Five long term actions for controlling air pollution in Delhi

By Somali K Chakrabarti

 

 

China will trap its smog and turn them into diamonds. 

– World Economic Forum 

 

As bizarre as it sounds, this video posted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on their Facebook page claims that China will tackle Beijing’s air pollution problem by turning the carbon from smog particles into a diamonds.

If at all such a technology is practically and economically feasible then maybe it is time for our Delhi government to explore the possibility of use of such a Technology, the pollution levels in Delhi being at its highest and one of the worst in the world.

Delhi

While the schools remain shut for three days, all constructions and demolitions have been banned for five days, as usual the center and the state government are busy leveling charges against each other as to who is to be blamed for the smog that shrouds Delhi. Whereas Delhi govt sites crop burning in Punjab as the major reason for pollution, the central govt says that 80% of the pollution is caused inside the city.

Delhi , the city where I spent my growing years, used to be a clean and green city with sprawling parks such as Lodhi Garden , Dear Park, Children’s Park etc, a far cry from the “gas chamber” as it is called now.

In the two years since the Swachh Bharat program was launched, probably the government should have worked towards preventing such a situation when the national capital is witnessing the worst smog in 17 years.  Kapil Mishra, the interim minister of environment has sought suggestions to tackle Delhi pollution crisis from the public via the online petition platform change.org. Five simple things come to my mind that the government can do for reducing pollution on a long term basis:

 

1. Create Efficient Waste Management Systems

Yes this is a big issue to be tackled, but unless it is done at a war footing, merely imposing a ban on burning waste, without creating proper disposal systems, will not solve the problem.  Though the detailed framework for mechanisms to be followed for disposal of plastic wastes,  batteries, chemicals and hazardous waste, bio-medical waste, and now e-wastes exist, but how much of it is actually implemented is anybody’s guess.

 

2. Increase green cover 

sustainable tree

Image credit : https://sustainablestalbans.org

Sustainable growth is possible when economic development is integrated with social development and environmental protection.  As much as we need good buildings and roads, we also need green open spaces, which unfortunately are heavily comprised upon.

Dust has been cited as a major reason of pollution. Sprinkling water using Jet pressure pump technique to control air pollution is a temporary solution, when the green covers are fast dwindling, and the open spaces are being filled up. While it is a no brainer that permitting construction on open spaces, mindless felling of trees, cutting down of forests heavily disturb the ecological balance and contribute to pollution, but these are overlooked time and again for more profitable use of land.

 

3. Enforce Sustainability Standards

Measuring carbon footprints in organizations and mandating reduction of carbon footprints, monitoring fuel quality quality checks, enforcing and implementing emission norms for industries can no longer be overlooked.

 

4. Encourage Work from home and car pooling culture wherever possible

This would reduce the traffic on roads. Of course, work from home is not possible for all kinds of jobs, but it can still be made possible to a great extent in while collared jobs by taking advantage of digital mediums.  However, it does require a certain trust level both on part of employees and employers.  In one of the new age Indian companies that has rapidly grown in the last few years, the employees are asked to click their selfie and send it across when they apply for a sick leave. Now, this I would say is a skewed mind-set that shows trust deficit rather than a cool attitude. At the same time, it is a responsibility on the employees to deliver on time and not to treat it as a holiday or put up excuses for covering inefficiency.

 

5. Create awareness about environment conservation

Drastic changes in environment have led to extinction of many species from the planet. It is high time that we take cognizance of the need to preserve and protect our environment, and create awareness about environmental sustainability, particularly among children, who will have to bear the brunt of pollution.

Whether the government considers  converting the smog into diamond or not, these obvious measures are sure to help control air pollution in the long run.

