The much-predicted dangerous levels of pollution dreaded by Delhi residents have finally arrived at the National capital. A thick cover of smog has cast a poisonous blanket over the entire city creating an emergency like situation. This nefarious level of air pollution yet again proves that Delhi continues to remain the most polluted city in the world. This is not a coincidence that the extreme poor quality of air is a result of stubble burning in neighboring states and Diwali celebrations. The administration has apparently turned deaf and blind to such notoriety and despite Supreme Court orders of banning of crackers, the practice continued unabatedly and unashamedly.
Flouting norms in India itself has become a norm. The horrible condition of Delhi’s atmosphere is a clear manifestation of that. With the onset of winter arrives a “public health emergency” like situation. The choking blanket of smog is a thick concentration of particulate matter, extremely hazardous to human health. Unsurprisingly, people have already started facing breathing problems, throat irritation, and nausea. The Air Quality Index shows the reading as “severe” at 451 where the maximum reading is 500. In some areas of Delhi, the reading is beyond the maximum level.
The US embassy website shows that the concentration of particulate matter has crossed 700 where anything above 300 is excruciatingly high. Delhiites travelling in metros and going for work amidst the sickening and abhorrent smog was a common sight. However, schools have been shut by the orders of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. This measure is just eyewash given the problem taking the shape of a permanent menace. The Indian Medical Association has asked the Delhi government to shut down outdoor sports and any such activities. In these circumstances, public health advisories have been released by the crux of the problem remains unsolved and untouched, as the air quality standards breach the maximum limit multiple times over.
The Environment Control Protection Agency (EPCA) has asked the government to increase car parking fee four times, among a slew of measures the insensitive government has issued. It also suggested making preparations for an odd-even scheme and banning of all construction activities. This brings us to the question that why does the government wake up so late. Public has become closely susceptible to respiratory, pulmonary ailments and breathing complications, does the government seems to open its eyes. Delhi’s diabolical condition is no hidden fact and multiple international agencies and surveys have already warned the apocalyptic situation of Delhi’s air pollution and associated premature deaths. In spite of taking adequate measures, the Government of India chooses to conflict those independent standard reports itself.
Delhi is the seat of the Central government and an entire diplomatic enclave. The rich and powerful have access to air purifiers and sophisticated health equipment. It is the common people who are suffering and putting their precious lives at stake. All this happens at the time when the Indian delegation is at Bonn, Germany at the CoP23 Summit to talk about climate change. As doctors decry the pollution emergency and environmental activists slam the government, it remains to be seen what steps the State attempts to mitigate such appalling levels of pollution.
Article by Mausam.