Cricket World Cup: Poor air quality in Delhi and Mumbai sets alarm bells ringing

Indian cricket board calls off fireworks display as pollution levels rise

An anti-smog gun blows vapourised water into the air and on the trees to curb air pollution in Mumbai. EPA
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The ongoing Cricket World Cup is facing a new set of problems as the tournament reaches a decisive stage.

As the battle heats up for the semi-final spots, factors beyond the field are threatening to leave their mark on a tournament that was already plagued by organisational issues.

Over the past few weeks, the air quality in Delhi and Mumbai has deteriorated alarmingly, posing a serious health risk to players and spectators.

The air quality index (AQI) in Delhi has plummeted. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the AQI figures in Delhi have already breached the 300 mark, categorising it as “very poor”, and there is every chance the air quality will fall into the “severe” category where outdoor activities are not advised.

This is generally the period in north India when the onset of winter, changing wind patterns and pollution from stubble burning in farmlands combine to create one of the most unhealthy air conditions in the world.

The national capital is set to host one more match at the World Cup – between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on Monday. Chances are, players and spectators will have a tough time in that game.

The situation is equally grim in Mumbai. Pollution levels dropped alarmingly over the past few weeks. The AQI levels in various parts of the city reported “very poor” and “severe” levels of pollutants. The local government has been forced to spray water through heavy machines across the city to tackle the situation.

The Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai next hosts a clash between India and Sri Lanka on Thursday. Ahead of the match, India captain Rohit Sharma took to Instagram to express his shock at the pollution level in the city. He posted a photo from the airplane, showing a thick blanket of smog covering the city, with the caption: “Mumbai, what has happened?”

On Wednesday, the Indian cricket board announced that there won't be any fireworks during the matches in Mumbai.

“The BCCI acknowledges the urgent concern surrounding air quality in both Mumbai and New Delhi. While we strive to host the World Cup in a manner befitting the celebration of cricket, we remain steadfast in our commitment to prioritising the health and safety of all our stakeholders,” it said in a statement.

The situation is concerning as Mumbai is set to host two more matches after the India v Sri Lanka match, including the semi-final.

Updated: November 02, 2023, 5:20 AM