2. Around half of the 4.4 million schoolchildren in Delhi have a respiratory illness, caused by the severely polluted air in the city. The poisonous air is caused by burning rubbish, coal and diesel fuel, which release toxins into the atmosphere. The air in Delhi is so toxic that, were similar levels of toxicity to be found in the United States of America, the government would recommend children not play outside. As one researcher put it in The New York Times, 'If you have the option to live elsewhere, you should not raise children in Delhi'.

  3. Recently, President Obama made a state visit to India. According to scientists, the three days he spent in Delhi have taken six hours off his life. Diplomats with families are being urged to reconsider taking up posts in Delhi because of the effects the poisonous air may have on their children.

    Delhi residents are used to the pollution and accept the hardships it brings. While white surgical masks are a common sight in less polluted Beijing, they are not so popular in Delhi.

  4. What the effects on the health of children and others in Delhi show is that large numbers of people can have a significant - and often bad - effect on the environment. Delhi would not be a dangerous place for children to breathe if everyone knew the damaging effects their actions would have and took steps to avoid them.

  5. Of course, this is not just Delhi's problem. Each person in the industrialized world - because of the cars, planes and other things we choose to buy and do - has an effect on the Earth. It is up to all of us to keep our local environments clean and healthy and look out for the wider world, too. If we do not, the whole world could become like Delhi – a place where children cannot breathe safely.

Time for reflection

Let's just think a little bit about our own lifestyles  . . .  While we may not be burning coal ourselves, our demand for new technology, electricity and transport by cars and planes contributes daily to the overall pollution in the world’s atmosphere.

How could each one of us consume just a little less each day, make greener choices and so help to reduce the pollution around us and the world’s population?


Chosen reflective music 

Publication date: October 2015   (Vol.17 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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