New Delhi’s pollution crisis needs no introduction at all. While the pollution crisis in Delhi is not something recent, however, the intensity has only increased in the past 5-6 years. With ever increasing population fighting for resources coupled by the laxity on the part of the policy makers, the burden on the environment had to increase naturally. Their laxity has only proven to be lethal, especially for those who don’t have access to cheeky air-purifiers and those who could not manage to express their dissatisfaction on twitter with funky hashtags.
The news cycles were occupied during this month with visuals from the National Capital, apocalyptic pictures were published extensively. The government’s response to the crisis was as comic as it could get, after all “why so serious?”. The Kejriwal run state government jumped to improve the aesthetics of the Yamuna River, when pictures of it laden with toxic foams went viral. They deployed their officials to sprinkle clean water on the river and their men in boats worked hard to remove the foam accumulated on top of the river. The river should have proper aesthetics after all. The state opposition, the BJP, was quick to blame the Delhi government for the water pollution. The AAP government and the BJP held press conferences after press conferences, doing anything but devising solutions to the problem.
For improving the air quality, the Delhi government decided to sprinkle water on the roads to “settle dust” but seemed reluctant to advertise about their several hundred smog towers being installed throughout the city. With illegal mining in the Aravalli ranges running through Haryana, the National Capital Region’s green cover is under serious threat. The untreated industrial waste in the form of toxic effluents released directly into the river or the smoke rising from chimneys from industrial units surrounding Delhi – in Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Faridabad etc. have also led to an increase in pollution.
What is not funny is that the pollution crisis is not just limited to the National Capital Region (although the news cycle is), but is spread across India. At any given time, the worst performing cities in terms of Air Quality are from Uttar Pradesh. In cities from the east, whether from Bihar or West Bengal, or cities like Dhanbad in Jharkhand, pulmonary issues among people are quite prevalent. The catastrophe is persistent across states, spanning the entire political spectrum. Researchers from Harvard University have found that one thirds of deaths reported across the country are caused due to air pollution, which means more than 25 lakh lives are lost because of the laxity on the part of the government and the casual attitude of the population towards the grave problem.
November was also the month when the Climate Summit was organised in Glasgow, where leaders from around the globe made tall promises of being carbon neutral by the middle of this century and how they need to be accountable to the future generations. All the promises seem to be trivial, especially when there is no discussion back home despite statistics pointing to such a large number of deaths due to pollution. Not only is it an environmental challenge, but also a socio-economical one as it is those in the bottom of the economic hierarchy who are most exposed to toxic pollutants and who lack access to quality healthcare.
The problem is well known to each of us. Inter-governmental blame game is the last thing that the people need at this hour. What India needs is solution; solution to its air crisis, to its dying rivers and increasingly toxic water table. It needs stricter regulations for its industries and a more proactive governmental approach. Some textbook solutions to the problem would be increasing the green cover in the cities, better civil planning, better sewage treatment infrastructure, better public transportation facilities, monetary incentives to farmers to avoid stubble burning and a transparent and accountable political leadership. Now is the time for some action.
Aditya Jha is a student pursuing Psychology from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Farzan Ghani