Pollution Diaries

Pollution Diaries is a work of a collaborative writing, a small corpus of texts collected from an online platform that focuses on sharing everyday life experiences from one of the world’s most polluted cities. The online platform was active from May 2019 to April 2020, and the participants were students of the Czech language at the University of Delhi.


One of my friends shared a photo of this street. People are now going out, saying “Let’s get some fresh air.”
Shweta Kapoor, Rohini Sector 1, 8. 4. 2020 11:16 PM UTC +5:30

Birds are chirping all around; beautiful sunset, no honking cars.
Shweta Kapoor, Rohini Sector 8, 8. 4. 2020 8:07 PM +5:30

Under lockdown, there is silence everywhere. When I look at the sky, I can only see bluish layers and white clouds floating up there like cotton. Children have fun in the evenings flying kites on the rooftops.
Risabh Jain, Delhi Floor Mill, Roshanara Road, 2. 4. 2020 10:54 AM +5:30

Now, when there is peace everywhere, the sky is more blue day by day. I can clearly hear birds chirping. It is wonderful.
Himanshi Sharma, 2. 4. 2020, Karol Bagh +5:30

This is a view from my terrace today… After so many years, we now have such a beautiful sky. My mother told me that the weather used to be like this when she was around thirteen. It’s raining a lot, so the temperatures don’t go up. The blue sky gives me a feeling which I know from foreign movies, because they always have a clear sky…
Pragya Singh, Burari, 31. 3. 2020 9:07 PM

Only drugstores and grocery stores are open, but the vegetable market was crowded and the grocery stores were full of customers after the announcement of the 21-day lockdown. People are afraid of food shortages and shopkeepers are raising prices. Out of fear, people pay more without a second thought. Since the 22nd of March, the air quality has changed dramatically because of reduced traffic. Petrol pumps are running, but very few people go there.
Gaurav Thakur, Ghaziabad, 24. 3. 2020 2:53 AM

It has started to get sort of creepy here – all the embassies are flying their citizens back home… Today I went to the department to see if I could get in because I’d left my classroom in the middle of work. I don’t have a desk at home, so I always used the desk at the university, but everything is entirely shut down – not even the guards have keys. There was only this little dog who managed to get in… Scary, really scary…
Biliana Muller, Department of Slavonic and Finno-Ugrian Studies, University of Delhi, North Campus, 23. 3. 2020 2:22 PM

Delhi riots of just a few days ago. The riots began between protesters against the CAA and the NRC and their supporters. People barricaded roads and set cars, buses and shops on fire. People began to fire guns on the streets. I locked myself in my home with my family. The temples and mosques were also set on fire. I was stuck in my house for three days and my father could not even come home, he had to stay in the office.
Bhupendra Kumar, Gokal Puri, 6. 3. 2020 4:00 PM

This is the “Contactless revolution”, an Indian Railways train. Even after buying a ticket, passengers can’t find a place to sit.
Bhupendra Kumar, 29. 2. 2020 10:35 PM

This is a picture of the opposite side of the road, just a few steps away. Since it is barren land, people do not think twice before throwing anything out there. It doesn’t stink yet but I think that it will look exactly like the opposite side of the road soon.
Pragya Singh, Burari, 28. 2. 2020 7:42 PM

This is an open sewer near my house. People come here to empty their dustbins into the water as if it’s perfectly normal to do that. But it stinks a lot and the sewer isn’t protected by any barrier. When it fills up, the liquid from the sewer mixes with trash and spills onto the road and makes it slippery. When it is raining, the locals can’t cross the road. They have to take a different route to reach their homes.
Pragya Singh, Burari, 28. 2. 2020 7:41 PM


This is the outer road of Bhalaswa Dairy. Everyday, I see the animals looking for something to eat in the heaps of garbage. Most of them swallow plastic bags because they smell something edible inside, or they eat other harmful stuff. Their owners milk them, but do not feed them enough. There is a colony across the road and the residents are slowly changing this site into a dumping ground.
Pragya Singh, Burari, 24. 2. 2020 1:45 PM

