Environment

Dean of Diplomatic Corps Flags Concern Over Delhi Pollution

With reports of foreign diplomats having left Delhi trickling in, the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to India met with MEA officials on Friday to share the diplomatic community’s concerns.

Vendors selling drinks stand beside vehicles near the India Gate war memorial on a smoggy day in New Delhi February 1, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files

Last month, the Costa Rican envoy to India left Delhi because of the pollution and temporarily relocated to Karnakata. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: With smog continuing to smother Delhi, the head of the capital’s large diplomatic community met with the external affairs ministry to convey concerns from his colleagues about the impact of the pollution on operations.

Air purifiers at office and home have been a fixture of diplomats in Delhi for the last few years, but the continuous grey blanket enveloping the city has spiked concerns.

On Friday, Dominican Republic’s ambassador to India, Frank Has Dannenberg Castellanos met with ministry’s chief of protocol Sanjay Verma on this issue.

“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,” said Castellanos in a press release issued by his office. He has been the dean of diplomatic corps of around 150 foreign missions in Delhi for the last last two years.

When asked whether there had been any cutting of personnel from Delhi, Castellanos indicated that there were some, but were largely “isolated cases” and “very personal decisions from some diplomats”.

Costa Rican envoy to India,= Mariela Cruz Alvarez had penned a blogpost last month where she wrote about her temporary relocation to Karnataka to recuperate from respiratory illness brought on by Delhi’s pollution.

The Thai ambassador wrote back to headquarters asking for Delhi to be designated as a “hardship” posting, which would allow for better access to staff welfare measures.

There have been reports of foreign diplomats cutting back their tenures to leave Delhi with family health being a priority.

The Dominican envoy made it clear that he was aware that MEA could not do much on the pollution issue, but due to rising concerns from the rest of the diplomatic community wanted to convey this to the government of India.

“I think that the geopolitical importance of India will not allow a diminishment of Embassy activities. Just measures have to be taken,” he told The Wire.

He noted that the pollution, of course, doesn’t impact just the diplomatic community, but all the residents of Delhi and any measures will have to be taken for the greater good.

The senior MEA official told Castellanos said that 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”.

Verma said that Indian government had taken several steps and others were in the pipeline.

“The conditions affecting us are historically, not unique to India alone. These challenges are by products of rapid economic growth and development are known to have affected several countries. We committed to dealing with this issue, including learning from best practices emerging from countries that have traversed this experience,” the ministry’s chief of protocol was quoted as saying in the press note.