 

Image Credit : www.skymetweather.com

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Readers Comments (32)

  1. Sorry to hear about the pollution situation in Delhi now, Somali. Those green and fresh childhood memories seem like a dream…but if everyone works together the surroundings may improve. Greenery is certainly a no brainer as you said, and trees also absorb carbon dioxide. Carpooling will not only reduce vehicles on the road but also less traffic jams. Here in Australia, cycling to and fro work is popular. Maybe that can catch on in India some day 🙂

    • Thank you Mabel. As you have pointed out – everyone needs to work together to protect the environment. Any development at the cost of destroying the environment for is like destroying our own house and expecting to benefit from it. Planned development and conducive climate is needed for making it easy for people to walk to work, 🙂

  2. Indeed Somali, the situation in Delhi is a man-made disaster, and it is a product of public apathy and political ego…this was expected and nature had given all the signals and indications over the last couple of years. The administration knew it and as usual they remained in limbo and gave little regard to the potential consequences, what will happen, people will shout for sometime and yell for few days and they will be back again accepting the reality. The govt. have been taking both the people and nature for granted, and this was bound of happen. Today, this situation needs a drastic measure and also a long-term solution, this problem is not going to go away soon or we can escape the implications without doing something unless that is radical in nature.

    Air pollution is all-pervading and especially the children who have to face the brunt of the pollutants and putting their life at risk. This amount of particle matters makes things worse, not much can be immediately done when we add to the cocktail of pollution through the intense bursting of crackers and burning of farm waste. There has to be a comprehensive approach to this problem right from social, political, legal to scientific, and it is time we keep politics away and put the problem in real perspective. We cannot keep testing the patience of nature, nature has been generously gracious, and we have taken it too far and if we continue to do so with scant regard, the consequences will lethal…we will have nobody to blame but ourselves.

    The suggestions made by you are practical and has long term benefit, I am sure the administration has already started following some the points. Thanks for sharing such an insight post and at a time when we need to contribute out bit for the protection of nature.
    😀

    • You said it Nihar. The administration knows it but pays little heed to it. Radical change in the mindset and a willingness to improve the situation is needed for any effective solution. If govt action is confined only to sprinkling of water and distribution of masks (which are necessary for the short term), then the problem will keep resurfacing and deteriorating further. As you say no one can afford to neglect the issue any more. Hope they put aside the political differences and work together towards a solution for the problem that concerns us all.

      • Yes Somali, it is political apathy and we can no more allow that to happen, people movement and pressure has to be built on govt. to act and act decisively, this is no small problem and it needs thinking and serious involvement and long term commitment to get it on track…yes, we should all play out bit to make a difference.
        😀

  3. excellent post somali . now rather than blaming government it is our responsibility as a citizen too to take steps that would avoid causing more ill effects .
    all the pointers u mentioned are achievable . cutting the trees down has an adverse effect which has increased carbon dioxide content around there. i have seen too much usage of personal cat . person drives alone in a big car

    • Thank you Supreet. Too much usage of personal car, bursting of cars, rampant construction …so many factors put together contribute to the pollution problem. To blame others will be of little help, it is time for all to work collectively to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

  4. Somali, we have ignored all warnings given to us over the decades and see where we stand today, amidst dust, pollution and toxic gases. Callousness and sheer ignorance by those in power, of these alarm bells, have made all cities unlivable. you have come out with action plans that indeed could go a long way in making the cities the same as we spent in our childhood and do not become distant memories! Also, I think time has come to put a full stop to firecrackers, the reason for being so emphatic is that, in certain parts of Bengaluru this Diwali, there was a total ban on fire works and it did make a sea change in the pollution levels. Apart from this, construction activities must be streamlined with no debris in the location and surroundings and if possible to put a cap on the number of sanctions given to construction.
    Hope the Chinese technology of turning carbon to diamonds is a reality and does not remain a fallacy. Then there will be a beeline to colonize India once again by the super powers and Delhi will be a new Kimberly!

    • Thank you Sunita. Totally agree with you on full stop to crackers. I came to know that the use of crackers in Delhi was less this time but see what it resulted in. Another major problem is dust , which is due to rampant construction ( Delhi being a semi arid area) and destroying the green cover. Same is happening in other cities as well – it it continues the way it is – the calling is written on the wall. Btw, to me the diamond technology seems too good to be true.

  5. It is sad. The government and also the people did not pay heed to warnings. . No one did and now we are seeing all this chaos. .

    I hope it can be controlled otherwise we are in big big trouble.. and till we the people don’t change there is not much govt. Can do.. It is our fault and we need to wake up. ..

    • Yes Bikramjit, we need to wake up and so does the govt. Because environment, when disturbed, will spare none. Time for all to realize this. Govt must set proper systems and we must do away with the mindset of flouting rules for safety, emission standards etc. to control the situation.