In this picture, you can see the animals looking for something to eat. There is a large lake beside the garbage heap, and the water quality is very poor, there is not a single fish there … It gradually decreases in size as people throw trash and cow dung in the water. Ten years ago, I would go there to play in the park and paddle a boat. But as the population has gone up so has the pollution.
Pragya Singh, Burari, 24. 2. 2020 1:44 PM

In the South Delhi neighbourhood of Kalkaji, there is a busy intersection with no traffic lights. There is always a traffic jam in this extremely crowded area. Since everyone wants to be the first to cross the road, the honking never stops.
Perry Zutshi, Kalkaji, 23. 2. 2020 8:49 AM

This is a picture of the sewer system. As you can see, it is filled up with plastic bags and other trash. A local lady told me that people throw their garbage out there, and dirty water from the whole area drains there, too. Her children can’t go out to play because of all the trash. The government doesn’t provide any MCD vehicles to collect the garbage. Even in my neighborhood, we have to hire a private garbage collector.
Pragya Singh, Burari, 18. 2. 2020 9:24 AM

These pictures are from a government school playground. I have to go that way to catch my bus whenever I am late for my university classes, but it’s difficult since I have to breathe the smell of the garbage. The people who live there told me that the government doesn’t provide garbage containers and garbage trucks do not often come by.
Manish Gupta, Shiv Mandir Tri Nagar, Shakurpur, 18. 2. 2020 9:38 PM

As I was walking down this street, I could clearly see dust particles in the light. The people who live there told me that they often cough and black dirt comes out whenever they blow their noses.
Man Mohan, Mehrauli, 1. 11. 2019 11:17 PM

I was at Kalindi Kunj for the festival, we have to go down to the Yamuna River. There was a lot of foam floating in the water. People said that the foam is from chemicals in the river whenever water is released from the dam.
Pryianshi Gupta, Kalindi Kunj, 3. 11. 2019 6:45 AM

The situation is becoming unmanageable. The wind is carrying in a massive blanket of smog. Reports say that the rapid increase in pollution is because farmers are burning field stubble in the neighbouring states. I saw children coughing and the number of patients in hospitals is going up, too.
Sumanshu Rao, Badli Railway metro station, 2. 11. 2019 5:07 PM

Today, a man with a smoke machine came to repel mosquitoes and other insects. It works, but the smoke makes it hard to breathe.
Pryianshi Gupta, Moujpur, 1. 11. 2019 9:18 PM

It has been a week since I saw the sky. There is a constant itching in my throat. The horizon has disappeared due to smog, which blurs all the sharp edges like in da Vinci’s sfumato. I can recall one Diwali from my childhood 20 years ago. I also set off firecrackers after ‘Laxmi puja’. I got burned a few times, yeah. When I grew up, I stopped doing that, because I could understand its environmental impact. Unfortunately, most Indians have not. Setting off firecrackers is a status symbol.
Gaurav Thakur, Ghaziabad, 1. 11. 2019 4:39 PM

Before, we would sit in the campus park, but it is impossible now. People like me, who are allergic to dust, face a lot of discomfort. My eyes become extremely itchy.
Abishek Stephen, University of Delhi, North Campus, 31. 10. 2019 9:24 PM

Another day, another toxic photo. Poor visibility, bad air. Gas chamber.
Sumanshu Rao, Badli Railway metro station, 31. 10. 2019 8:54 PM

A pollution mask. Let’s see if it can help with the toxic air of the city. Even the Delhi government provides breathing masks for free, they are going to distribute around 5 million of them to students in public and private schools starting on the 1st of November.
Sumanshu Rao, Siraspur, 31. 10. 2019 8:53 PM

Right now, at Kashmiri Gate metro station it is so dusty that everything has become blurry and it makes me choke.
Pryianshi Gupta, Kashmiri Gate metro station, 31. 10. 2019 1:21 PM

A post-Diwali photo. The air pollution irritates my eyes and causes breathing problems. The visibility is poor. Delhi has turned into a gas chamber. Firecrackers have been banned, but people still find a way to buy them. I think there were not so many firecrackers set off as there were one year ago, but the air quality is terrible anyway.
Sumanshu Rao, Badli metro station, 30. 10. 2019   6:47 PM

