NEW DELHI: “I wanted to go to on a trip to Ajmer with my friends, but since breathing in hilly areas is quite difficult for me, my mother didn’t allow me to go,” says 14-year-old Nitin who was diagnosed with asthma last year.

Just like Nitin, several other people in the capital’s Palam area suffer from such chronic health difficulties, and the root cause of their problems is air pollution.

It was back in 2015 that the National Green Tribunal banned the open burning of waste in Delhi, and made it a punishable offence with fines up to 10,000 rupees.

The step was taken to control the city’s degrading air quality, which has already given Delhi the title of world’s most polluted capital.

Due to industrial activity, vehicular emissions, and the dumping and burning of open garbage, the air quality index or AQI in Delhi is officially at the ‘severe’ mark.

With an AQI of 469, Palam is one of the region’s most polluted towns. For comparison the AQI in Colombo is 42, in Dhaka 69, and around 150 in Lahore, Bangalore and Chennai.

Promises made by local MCD councillor Inder Kumar to prevent illegal garbage burning seem not to have amounted to much on the ground, as waste burning still continues in the area. It is burnt by local residents, and by MCD workers themselves.

When 23-year-old local resident Vipul complained about the same to the South Delhi Municipal Corporation they replied by saying, “This particular region comes under the railways, please contact the concerned authority.”

According to Vipul the railways replied, “They are MCD workers, we can’t do anything about them.” And the local police said “If someone makes a complaint we will surely take action.”

This constant passing of the buck between officials clearly shows the level of concern they possess for the environment.

“We really don’t know what to do next, or whom we should hold accountable for this,” a disappointed Vipul told The Citizen.

A medical doctor who lives in Palam, B.K.Sarkar, says that “Initially people used to come with normal cough and cold, but now I see more and more people with chronic breathing problems.”

Delhi has three landfills or dumping grounds for waste, which had already exceeded their carrying capacity in 2008.

Faced with official apathy and our growing production of waste, managing this garbage without damaging the quality of the air or groundwater is a mounting concern.

Just like Palam, every other place in Delhi is doing battle with pollution in some way or the other. It is for us to press for a collective solution to the pollution problem, before it chokes us.