ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Foggy Minds

The problem lies not just in the air but in the heads of those who make policy.

The smog in New Delhi is an annual phenomenon; so is the hysteria around it. It is an emergency, we are told. While Delhi blames Haryana and Punjab, the latter blame Delhi and all blame the central government. Meanwhile, the wretched denizens of India’s most cosseted city gasp their way through days where the idea of ever breathing clean air is a distant dream. For the poor, the very young and the elderly, the choice is between breathing to remain alive or breathing and dying. Dramatic as that might sound, this ugly reality is supported by innumerable studies by reputed organisations, the latest being by the British journal Lancet that concluded that there were 25 lakh premature deaths in India in 2015 due to air pollution.

The smog might have descended on Delhi this year on 7 November, but it was in the making for many months, if not years. Ever since 2002, when Anil Agarwal and the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) rang the alarm bell about the quality of air in the capital and fought for the substitution of diesel with compressed natural gas (CNG) in all public transport, the crisis was evident. Yet, little more was done after that as Delhi hurtled towards the disaster zone it is today. Although a metro rail was built, the city’s wide roads were progressively jammed with vehicular traffic. Diesel-burning trucks continued to cut through the city; solid waste was managed by open burning; industrial clusters were not monitored for pollution; thermal power plants in the vicinity of the city continued to spew out sulphur dioxide and fly ash; and hundreds of diesel generators added to the mess. Together they enveloped the city in poisonous air throughout the year, not just during the winter when it was visible as smog.

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Updated On : 17th Nov, 2017

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