Stop blame game, clear Delhi’s air

New Delhi

The declaration of a public health emergency in the National Capital Region (NCR) underlines the all-round failure to tackle a problem that has been growing over many years and highlights the extreme risks citizens are exposed to in the most visible and high-profile part of the country. The Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority made the declaration on Friday as the air quality deteriorated sharply and the region experienced its most polluted day in about two years. The air quality index topped out the highest pollution level that can be recorded at many places and gave the city the dubious distinction of being among the most polluted cities in the world. There is no normal life in Delhi, with people being advised to stay indoors, schools shut down, office timings rescheduled, and construction activity banned. It has been reduced to a gas chamber where all living things are gasping for air. It is a city of moving masks.

The air quality worsened to ‘very poor’ and ‘severe’ categories not only in the NCR but in the cities in the region like Ambala, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, too, in the run-up to Diwali and later. The regulations and guidelines on the use of firecrackers have only been observed in the breach. The toxic haze caused by firecrackers was made worse by the wintry conditions that are setting in and the smoke from the farm stubble fires in Punjab and Haryana. All these added to the pollution from rising vehicular emissions, construction dust and polluting industries. The situation is bad round the year, but it becomes worse every winter. In the late nineties, some steps were taken to reduce air pollution, which however has got the better of the situation now.

The Delhi government is introducing an odd-even policy to restrict the number of vehicles on the road from this week. Its impact is yet to be known. What is most disconcerting is that all authorities are blaming each other for the bad air, with the Delhi government blaming the stubble-burning states, and their governments wrongly playing down the impact of the farm fires. For the central government, only the AAP government in Delhi is responsible for the situation. Pollution should be everybody’s concern, and it makes everyone sick as there are no political boundaries in the air. All governments and agencies should co-operate and co-ordinate their activities to reduce it, rather than try to score points off one another. A great responsibility rests on the people also, who should follow the rules and norms to tackle pollution and force governments to act right. It is their health that is at risk.

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