Anand Vihar

Air-pollution in Delhi: Kejri’s mask would fall off soon

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Pollution in Delhi will be a toxic matter in the assembly elections in next few months. The Capital turns into a toxic gas chamber in winter primarily due to crop stubble burning in north India as polluted air hangs overhead on a surface which is lower than the adjoining regions. Crowded streets with vehicles don’t help as do the open trucks carrying construction materials and blowing dust particles around.

The cost of pollution in the Capital is no longer a secret. The air quality of Delhi and NCR is among the very worst which World Health Organization (WHO) found in its survey of 1600 cities. Air pollution is the fifth largest killer in India costing 1.5 million lives every year. In Delhi, poor air quality damages the lungs of 50 percent or 2.2 million children.

So when the air quality improved by 25 per cent there was no way Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was going to let go his moment. Every newspaper you flip open you see a full-page ad with Kejriwal in his benign-est smile; like a wolf who has the best of manners before it pounces. Kejriwal is thumping his chest by claiming it’s been due to 24×7 electricity supply which has reduced the usage of generators and heavy fines which he has imposed on construction sites in violation of dust control norms. He has another ace of odd-even scheme for cars next month to make profit of.

Of course Mr Kejriwal is not honest enough to admit the air improvement has largely been due to Delhi’s wind blowing in easterly direction. All this is set to change next week when the wind would start blowing north-westernly. This would bring in the dusty air to the Capital region. Stubble-burning would then bring its weight to bear on Delhi NCR. That the monsoon is still in a retreating mode had also considerably cleared the Capital air. But then monsoon is not here forever—it would go in next few days.

This is not the only noise Kejriwal has made on the pollution front. He has launched an online campaign where he is asking residents to chip in with their suggestions to reduce pollution in the Capital. This is participatory governance, like the one he did in his first term as Delhi chief minister by severing the arrangement with Congress. Then too he had apparently acted on people’s express opinion. Much has flown down the dirty Yamuna in the last few years though.

The regulatory bodies for pollution, like the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA), unfortunately for Kejriwal, are putting out facts as they are. It has told the Delhi administration that 13 hotspots in the Capital need “immediate” attention. Open waste burning and industrial pollution have been identified as two unattended issues. Delhi administration in response has promised it would soon have camera-fitted drones to monitor instances of garbage burning and indusrial emissions in the city. But then promises come easy to politicians.The 13 “dangerous” hotspots for immediate action in the Capital have been identified: It’s Okhla, Narela, Mundka, Dwarka, Punjabi Bagh, Bawana, Wazirpur, Rohini, Vivek Vihar, Anand Vihar, RK Puram, Ashok Vihar and Jahangirpuri.

The truth is Delhi would soon gasp for breath. These advertisements featuring Kejriwal in his best pose would soon disappear. The residents would look for their own options: have masks on face, stay indoors or worse, bring it on. Every year we hear the same noise on crop stubble burning and nothing happens.. There are no plans to educate the masses on their responsibility. All we have is a chameleon of a chief minister beaming at us in the newspapers, claiming credit for 25 per cent reduction in air pollution when the real menace hasn’t even set in. We all have been fooled once by his rehearsed “innocence”, let us not be suckers again.