For how long will you be forced to draw poison in the form of air?
This year again the menace of a suffocating environment caused by burning of stubble in agricultural fields, and other forms of air- pollution are threatening life in some areas of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The air quality in Delhi-NCR is deteriorating. Winter season hasn’t even started yet; still this is the second time in this season, when we are made to face this menace. Although we may get relief occasionally due to some immediate measures being taken up, yet it is becoming a permanent problem and life threatening crisis for the people living not only in Delhi-NCR, but in large areas of North India, which is affecting adversely the health of children, elderly and all other age-groups equally. It is proving to be fatal for people suffering from lungs diseases. Even though the governments seem to be serious about this issue, and a complete action plan is ready to solve this increasingly complex problem, its effective results are not visible. It reflects the failure of the measures adopted by the government somewhere. Delhi and Punjab governments gave many tempting arguments and facts, but whatever arguments the governments give, the reality is that people continue to be suffocating all the same. Had the governments been really serious about overcoming this problem, it should have been visible on the practical level.
Degradation of air quality and ever increasing pollution is such a huge web in which all living beings, including humans are trapped and struggling with the threat of life and breath. Long queues have already started being visible outside hospitals. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, people do not expect any reduction in bad air for the next few days. According to the Meteorological Department, if the air quality is between zero and 50, then it is considered ‘good’. If AQI is between 51 to 100 then it is considered ‘satisfactory’ and AQI between 101 to 200 is considered ‘moderate’. If AQI goes above 201 and remains up to 300, then it is considered ‘bad’, if it is between 301 to 400, then it is considered ‘very bad’, and if it reaches above 400 then it is considered ‘severe’. On October 22, AQI in Delhi-NCR reached 313 i.e. very poor level. Since then, the air quality has remained in the ‘very poor’ category due to slowing down of wind speed and drop in temperature. This problem is becoming more serious year after year.
To overcome this serious problem, the Delhi government has tried many measures, and issued instructions to control pollution, but they are not proving effective. Government vehicles are also seen sprinkling water at various places in Delhi-NCR, which reduces the quantity of dust in the air. But the nature of these steps itself shows that the government is trying to reduce the symptoms of the problem, but till now no significant success has been achieved in solving the problem or reducing its severity. The practice of stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and a few other surrounding states has been identified many years ago as one of the major reasons for this. But due to political reasons there are no signs of significant progress on that front. Pollution level has come up from being dangerous to life-threatening levels. The question is why Delhi-NCR, which has been continuously struggling with this menace for the last few years, does not get the light of any permanent solution? Why are the governments and politicians not ready for a solution, instead of blaming each other? To get rid of this burning problem, every political party and government will have to become sensitive and insightful. Will we have to wait for a Chanakya to be born, who can put butter in the roots? No, now every political mind will have to become Chanakya. Only then will we get relief from the growing problem of air pollution.
If we talk about the last week itself, 398 incidents of stubble- burning were recorded in Punjab on Wednesday, 589 on Thursday and 766 on Friday. However, governments are trying to reduce this pollution in their own way. Teams of fire- fighters have been deployed in many areas of Punjab, including Moga, who reach the spot as soon as information about stubble burning is received and work to stop it. It has been said in UP that farmers found burning stubble will not be given the benefits of schemes like Kisan Samman Nidhi. But here also the matter is to strictly stop the farmers from burning stubble, whereas the need is to provide them some better options, so that they themselves start turning away from it. Many suggestions have been discussed, such as making fertilizer from stubble and using it in agriculture or increasing the use of stubble as fuel in thermal power plants and other industries through other measures, but it is clear that those options have not yet been made available to the farmers.
It is not only the responsibility of the governments to improve the air quality and reduce pollution and to make Delhi and other metropolitan cities of the country liveable, but it is the responsibility of all of us. Although people just have to play the role of responsible citizens, anti-dust campaigns should also be carried out continuously. People themselves will have to be completely cautious. People should not throw garbage in open spaces, or burn it. Pollution level of vehicles should also be checked. Try to minimize the use of private vehicles and use public vehicles. It is also necessary to stop the materialistic mentality of bursting crackers which is playing with the lives of the common people. Because burning firecrackers has the potential to have dangerous effects on the lives of not only the elderly, but also of children, and thereby causing various diseases. To materialize the global concept of a pollution-free environment, meaningful initiatives will have to be taken up for celebrating eco-friendly Diwali and a positive environment will have to be created. Like stubble, the pollution caused by firecrackers is dangerous. Today, stubble-firecrackers have become a political pollution. This pollution has to be fought in the same way as a small lamp fights intense darkness. Small position, but does not let darkness come near, gives a trial by fire every moment. But yes! No one can pass the ordeal of fire with straw wrapped around his body. There are only one party governments in Delhi and Punjab, instead of blaming others, why doesn’t Aam Aadmi Party government provide a solution.
Instead of blurring the glorious cultural existence and identity of ‘Diwali’ due to stubble- pollution, a permanent solution should be found. The attempt to cover up stubble- pollution in the name of firecracker pollution should be avoided. ‘Diwali’ is our culture, civilization, mutual love, history, heritage and the wonder of the rows of lamps. Calling the pollution caused by stubble-burning around Diwali as pollution from firecrackers is an excessive irony and an escapist mentality to shy away from the problem. In fact, it is the irresponsible behaviour of politicians, which has forced everyone to live in a poisonous atmosphere. During the winter season, there are deadly metals in the air, which cause difficulty in breathing. Increase in the amount of cadmium and arsenic in the air increases the risk of cancer, kidney problems and high blood- pressure, diabetes and heart diseases. In this season, the lethality increases manifold due to pollution of stubble. Pollution from firecrackers is even more dangerous. The number of cities with AQI more than 300 is increasing. The reasons why the residents of the National Capital Region are forced to inhale poison have been discussed so many times that they need not be repeated.
The author is a Writer, Journalist, Columnist