People burn their trash out in public near my house. After a while it starts to smell bad and then I have breathing problems from the clouds of black smoke.
Vishal Sen, Burari, Sant Nagar, 14. 9. 2019 9:17 PM

I was travelling from Uttarakhand back to Delhi. There are a lot of sugar mills on the way, and this is one of them. The smoke constantly coming from the mills makes breathing difficult and smells very bad.
Pryianshi Gupta, railway Uttarakhand – Delhi, 8. 9. 2019 3:25 PM

I am happy to see a clear sky. I never noticed before that Delhi can be so beautiful when there is not so much smog in the air.
Sumanshu Rao, Siraspur, 26. 9. 2019 5:32 PM

Today, the air was clear and the visibility was also good, but it was very hot, which is unusual in the last week of September. We have never experienced such weather, and so I caught the flu.
Sumanshu Rao, Siraspur, 25. 9. 2019   4:20 PM

The buses in Delhi are packed full everyday. I don’t like being pressed on all sides by sweaty people.
Bhupendra Kumar, Gokal Puri, 17. 9. 2019 7:38 AM

It is annoying to have to clean my glasses every few minutes. You can’t see the dust with the naked eye, but it is there everytime. To see through the dust – a superhuman skill.
Sumanshu Rao, Siraspur, 20. 9. 2019 5:19 PM

This evening, there was a dust storm on my way home. It irritated my throat and eyes. 

Bhupendra Kumar, Gokal Puri, 25. 9. 2019 12:36 AM

I saw sparrows today for the first time after a long time. They were drinking water and feeding. Some of them flew away as I tried to take a picture. There were so many of them. I miss their chirping.
Sumanshu Rao, Badli Railway Station, 1. 10. 2019 6:50 PM

There is this 62-meter-high mountain of garbage. I always pass it on my way home. Whenever the wind blows, it carries an awful smell.
Param Dharam Singh, Bhalswa landfill, 2. 10. 2019 6:50 PM

This gentleman comes on his bicycle to sell lemons, ginger, garlic, coriander and mint. My family always offers him a drink of water, since he is totally exhausted because of the heat.
Sumanshu Rao, Siraspur, 4. 8. 2019 7:52 PM

I overheard the customer asking this pineapple seller why he doesn’t come to their neighborhood anymore. He told him he is too old to deal with the heat.
Sumanshu Rao, Paharganj, 4.8. 2019 7:39 PM

My computer has been damaged by dust particles several times. I would always cover it, but dust would find its way to the motherboard anyway. And the first words I hear everyday are: It’s not a good morning, it’s so dusty.
Sumanshu Rao, Siraspur, 22. 6. 2019 3:13 PM

I rescued this bird from the ditch. In the 90s, many kinds of birds lived in Delhi, but because of pollution many of them have disappeared.
Bhupendra Kumar, Gokal Puri, Delhi, 23. 6. 2019 5:50 PM

I have to clean my plants everyday because their leaves get so dusty.
Bhupendra Kumar, Gokalpuri, 12. 6. 2019 12:41 AM

There is a huge vacant lot opposite my home. When it’s so hot, we have to sprinkle the road with water every few hours, otherwise it is like an oven.

Pragya Singh, Burari, 14. 6. 2019 10:10 PM

Last week, I suffered heatstroke because the difference in the temperature of the air conditioned room and the afternoon Delhi streets was 22° C. It took me two days to recover.
Gaurav Thakur, Ghaziabad, 6. 6. 2019 12:58 PM

This street dog is trying to find a cool place to lie down and rest from this heat wave. I fill his bowl with water and feed him everyday, but he always seems exhausted. He doesn’t eat and play like he did a few months ago.
Sumanshu Rao, Siraspur, 6. 6. 2019 1:38 PM

People burn the garbage here and when they do, it always makes me cough. It bothers me to see the animals eating plastic bags when they are searching for food.
Pragya Singh, Burari, 15. 5. 2019 10:00 AM

The water is always very dirty. Whenever I bathe, my skin itches. There are a lot of broken statues of Hindu goddesses in the river.

Vishal Sen, Yamuna river, 18. 5. 2019 3:38 PM