From the Viewsroom

Wake up and smell the smog

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on November 01, 2016

In the battle against pollution, we remain defenceless in Delhi

On Diwali, Delhi’s denizens bedecked their homes and invitingly lit lamps for Goddess Lakshmi to visit. But if the goddess of wealth had entered the capital, she would have got lost in the smog, choked, been deafened by the noise of fire-crackers and hurriedly moved on to her next port of call, skipping the city.

Several news reports on Sunday morning forecast a dire Diwali for Delhi, front-paging the pollution emergency. Advisories were issued to stay indoors. Appeals were made not to burst crackers. Delhi has always had the dubious distinction of being India’s smog capital, but this year has been worse than usual thanks to the combined onslaught of vehicular pollution caused by frenzied Diwali shopping, crop fires in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana villages, and low wind speeds.

By Diwali morning, the capital had become the gas chamber that a Delhi High Court judge had pronounced it to be. Common sense would have suggested that citizens would go easy on crackers or at least adhere to court orders that prohibit fireworks between 10 pm and 6 am. But no, it was all smoke, sound and fury even well past midnight. The aggravated effects of crackers were evident by 8 pm on Sunday, when air quality monitoring stations recorded alarming levels of particulate matter. Bodies like the WHO have often told us how toxic these respirable pollutants are — so why did people not heed the warnings?

Was it because this year the appeals against crackers were drowned out by the “ban Chinese products” communication? People boycotted imported decoratives choosing not to eschew crackers. Also, a section of society made a cultural issue out of it, defending its right to celebrate the traditional way, arguing it was just one day.

Nobody is asking for a ban on fire-crackers. Only regulations. Allow fireworks for just two hours on Diwali night. And let crackers be burst in open parks rather than streets or staircases. Of course, regulations are meaningless unless strictly enforced. Sadly, the same Delhi government that fined offenders so heavily during odd/even days was practically invisible during Diwali.

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Published on November 01, 2016
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