TODAY -

Deadly dust in Delhi wind

Jyaneswar Laishram *



Heading to Delhi? Beware. Every breath you take in Delhi is a 'deadlier' intake, because the air quality in the capital city has now attained the worst ever level in 17 years. Situation got worsen in the week after Diwali when the average air pollution level was 40 times higher than the guidelines recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is 900 micrograms per cubic metre of PM (particle pollution) defined by a mixture of air-borne toxic elements. And the fear is that no proper measures have yet taken up from any quarter by either the Modi or Kejriwal governments, because both are now busy locking horns each other over demonetisation.

Every year, or last year, India reported more deaths due to air pollution than terrorism; but the latter is the only concern political leaders pay attention. Pollution level in Delhi has now surpassed that of Beijing, which was earlier rated to be the world's most polluted city for more than a decade. A source from NASA indicates that pollution level in Delhi kept increasing up to 13 percent over the last five years, while China gradually reduced the level around 17 percent during the same period. Another finding from Global Burden Disease (GBD) indicates that pollution-related premature death in India last year was around 3280, while China recoded fewer than the figure.

At the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2016, which had just wrapped up in the capital, where thought leaders from far and near corners of the globe shared their opinions about 'the change India needs', Jeffery Sachs of Columbia University condemned the country's political class for taking up little or no immediate actions against the deadly calamity in Delhi. He called the political leaders 'irresponsible louts' who would just stick to power without action while the people, particularly children and senior citizens, are dying due to air pollution.

Nevertheless, a little sigh of relief in the grave situation of Delhi air pollution episode is that the Supreme Court has recently approved the action plan laid out by Central Pollution Control Board in the line of Beijing. In the process, this year, certain emergency measures had undergone in the post-Diwali week when the situation attained an alarming stage—all schools shut down, construction works ceased and selling of crackers banned in Delhi and NCR (National Capital Region, which covers Noida, Gurgaon and Faridabad). The very next day of the gleeful festival of lights, a thick layer of smog covered the city, creating near-zero visibility in the evening and burning sensation in the eyes of outdoor strollers.

Blame everything on dust and Diwali! Every year, days before the festival of light, campaigns do carry out far and wide across the city giving people awareness about environment pollution and dreaded consequences that firecrackers could develop. However, efforts went into vain, every year. People, particularly the urban middle-class population in the city, give damn concern about the environment on the night of festival as though none of them take the slightest thought of air pollution. Up until 12 at midnight, despite the police warning of limiting bursting of crackers only upto 11 pm, they stubbornly engage in firework.

Here the point is not about blaming the religious beliefs and value systems associated with Diwali, but the question is why all these crackers bursting on the eve of the festival, even if people found it extremely 'noxious'? Would the festival go so incomplete without firecrackers? What was Diwali looked like before the invention of firecrackers? The story of the establishment of first firecracker factories in India dates back to the 1940s. Only after this did all these loudness incorporated into Diwali. So, is there any possible reformation of the festival to celebrate it in an eco-friendly manner—silently, soothingly, without deadly fume?

When the smog of Diwali goes down, another culprit responsible for the deadly pollution level in Delhi is the 'dust' in the wind. Dust possessed highest percentage (more than 50 percent) of PM10 pollutants contributed to Delhi air, while others being vehicle (20 percent), industry (11 percent) and many more. Being a region of dry season throughout the winter, road dust and that from the construction sites in the city and neighboring NCR, mixed with toxic vehicular emissions, cause hell lot of complications including eye irritation, nasal blockage, sore throat and persistent dry cough among people in congested colonies. It all happens largely when evening falls.

Delhi being the first or second home to a chunk of Manipuris, who either belong to student or professional populaces in the city, a red alert for those heading to the capital city these days, say in winter, is that they must take extra health caution about the air pollution, because a latest report from SAFAR (Systems of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research), has indicated that the air quality may get fouler due to thick fog now expected to glide down in full in a few days. And just a few days ago many residents in the city woke up to dense fog, wondering whether it was smog!


* Jyaneswar Laishram wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at ozzyjane(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on December 10, 2016.


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