13 November 2018 09:53 AM

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RASHMI OBEROI | 8 NOVEMBER, 2018

Are We Breathing or Choking?

A bottomless pit


I remember writing a piece last year around the same time… on the very same subject… The National Capital Region's toxic air that is thrust upon us, choking one and all. The past month, I haven’t come across one person who is isn’t coughing or snivelling or recovering from a viral fever that just doesn’t go away. The colds and coughs and never-ending health issues have sucked us into a bottomless pit.

Year after year, there is a huge hullabaloo on handling the pollution woes and all that the government is doing to ensure cleaner air for us to breathe in… But, in reality, it is all noise and no action. Diwali comes with a bang and leaves us gasping and breathless.

The craziest thing I’ve read on social media over the past week is that those people who are against the bursting of crackers are labelled as anti-Hindu, as apparently not bursting these ‘poisonous toys’ is against our culture! What kind of insanity is this?

I had a lot of faith in people this year… I thought there would be little or no firecrackers and that we would have a greener and cleaner Diwali… But all that literally went up in smoke as the clock struck 7 pm… In the distance, the burst of ‘anti-environment artillery’ reverberated into the wee hours of the morning. As I flung open my balcony door, the stench of burst crackers and the venomous air hit my nose… and through the haze, my trust in the inhabitants of the National Capital Region blew up in my face.

Well done people: let us not worry about the respiratory impact even on healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung or heart disease. Let’s ignore the children who are besieged with breathlessness and asthma, struggling to breathe. Bad air quality poses the greatest risk to humans – but no one seems to get it. The deadly particles that are inhaled deep into the lungs directly lead to heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and respiratory diseases… how do people not understand or get this?

What struck me as ludicrous was when some children and even adults wore face masks to tackle the poor air quality index while bursting crackers! Stupidity laid bare!

While I am aware that one of the main reasons for the pollution in our city is the stubble-burning in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana, yet we have not found a solution to this issue. It requires the state governments to sit down and tackle it urgently. Pointing fingers and accusations have not led to a solution and never will.

Most people lamented that sales of firecrackers was hit in the national capital this year as the police cracked down on sellers with old stocks, in view of the apex court's order. This should be applauded and not looked down on with disdain. On the eve of Diwali, enforcement teams were seen guarding the wholesale cracker markets of Sadar Bazar, Jama Masjid, Chandni Chowk, and Karol Bagh. Heavy deployment was seen near godowns and shops, wherever there was possibility of the illegal sale of crackers – yet the whingers complained non-stop. Increased patrolling around neighbourhoods to track any violations was not welcomed.

The latest update indicates that air pollution in Delhi and adjoining areas in the National Capital Region is deteriorating with each passing day, with intoxicated air causing illnesses and affecting people commuting daily. And the situation is only getting worse. Experts have now predicted a further dip in air quality in the next 10 days. While several measures have been initiated by the state and central governments to check the menace, the impact appears to be negligible.

It has now come to the forefront that increasing toxic air quality in and around Delhi is forcing some senior corporate executives to decline job offers in the National Capital Region, according to executive search companies. Korn Ferry, EMA Partners, Hunt Partners, Transearch and Global Hunt say that while pollution had become an active point of discussion in CXO job searches last year itself, every third CXO they’ve approached lately is reluctant to accept a job here. It is not surprising. I know families that are looking to relocate to smaller towns and move to the hills just to get away from the poisoned land.

When will we learn and when will we wake up. Inhale… Exhale… But What? This is definitely not what you call clean air!
 

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