Feast for Thought

Not pontificating. Only trying to bat on the side of the environment. And ethics. And simple living. And slowing down. (And trying to learn and practise before preaching or teaching...)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dilli's ills - 1. Unbreathable Air: Why this pathetic apathy?

In May 2014 a new Government assumed charge at the Centre, in India's national capital Delhi, with a brute majority. A few decades of (dysfunctional) coalition politics had the experts saying that India can no longer see single-party rule, but the voters knew better.

In Feb 2015, a new Government assumed charge in India's national capital Delhi, with a clean 'sweep' of 67 of 70 seats.

In the years prior to 2014, both the local and central governments were (mis)managed - for long - by a different crowd led by India's GOP, and the bureaucracy can still be seen to be well-tuned in that style of functioning.

In all this while, the national capital was galloping towards the position of No 1. Not in Governance. Not in Sustainability. Not in Women's Safety.

In pollution, India's national capital, far outperformed every other place in this wide wide world and beyond. Far worse than the visible pollution (vehicle exhaust, factory fumes) is the invisible killer - toxic levels of PM2.5 and PM10. ("Delhi’s grim distinction is that it has even higher levels of PM10, as well as of the smaller particulates, PM2.5, that are more likely to kill because they go deeper into the lungs. Levels of PM2.5 in Delhi are routinely 15 times above levels considered safe by the World Health Organisation. New data suggest that, on this score, Delhi’s air has been 45% more polluted than that of the Chinese capital for the past couple of years".)

With a brute majority, even possibly populated with several 'brutes', the central and local governments, between them, have the power
- to curb the irrational, far-beyond-the-city's-capacity proliferation of vehicles,
- to regulate polluting industries, including under-performing, but toxic power plants
- to enforce staggering o working hours
- to aggressively improve and impose means of public transportation
- to take the people into confidence, work with citizen groups, RWA's and NGO's to make the process of implementation of tough measures appear less brutal.

And the people of Delhi? Other than history buffs and those who respect land, water, nature, clean air - wherever they live - Delhi is populated by people who haven't lost any love on their monster city ("MONSTROCITY"). They spit, they love their polythene and polystyrene, they consume like gluttons (Amrica does too, you see), their pets suffer from obesity, they own their roads.. (Oh the sense of ownership of the roads - Delhiites, both citizens and law-keepers fiercely defend their rights on road usage).

Delhi after all has a history of 'takers', hardly any 'givers', whether it is Lutyen's Delhi, or any of the 2000+ illegal colonies, or any of the bizarre sub-cities and satellite townships that mushroomed during the past couple of decades, in the name of Holy Progress and Pious Development.

With no one to heed the voice of the environment, a minuscule number of concerned citizens, individually or through support groups, notably the NGT, have been trying to raise the common issue of air  pollution - which of course affects the 'cursed' have-nots in far worse ways then the 'blessed' haves. 

What do the power-wielders say? It is easy to gauge attitudes from the responses.

  • Sheila Dikshit, who was the chief minister of Delhi from 1998-2013, said, “You have to understand that there are various lobbies. If auto manufacturers have buyers, for them it looks unfair that we are stopping their growth. On the other hand, the air quality has become worse. Unless there’s a collective decision and the lobbies come together for the good of the people, nothing can be done. I find it a little disappointing. We have been through it, innumerable meetings with the lobbies. Because we, the people of Delhi, were the most disturbed by it.” (source)
  • Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar: It is good that the media is highlighting the issue. This would force local authorities to take urgent action to curb pollution. (source)(emphasis added)
  •  AAP is committed to work for the well being of the people and our country. Every issue is important to us. Although pollution does not feature in Delhi dialogues, we are committed to look into this serious issue.  Sure, we will take inputs from all concerned departments and take appropriate steps to bring down pollution levels. Team AAP

What the media says:

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