Surprisingly, this year, New Delhi’s summer had a good amount of rain to battle the heatwaves. Not only did the rains reduce the heat but also cleared the way for the blue sky and fresh air. The rains were a blessing since they reduced the particulate matter to required levels. The Central Pollution Control Board had released data which indicated that 2018 has been a fairly good year for the Delhites since they were able to breathe better quality air than the previous years. The assessment suggests that the number of ‘very poor’ air quality index days have drastically reduced while the ‘satisfactory’ days have increased rapidly. This is a huge achievement in comparison to the status of air quality in 2017. In November, the levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 particulate matter were 999 micrograms per cubic meter, while 60 and 100 were the safe limit.
In 2017, there was not a single day where the sky was blue and people walked without their masks. Today, we can see a reappearance of the royal-blue sky and fresh air to breathe which is a great signal of improvement. For New Delhi, which was declared the worst city in terms of its air quality, this report by the Central Pollution Control Board is a huge departure in the right direction. Visibly, there has been a lot of change in Delhi’s environmental framework. Importance is being given to planting saplings, maintaining parks and refurbishing the green belt of the city. Schools, colleges, communities, societies and other corporate organizations are seen making genuine efforts to increase the greenery.
This collective effort is a by-product of the great smog of Delhi in November 2017. The great smog led to severe acute respiratory problems, traumatic accidents, and impossible living conditions. It caused serious awareness among people about the ill effects of bad quality air. Widespread awareness of the issue was possible only due to its life-threatening effects. While there has been a collective effort, the Central Pollution Control Board has credited the ban of pet coke and proper implementation of the graded response action plan for improved air quality. While we have to be certainly elated over the improvement in air quality, there are certain critical questions to ask as well.
We are quickly approaching winters and it is during the winters that the quality of air gets worse. The air gets as thick as a blanket and makes it impossible to breathe. Along with fog, smog takes over the atmosphere. Are we equipped enough to handle this dire situation? Firstly, one of the reasons for this dire situation is the pollution from neighbouring states. Pollution in Delhi cannot be per se associated with just Delhi. It has to be spoken in association with the surrounding regions. Active political intervention and negotiations with neighbouring cities and states are extremely important. The governments need to move ahead of their petty politics and serve the people in need. Various findings suggest that pollution alone causes about 1.5 million deaths in India. The governments need to rise above regional politics and find an effective solution for their states and the people of their states.
Secondly, Delhi is still handicapped in its public transportation system. There is a need for increasing the number of buses. Along with increasing numbers, an efficient automated tracking system needs to be in place. The metro is doing a great job in terms of efficient service but the buses are not still up to the mark. Increasing the public transportation facility will lead to a decrease in the usage of private vehicles which will benefit the environment. A close watch on industries and emission from factories in and outside Delhi needs to be maintained. The Badarpur thermal power station is a case in point. Reports suggest that it emits about 80% of the particulate matter from the electric power sector in Delhi. The power station was temporarily shut down during the winter of 2017 and this is believed to be one of the main reasons for the decrease in air pollution. Such sources of air pollution need strict vigilance and temporary shut down policy.
People also need to be sensitive towards the environment and take air pollution seriously. Various campaigns should be launched by students and institutions which brings the issue into the notice of the people. Awareness is important but putting that knowledge into action is the key. People need to take climate change seriously and should constantly work to reduce the gap. It’s time we pay back for the grave that we dug for ourselves and our future generations. Let us all step up and take action!
Picture Credits : freepressjournal