When we cringe at the sight of a glass of dirty water, when we twist out noses when they meet contaminated food, then why are we accepting polluted air with so much indifference?
It is not just once or twice but several times now that the issue of air pollution has steamed up. Each time the topic rises, it takes a couple of days, or sometimes mere hours, till it cools down.
Like always, we keep going to our cocoons of oblivion and numbness. We let the brooms vanish right under our nose. Just the way we need broom to clean our houses, for the earth we need trees to clean our air habitats. But do we blink an eye when we see that forests that made up some 4,128 million hectares in 1990 (in terms of the word’s land areas), have shrunk to some 3,999 million hectares by 2015 (according to FRA)?
We instantly buy more brooms or increase the frequency of cleaning whenever dirt in and around our houses increases, but the same prudence is conspicuous by its absence in case of the dirt that is clogging our air. Harmful by-products of several industries are constantly worsening air pollution. A survey, reminded recently that in just 30 years, 23,716 industrial projects gobbled away a large part of Indian forests.
Surprisingly enough, we are chasing the Western world in this sphere too. India has always been deeply influenced by the western culture which brought in the modern education system, accent-led diction, Coffee and Tea, Cricket, Handshakes and Food-Fights to our land. Now the same blindfolded pursuit is being transcending from clothing to pollution.
But we never pause to learn from the mistakes other countries have made and paid a price for?
Paid in China
In China, Ministry of Health pointed out that industries causing air pollution have made Cancer China’s leading cause of death. It was also been reckoned that China’s air pollution became so bad that it started being visible from the Space. Look at New York City, which is now staring at up to 2,700 premature deaths a year due to fine particulate matter and ozone in the air – can you believe that this number is approximately more than eight times the number of murders that took place in 2013!
If the pain of China and New York would have been taken as a hint to safeguard ourselves against air pollution, the circumstances today in New Delhi would have been at least a tad better.
Today, the need for peppermint spray in Delhi is being accompanied by masks as dense fog, along with severe Air Quality Index (AQI) ratings from several monitoring stations, has sent alarm bells ringing in Delhi on 7 November, 2017. The smog severely and disturbingly brought down visibility levels, affecting flight and train operations. The heavy air went to even permeate living rooms and underground Metro stations.
Authorities in Delhi also rolled in an immediate halt on civil construction works and ban on the entry of trucks, except those carrying essential commodities. Primary schools were shut. The continuous rise in the levels of PM2.5 and PM10 is a grave concern for both central and Delhi governments despite claims and projections that portray temporary relief.
The play of technology reached beyond limits here with companies like “Nurturing Green” launching an ‘Oxygen Chamber’ in Gurugram on September 29, 2017. This is touted to be spread over an area of 13,000 square feet and this oxygen chamber, apparently, houses various air-purifying plants as well as air purifiers to battle against pollution. Despite being a novel and pertinent concept, such places would not be able to be in the reach of everyone. What is stopping us from creating the whole earth as an Oxygen chamber though?
The need for laws and government programmes in this context is vital, but still secondary. Active and voluntary participation of the citizens is what is required at quick pace and in massive proportions. At the primary level, we can take any number of seemingly-small measure like switching to CNG vehicles completely, planting more and more saplings whenever and wherever, getting used to lesser use of air conditioners as they exhibit harmful gases, introduction for environmental responsibility from multi-national companies and facilitating transportation.
Some of them can be inconvenient in the short term but what can be more disconcerting than grimy air.
Government can install solar panels for street lights and green building and Public transport and school buses can be turned into electric or battery-operated modes – these attempts will surely warrant a small change in habits but eventually a huge difference.
A new method of cloud seeding can also contribute extensively in reducing air pollution. We can use spraying of water into the atmosphere from sprinklers atop tall buildings and towers, just like we water a garden. We can look at simulating natural types of precipitation and, in turn, effectively scavenge or collect and remove aerosol and gaseous pollutants.
The point is that the nightmare called pollution is not the headache of just our political leaders, but a matter of concern for all of us.
Unless we stop staying oblivious and comfortable with the feel of dirty air that we inhale, this horror movie will keep coming with ever-darkening sequels every year.