NEW DELHI: The last couple of months have revealed the breathless, agonized and polluted face of Delhi, lurking within smog, smoke and chaos. Around Diwali, Delhi’s pollution problem grabbed headlines and dominated social media feeds. Meanwhile, the blame game played by National Green Tribunal and Delhi Government continued, mud-slinging each other as the common man coughed and wheezed. As the national capital embraced November and the temperature dipped, the presence of Continuous Particulate matter 10 further escalated.

The alarming rise of pollution was documented by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), which reveals that such concentration of pollutants in the air can cause severe diseases, respiratory illnesses, asthma and even cancer in the long run. Yet, the Central Pollution Control Board which was to propose an action plan on November 25 to the Supreme Court has not included any health advisory or emergency alert system. Even measures like strictly stopping the plying of diesel vehicles or hiking the parking fees, an immediate response in cities like Beijing and Paris, has not been adopted so far.

The air apocalypse is being slowly erased from public memory as the media has stopped endowing it the prime time importance and at the same time, lukewarm measures of the government are being proposed to keep the questions in check. Or November 3, A.N.Jha, the Union Environment Secretary held a meeting with other environment secretaries of Delhi, UP, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. Instead of immediate, concrete steps, the discussion eventually came up with options like shutting down of brick kilns, drive against pollution causing vehicles as well as decrease in the plying of diesel vehicles.

Sadly, although the public did derive some comfort from this political razzmatazz, the lofty advices were just verbal. In fact, it was nothing but history being re-written, quite superficially. The same commotion, meeting and ‘serious’ discussion had taken place in 2015 when Prakash Javedkar was the environment minister. Nevertheless, the Air Quality Index dropped from 900 to 500 in the next two days. As the smoky haze of smog slowly depleted and as we started breathing again, the horror and scale of pollution started disturbing us less.

After a week, when the NGT once again had a discussion with the official authorities, it became clear that none of the outcomes of the so-called high profile meeting actually had substance. These suggestions were merely directives by the Environment Ministers and not officially executed legal orders. Even the NGT finally had to disclose that none of the directives were quick or easy to implement. The air quality monitors in the city kept on displaying the AQI as 500 while it was surprisingly higher and way beyond the officially revealed data.

In fact, there is no connection between enforcement and science in Delhi. As the schools were shut down, there was no concrete reason given as to why such a move was proposed. The environment violations are taken very lightly in the capital and it is very difficult to change this established culture.

S.K.Kabra from AIIMS stated that just because the amount of visible smog has deteriorated it does not mean that the air quality has improved. He also opined that such a condition could have detrimental impact on senior citizens, expecting mothers and of course, children. Even the masks are not safe as they easily get damp and thus cannot filter the air properly.

Thus, the condition has not improved and Delhi is not safe yet. It is important for the media and civil societies to continue the questioning of the government and demand that more concrete measures to check pollution are implemented.