  6. A well thought out article. Today, it is Delhi. Tomorrow it could be any city. Public spaces need to be greened. Exclusive cycle ways need to be planned, along with easy rent a cycle city wide system.
    Unfortunately, while the common man struggles to eke out his daily existence, the politicians are too busy holding onto power and pampering their own egos.
    Perhaps a crisis of this nature would prove to be an opportunity – an effective wake up call which is followed by some stringent measures.

    • Thank you Mr Bhatia. Absolutely true. Today it is Delhi, tomorrow it could be some other city. Let us hope that this crisis serves as a wake up call resulting in implementing stringent measures.

  7. I have visited Delhi periodically over the last 30 years, and in that time although the traffic has increased massively, up until my last visit about 5 years ago, I saw definite progress, with less air pollution, largely thanks to improvements to fuel in buses, especially. It does seem that suddenly it has gone backwards. I do think that it would greatly help if a huge number of trees could be planted, but with the competition for building land, I doubt it will happen. The only answers I can see must revolve around finding ways to drastically cut the numbers of vehicles on the road, with strict legislation, and enforcement, to take vehicles off of the road with old, heavily polluting engines.

  8. bhudeb chakrabarti November 8, 2016 @ 5:14 pm

    A very informative post.The overpoulation of cities,proliferation of vehicles on the roads ,depletion of the green cover and lavish consumption behaviours over the years have led to the dangerous situation we are faced with now. I saw Delhi first in 1962 in my youth.I loved the open ,spacious and green Delhi and enjoyed walking through the historic city.Both long term and short term measures with cooperation from all sections of people are neeed to be taken to face the grave polution in Delhi and other cities of India.

    • Thank you for sharing your valuable views on how the landscape of Delhi has changed with time. Whereas once Delhi was spacious and green, the excess consumption behavior and haphazard growth have made it otherwise.

  9. A nice article on the present crisis in Delhi. Schools have been closed for the smog. Your suggestions are very good and I hope that government takes a note of your suggestions.

  10. Great suggestions here, Somali. Delhi has practically become a ‘gas-chamber’ as you have pointed out. Not only the government but common people are also responsible for this climatic deterioration. Indiscriminate cutting of trees for constructing skyscrapers, using personal cars even for travelling a walkable distance, all these have backfired to produce that smog. Also, licenses to many heavy industries have been given by the government during the past years without thinking of the consequences.

    Hope they will find out some solution…we don’t want ‘Chinese’ diamonds out of smoke 😀 we just want some fresh air…

    • Thanks Maniparna. ‘Gas chamber’ was pointed out by the Delhi CM. Yes both govt and people are responsible for the present condition…creation of concrete jungles , disposal and dumping of industrial effluents, excess use of cars etc have contributed to the present condition. Hope they realize the consequences of further deterioration and take the corrective actions.

  11. Reblogged this on Incredible Pie and commented:

    Footsteps towards something better!!👍

  12. I can not imagine what it is like to live in such a smog filled city Somali .. I know carbon makes diamonds, but how to you begin to extract it from the air? But at least they are thinking on the right lines of tackling the carbon.. I wonder are they tackling the problem of emissions.. 🙂

    Thank you so much for your post Somali it is spreading great awareness to global warming and the way in which we are polluting its atmosphere..

    Love and Blessings
    Sue xx

    • Thank you Sue. Such conditions serve as reminders that the gifts of nature such as the air we breath should not be taken for granted. Yes, the problem should be tackled at the root including emissions , discharge of waste , rampant construction etc.
      Otherwise we may be digging our own graves.

  13. Such an important article, Somali! I hope your country is successful in its control of pollution. You’re right; trees are vital and help clean the air — mother nature is very efficient. xo

  14. Pollution et al are only symptoms, the core issue is illiteracy. Before we can even begin talking about making our cities Smart, we need to focus on making our citizens Smart. Unfortunately the education spend is not even 2% of GDP. For politicians Talk and Lives are Cheap.

  15. its great advice for all cities ,be well 😊

  16. you never know with Delhi’s pollution but you know where to find the best corporate fest in delhi!! @levitatekmc

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