“You have to pay the price for living in Delhi”, a helpless reaction, that my doctor gave a few years back, citing this to be the major cause behind recurrent respiratory problems in our small off springs.
I didn’t pay much heed to it then, believing it to be a common occurrence with younger children. However, now , years later, a rather dismal addition to my knowledge of the city i call home, instills an unseen fear in me.
It is more than disheartening to accept the fact that 2.2 million children in Delhi have ‘irreversible lung damage ‘due to the poor quality of air. An alarming reality indeed!
Not surprisingly, India has the world’s highest ‘death rate from chronic respiratory diseases’ and asthma. Another survey predicting that Delhi will record the highest number of premature deaths from air pollution by 2025. I don’t think you knew this. ( it came as a surprise to me too). Well! in a way preparing us psychologically in advance , for the severe physical ailments that would come knocking in the near future.
So, a major chunk of the city’s population is worried, scared and clueless.The actual petrified ones are strictly adhering to the appeals & instructions. Queuing up for the masks. (Earlier i was unaware if something like a N 91 or N 95 mask existed?). Skipping the usual weekend outings, keeping their little ones indoors, giving the morning walks a skip. The others lining outside doctor’s clinics, well that i call a ‘seasonal dent’ in the pocket, which for Delhiwalas has extended a bit too long this time.
Most of us are hooked to news & analysis that is more of sensation than sense. Still there are some of us who are thinking of shifting to a better environment with at least better air to breathe. And the rest are still busy living their mundane lives; informed but not bothered, a little afraid but unprepared, aware but unfazed.
We are Indians and we are accustomed to living in hell or hell like conditions. So what if this time it is a near fatal ‘gas chamber’ that is gradually squeezing life out of our lungs? So what if the pollution levels have gone much beyond permissible levels?
I know we are gasping for breath, our throats are sour than usual, a cough that doesn’t seem to end, lower immunity, fatigued and steadily heading towards a ‘reduced lung capacity’. So what if we live in the 6th most polluted metropolis in the world? Well! Gwalior and Raipur have worst air quality than us. Why not nail them first?
What if we in collaboration with our bordering cities (NCR) generate nearly 10,000 tons per day of municipal waste , much of which is eventually burnt, adding to the already high and alarming pollution levels.
As a Delhite, shouldn’t we should be proud of the fact that we have 7.4 million vehicles on our roads. Nonetheless, we have been indulgent enough to have increased the number of vehicles in the last decade by 97% , gifting our present generation, a direct exposure to toxic fumes. We have been equally generous in adding numerous diesel cars to the vehicular pollution and city traffic, thereby lending an explosive growth to the car sector. After all, we earn very well and we have every right to upgrade ourselves with a fleet of cars, mandatory to sustain our ‘high society status’.
Who cares if WHO categories the ‘diesel emissions’ from old & new cars as dangerous bringing it par with tobacco smoking. Even the Supreme Court can go on banning the old diesel vehicles from entering and plying in the city. Where’s the dam will to implement it anyways? And not to miss, India is the second largest emitter of sulfur dioxide (another deadly gas) after China, from its coal fired power plants.
So, here we are playing our best sport……the “blame game”. All the fingers pointed sharply at the people in power.
‘What is the government doing to tackle the rising poor quality of air’?
‘Why there hasn’t been a ban on old diesel vehicles & generators’?
‘Why is the burning of garbage & dry leaves still continuing’?
‘Why are the farmers in the neighborhood burning stubble , adding to our existing woes’?
‘Why don’t they completely ban crackers’?
‘Why isn’t there a check on the illegal industrial activities and rampant construction work’?
Well another relevant question is, as to why the governments should intervene and put a cap on people’s liberty ? Why should they stop its citizens from using their vehicles when the wealthy ones and their own ministers too, travel in private jets & choppers? How can the government be ‘anti people’? How will they be able to project themselves as pro – business if they try to enforce regulations on industry?
Well, chances are bright that the grievous issue of pollution might turn into all about ‘people’s rights‘. It doesn’t take long in our country to shift attention to another matter, deviating from the original.
Yes, of course, there are ample, unanswered queries. Yes, the government does lack political will and has miserably failed to implement rules efficiently at the center & state levels. They should certainly have been much more strict with us.
But amid all this chaos and ever multiplying health issues, have we stopped for a second and dared to point a finger at ourselves? Aren’t we directly or indirectly responsible for this ‘lethal mix’ of pollution from human activities, vehicles, construction, industry , road dust, blah…. blab…. blah ? We all know we are the creators of this ‘slow poison’.
For now, we have painted the sky ‘black’ with our selfish endeavors. Sure, be a voice of protest for the right reasons and keep questioning the government. but are we doing our bit?
Instead of blaming the government every now & then, believe me there’s a lot we can do in alliance with our fellow beings.
Here’s a list of few simple yet requisite life saving solutions or rather questions for which answers lie only in your sincere efforts.
- Can we convert the garbage in our localities into compost?
- Can we start a dedicated once a month plantation drive in our colonies and societies?
- Can we have strict rules and stricter implementations of keeping our gated colonies garbage & dust free? A fortnightly supervision involving the elders & the children?
- Can we restrict our buying and usage of vehicles, volunteering for car pool and using public conveyance as far as possible?
- Can we reduce the use of chemicals, cleaning agents to help reduce water pollution?
- Can we plant more air purifying, dense, leafy trees and bushes?
- Can we restrain our construction activities in a certain time frame and each building have a 360 degree curtain to contain particles and smoke?
I know we are all breathing slow poison every single day, bracing up for masks and air purifiers and borrowing ideas from other nations, in an attempt to satisfy the growing angry voices.
The laxity on part of the administration may have made the matters worse , but haven’t we taken our own lives for granted?
I really wish there will be a day in the near future when instead of the ‘killer smog’, ‘twinkling stars’ will be visible to our children at night in the sky. I just wish so.