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Pollution Appears  To Be An Invincible Enemy Of Indian Populace

 

By Dr. Bikkar Singhj Lalli

“Breathing in Delhi air equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day,”(CNN-Nov.10,17). What a tragedy-in dense smog, 9 students run over by speeding truck in Bathinda. Schools in Punjab shut for 3 days due to fog, bad weather. Delhi Government announced that primary schools would remain shut in the national capital on Wednesday, Nov. 8,  as the city awoke to a thick blanket of pollution on Tuesday. Delhi has become a gas chamber. Every year this happens during this part of the yea – blamed on  crop burning in adjoining states,. Both states, Punjab and Haryana, have banned stubble-burning, but the practice continues undeterred. Things will improve only after farmers are provided an alternative to burning stubble to clear their land for cultivation, for example, turn it into compost or use it to generate biogas, state governments simply issue bans that nobody pays much attention to. If an intense fog, is creating such a havoc in early Nov. and bring the county to a stand-still, what will be the situation in later December and January? Choking on air in Delhi-people have started using N90 masks.

India has to tackle the pollution problem on an emergency basis. India had the world’s highest number of deaths due to air, water and other forms of pollution in 2015, according to a study published in the Lancet journal, which showed that pollution killed as many as 2.5 million people in India, more than any other country..Most of these deaths are due to non-communicable diseases caused by pollution such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), researchers said. What kills more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined? Three times the total casualties of these three scourges of mankind are on account of pollution. A 2013 study on non-smokers has found that Indians have 30% lower lung function compared to Europeans. The report found that pollution as a result of outdoor and indoor air pollution, water and soil contamination, and chemical pollutants is one of the largest risk factors for premature deaths-90 lakhs worldwide in 2015.

Air pollution problems, such as smog and acid rain, result from the release of pollutants (Sulphur oxide, Nitrogen oxides, Ammonia, Carbon monoxide and Fine particular matter), into the atmosphere due to fuel adulteration, vehicle emission, and fuelwood and biomass burning. They are also released from natural sources, such as forest fires and from vegetation. India’s emissions of the air pollutant sulphur dioxide increased by 50 per cent since 2007, while China’s fell by 75 per cent, claims a study which found that India is yet to implement emission controls like its neighbour. .  Fuel-wood and biomass burning is the primary reason for near-permanent haze and smoke in rural and urban India. . Burning coal and oil emits carbon and particle pollution; plants produce more allergenic pollen, affecting respiratory health threats like asthma..

In Dec. 2015, The Supreme Courte called for a multipronged policy to tackle Delhi pollution-ad hoc solutions would not be helpful. The court asked the government to provide a platform where all stakeholders including municipal bodies, the Delhi government, Central Pollution Control Board and others could come together for formulating short-term, medium-term and log-term policies to address the issue. Till today not much has been done to cope with dreadful calamity.

 

Worsening air quality, this week, prompted Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) announce several measures, among them hiking parking fees for vehicles by four times and slashing fares for Metro services. The top court had ordered that all taxis plying in the city must convert to CNG from March 2016. Also, commercial vehicles which are registered before 2005 won’t be allowed to enter the national capital If you clean up a street, or  a park, or a beach , you need to create viable alternative places for dumping the garbage and waste that people have got used to dumping on the street, park or beach. If you don’t create those alternatives, people will dump their garbage once again in the place you’ve just cleaned up. To keep pollution from cars in check, the government has been conducting studies for three decades, which show that most of Delhi’s children are suffering from irreversible lung damage. Both the heart and the brain need oxygen to operate at full capacity. This is being denied. Physically unfit and mentally retarded children will be India’s future generation.

 

Water pollution is of particular concern in India, especially because industrial units are located near rivers, into which they discharge untreated effluents, a situation exacerbated by civic bodies that do the same. Groundwater contamination by chemical pollutants taints drinking water supplies and causes diseases. Rivers  Yamuna,  Ganga, Gomti, Ghaggar, Chambal, Mahi, Vardha are amongst the other most  coliform  polluted water bodies in India. The Ganges is India’s holiest river, considered a source of spiritual purification for devout Hindus. But today the river is among the world’s most polluted, struggling under the pressures of modern India. A 2007 study finds that discharge of untreated sewage is the single most important cause for pollution of surface and ground water in India. The majority of the government-owned sewage treatment plants remain closed most of the time due to improper design or poor maintenance or lack of reliable electricity supply to operate the plants. Sewage discharged from cities and towns is the predominant cause of water pollution in India. A huge Investment is needed to bridge the gap between 29000 million litre per day of sewage India generates, and a treatment capacity of mere 6000 million litre per day.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a campaign by the Government of India to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country’s 4,041 statutory cities , smaller towns, and rural areas. The objectives of Swachh Bharat include eliminating open defecation through the construction of household-owned and community-owned toilets and establishing an accountable mechanism of monitoring toilet use. This program must be diligently pursued. Intensify mechanised road sweeping and sprinkling of water.

But as the country’s population and economy continue to grow, the need to find solutions becomes more urgent every day. More buses on the roads; improve traffic management; greater frequency of metro, low fares; stopping the use of coal and firewood in hotels and eateries; implement SC order on pet coke and furnace oil,; promote  afforestation, tree plantation, ecological restoration and eco-development activities in the country . Encourage the new generation to go for higher education. Highly educated individuals, usually, delay marriage. That can be a potent factor in controlling. the burgeoning  population.

“India’s gasping millions need Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demonstrate some of the strong leadership he promised when he was elected in 2014. In this case, he could and should swiftly launch an emergency national action plan that includes funds for state governments to help farmers move quickly to other means of disposing of crop stubble,”(Nov.12,-New York Times-Editorial).

Dr. Bikkar Singh Lalli is a Surrey-based writer and educationist.

 

 

 

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