The annual problems of the air quality in Delhi and its suburbs has seen enough discussion, blame games and suggestions and for over four years, nothing tangible has come forth from all such platforms and think tanks. It is because Delhi is known to be a place for all Indians, unlike others places in the country which have specific tribes or communities. Hence it is difficult to stand as one for any decision, including improving the air quality, which is considered a problem of other people and not for oneself to solve.
The week before Deepawali has seen Delhi and the region around the National Capital shrouded in a blanket of smog that has made breathing difficult and has led to a rise in heart and lung complaints. Schools were shut and the public took to the streets demanding emergency action from the government.
Cardiologists and pulmonologists have warned that prolonged exposure to the highly toxic air can cause cardiac arrest and lung complications, as concerned governments are blaming each other for the unprecedented smog levels that have drastically cut visibility and turned the national capital into a virtual gas chamber.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the past banned construction and demolition work for five days and the use of diesel-run generator sets for 10 days in a desperate bid to control a crisis that has choked Delhi. The school closure is aimed at preventing children from getting affected by the dangerous pollution levels which have forced people to use surgical masks while travelling in the city.
Kejriwal has urged the Lieutenant Governor, Najeeb Jung to call all the Chief Ministers of states neighbouring Delhi to extend their help as burning of crops in their respective state too has contributed to the thick smog.
Experts say that Delhi has seen a drastic increase in the level of particulate matter (PM 2.5) which is a fine matter about 30 times finer than human hair. They said that November, after Deepawali, commenced with a recorded PM 2.5 as beyond scale value of 500 µg/m3 and increased to 600 and 700 µg/m3 in the later days, much higher than the Central Pollution Control Board norms of 250 µg/m3, the national capital city is witnessing the worst air quality in the past 17 years.
Delhi’s worst air quality of the season is a matter of serious concern even for the city’s healthy residents as it could affect their sex drive and activity. Fertility expert, Sagarika Agarwal also said that there are a lot of heavy metals in the air, which directly affect the hormones in the body. In India, 15 per cent of the male population is infertile, a rate greater than that of female.
Meanwhile, Arvind Vaid, a city based IVF expert, said that breathing too much of pollution leads to a higher concentration of free radicals in the blood. This causes a lower sperm quality even in fertile men. The pollution level in Delhi right now is enough to cause infertility in male and increases the chances of miscarriage in women.
Priyanka Purohit, a gynaecologist associated with Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, said that air pollution is one of the greatest factors that have an adverse effect on pregnancy. Meanwhile most of the doctors are advising the aged and the expecting mothers to leave Delhi for health sake.
However, no stake holder is taking responsibility of the emergency like situation in Delhi, knowing well that the Government alone cannot clean up the pollutants, unless the general masses participate in the processes. Taking up the issue of busting of crackers during the deepawali, various sectors have appeal for Cracker Free festivals, while the population were not willing to give up the aged old practice have further aggravated the situation.
It is not only the Deepawali festival, all the 12 months of the year, the public refuse to change the style of living, in most cases across India, individual households just clean up their respected space, the area immediately outside their jurisdiction is considered the concerned of the government which has led to the littering of the city.
China is facing similar problems of a blanket of smog and the authority has immediately moved all the industries using coal as sources of energy outskirts, the situation is being monitored, while the public also participate in controlling by maintaining cleanness all the 365 days.
Meanwhile in India, starting from open defecation, polluting all water bodies, spitting, random burning of waste generated from individual houses, worst of all unhygienic living standards have all contributed to the pollution in respective city, hence it is wrong to blame the administration, it all needs to start from self!
The environment too has been ruthlessly abused for human greed, some for meeting the ever growing population. To add to this the effect of climate change is yet to alert human kind, as there is no move whatsoever to restore the surroundings, be it cutting of hills to felling of trees, or sand mining along the river banks to lime and coal extraction. The status of Meghalaya is no different in these aspects.
The pollution level is bad mainly in commercial areas, due to unethical practices in disposal of waste, poor collection system have further caused the health hazard. Then comes the encroachment into the Wahumkharah and Umshyrpi Rivers have turned them into drains which choke the city during monsoon.
Cutting of hills, forests and sand mining too are rampant here in Meghalaya, which is moving towards a Delhi like situation; if actions are not taken immediately to control the situation. The Meghalaya government has failed to ban public smoking and banning of other tobacco products, resulting in the random rubbing of lime and spitting all over the city, including the government offices.
A large-scale campaign for bringing behavioural change in people is the need of the hour across the nation as once the situation turns for the worse, it will be impossible to rectify. India needs to take it as a people’s movement to have cleaner and better air quality.