Air Pollution: Take Action Now
With vast open spaces, lavish greenery, limited vehicular traffic and a clean river flowing down the eastern part of the city, Delhi used to be regarded as one of the cleanest cities in the world until the mid-sixties. But today, rampant and unplanned urbanisation, huge vehicular pollution, a polluted river and rapid disappearance of greenery and water bodies altogether have virtually turned Delhi into a graveyard of human civilisation. As a result today several Delhiites are suffering from various respiratory problems, sometimes leading to premature deaths. As per recent statistics, 54 thousand people died due to particle pollution in 2020. Furthermore, 7-33 per cent of pandemic induced deaths were linked to polluted air.
Unprecedented pollution is affecting not only human lives but the flora and fauna of Delhi as well. Worrying but true is that there is almost no aquatic life in River Yamuna due to pollution. Irrespective of the season, Delhi remains mostly engulfed in smog throughout the year which is one of the main reasons for rising pollution in the capital. Realising the gravity of the situation, the Supreme Court, High Court and the pollution boards also have issued various directives from time to time to keep the Delhi air clean. Strangely, not a single directive has ever been enforced. For example, the ridge situated in the Central and Northern parts of the city is considered to be the lungs of the city and any construction work destroying the ridge is strictly prohibited by court orders. Yet, roads were constructed inside the ridge on the pretext of utility services in violation of the court order. There is no trace of open spaces and greenery which once upon a time allowed Delhi to breathe easy. More than five hundred water bodies have vanished from the city map and in place of them residential complexes and shopping malls have come up.
In such a situation, the World Air Quality Report, 2020 is not enough to bring joy to Delhiites. Delhi’s air quality has improved by 15 per cent, according to the said report. But, the improvement took place just because of lockdown and Covid-19 related restrictions. Once the restrictions are lifted in totality Delhi will be back to the square one. So, without becoming lax as a result of the report, efforts should be made on a war-footing to make Delhi clean and green. But the endeavour should not be restricted to the National Capital Region (NCR) alone. An appropriate law should be framed to keep pollution under check and be mandatory for all urban settlements in the country to follow the rule without exception. Any laxity in adhering the provisions of the law should be treated as a criminal offence. The erring officials or people should be handed over exemplary punishments; so that no one dares violate the environmental norms anymore. There is no dearth of green and sustainable solutions regarding polluted air but it appears the country lacks the willpower to implement such measures. It is time now to change the mindset of the people as it has become a question of life and death. The nation needs to act before the danger reaches a point of no return.