Life inside the Delhi smog
It was October 31, 2016; a day after Diwali, the capital city, which is usually choked with traffic, was under siege of deadly smog fulled with PM2.5 and PM 10, which is still afflicating the people of Delhi. What is the reason behind Delhi surging pollution? Every time we breathe it is equal to smoking more than two packets of cigarettes. Capital city’s visibility is reduced to 50 meters due to smoke and dust. November 02, 2016 was the second worst polluted day in the last 10 years and the high pollution rate is continuing. After Diwali, the level of PM2.5 reached the new peak, which causes lung and heart diseases. As the PM 2.5 exceed 30 times, World Health Organization (WHO) recommends remaining indoors to elders, children and to those with health problems. It also says exposure to average annual concentrations of PM 2.5 of 35 or above is associated with a 15 per cent higher long-term mortality risk.
New Delhi is the 11th most polluted city of the world. Because of multiple sources of emissions such a high PM 2.5 concentration is occurred in the city. Burning of stubble in neighboring states — Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan, carbon emission from industries and vehicles, dust from construction sites etc. are the primary reasons of the pollution in Delhi. However, one can say that Delhi’s polluted air becomes more critical due to burning of firecrackers and fireworks during Diwali festival. Unless we control our pollution from combustion, crop burning, vehicular emissions and other sources on a regional scale, this problem of pollution can’t be solved.
The density of particulate matters in places like East Delhi is pathetic. It is virtually turned into a gas chamber. Delhi-NCR’s pollution menace has not appeared overnight. It is the result of years of giving priorities to development projects over environment. There are 28 industrial areas in India, and they have no facilities to treat liquid waste. Thermal plants of Delhi contribute 13 per cent of Delhi’s pollution. Rapid industrialization and migration are still continuing. The number of exploding vehicles reached more than 17 million in the city by 2015. Every day over 100 vehicles join Delhi. To tackle the rising air pollution in Delhi, the Government of Delhi came out with a controversial odd-even traffic scheme. The first phase was in January 2016 for the first 15 days in the month. The second phase was from April 15 to April 30. However, this short-term odd-even policy of Delhi Government was not able to stop exhaust fumes. Increasing number of hospitals and their waste
management are adding woes. They release toxic elements and it directly contaminated water and air.
Many experts have been offering solutions to get rid of pollution year after year. But nothing has changed yet. There is a policy for afforestation, atmospheric pollution, bio-medical waste, domestic refuse, and water and sewage treatment. Additionally, there are action plans to encourage public participation in environmental problems. Innumerable policies but no panacea. Given the continued growth of the city and its population, problems are tackled only with difficulty — for instance, the Yamuna clean-up projects spent $500 million between 1993 and 2005, yet the river’s
pollution actually doubled during the same period.
In Delhi, according to a media report already 30,000 people breathed their last breath due to severe pollution. And the number is getting bigger. It is clearly visible that toxic gases are hanging above the ground. The city has a big crisis in front of it. The city’s schools closed, as authorities moved to combat the effects of thick smog that has choked residents. If people of Delhi do not wake this time, then it will be a colossal harm to them. So far, there is no outrage seen from the citizens. Political class has stopped addressing the real issues. AAP, BJP, Congress, all have lost the ability to respond and react to the drastic problem.
When will political class to react? Will there be pressure from the citizenry on the government through street protests? It is difficult to decide at the moment what is more toxic: Delhi’s chemical-laden air or the apathy of the leaders and its people.
By Sanjay K Bissoyi