by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
NEW DELHI, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- An outlet in the highly-polluted capital city of India - New Delhi is selling residents a lease of what it claims "pure oxygen."
The outlet operating from one of the trendy shopping malls in South Delhi's Saket area is these days a major attraction among the people visiting the mall.
Opening up in May, the bar became a hit in the last week of October, because of the hazardous level of pollution in the city.
"For months together we went unnoticed but after Diwali people came here searching for us," said Abilash Singh, a sales associate at the Oxy Pure bar. "Due to the rise in pollution level, there has been an increase in the daily footfall here as people want to breathe pure air."
For the second week of October, pollution level in the city suddenly went up and it surpassed the hazardous mark after Hindu festival of lights - Diwali. The city's residents set off fireworks in thousands to celebrate the festival, thereby abundantly contributing to the rising pollution and choking its air.
At the bar customers are offered to inhale oxygen for 15 minutes in a session.
"Our prices start from 4 U.S. dollars and we offer oxygen in different flavors that soothe the mind, and for each flavor, there is a different price," Aarti Kumari, another sales associate at the bar said. "Right now we offer seven flavors - lavender, cinnamon, spearmint, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass and orange."
Inside the bar, customers are made to sit on a chair near the counter. A sales executive fastens nasal cannula close to their nose and adjusts the supply from the flasks on display. The cannula is a lightweight tube that brings oxygen supply near the nostrils from the flasks containing coloured liquid. Once the oxygen supply is switched on, the customer is directed to take deep breaths to inhale it.
"Two days back I came to know about this bar and today I am here along with my friends to give it a try," Atul Gupta, a customer said. "It was really nice to heave a fresh lease of oxygen."
Gupta said Indians were until now spending on things like packaged water and water purifiers, now they have to pay for clean air too.
The owner of the first-ever oxygen bar in Delhi says the concept exists abroad in many countries and he has experienced it in the United States two years back.
"I found the concept interesting and relevant to today's Delhi," Aryavir Kumar, the owner of the oxygen bar said. "Initially people were indifferent, but with pollution levels touching alarming levels all around in the city, now they agree there is a need for oxygen bar like ours."
Earlier this month, air quality in the city remained in a hazardous range for nine consecutive days, the longest spell so far.
Authorities were forced to announce a public health emergency and close down schools. The government also enforced a car rationing scheme for 10 days after levels of PM 2.5 PM 10 - the particulate matter that penetrates through the lungs into the bloodstream - in the air surpassed 999 micrograms at many locations.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) places the safe limit at 25 micrograms.
As per the car rationing scheme, known as odd-even formula, private cars with odd registration numbers are allowed to run on odd dates, while as even-numbered cars would ply on even dates.
Delhi tops the chart of the most polluted city in the world.
Industrial activities and vehicular traffic are significant contributors to air pollution in the city, along with rampant construction. For the past many years, every year around October-November, the air quality in Delhi becomes hazardous.
Officials in Delhi blame the stubble burning in neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana for the increasing pollution.