The recent developments between the Supreme Court and the Delhi government have brought the long-standing issue of air quality in the capital to the headlines once again. The apex court of the country said it was a ‘crisis’ and insisted on immediate measures. Following the directives, the Delhi government on Monday has said that it was ready to take steps to impose complete lockdown with immediate effect but it would only be effective if the similarity measure is taken in the NCR as well. So far physical classes have been deferred in schools for a week, construction sites closed for three days, and private and government officials have been advised to follow work from home. The ongoing crisis has also raised the question of the reasons behind such bad air conditions.
The effect of firecrackers
Recently on the festival of Diwali, many states had banned the use of crackers while others gave limited permission for green crackers. And this was said to be a contributor to the sudden degradation of situations. Firecrackers are said to increase dust and pollutant concentration along with releasing chemical fumes of sulphur, nitrite, and copper. These are supposed to affect the respiratory tract and aggravate already present medical conditions like allergies in others. According to a World Air Quality Report of 2020, twenty of the world’s 30 most polluted are Indian cities with particulate matter above the WHO recommendation of 2.5 – which has harmful effects on human health. Toxic smog was aggravated by the changing weather patterns during the period.
Other contributing factors
The other major cited factors for the degrading air quality have been cited to be the stubble burning by the farmers in Punjab-Haryana. The ever-growing traffic and industries have been the constant. One of the major angles has been the constant loss of vegetation cover – throughout 2021, there have been numerous forest fires worldwide. Beginning with California and Siberia, the fires in Uttarakhand and in the Dzukou Range of Nagaland has been of major concern. Ongoing major constructions of roads in some states had also led to increased dust concentrations.
What can be done?
As an immediate measure, the Delhi government has imposed a lockdown. But in the long run, measures have to be taken to keep conditions from worsening all of a sudden. Regulating the traffic and the emissions from industries has to be regulated by stricter legislation. In all, industries must be situated away from major residential areas. In festive times like Diwali, people should be encouraged to take up the greener alternatives and bring down the net burning of firecrackers. It was estimated that some 57,000 people died in Delhi in the past year due to pollution-related issues despite the Covid-19 lockdown in place. Also, farmers are to be advised to refrain from stubble burning or other agricultural wastes. Increasing tree cover and maintaining them will also help in keeping a check on air quality. We as citizens should also make contributions – like switching to public transportation, energy-efficient lifestyle, and environmentally conscious alternatives.