Home > Newsletter > Greenery: the Only Practical Solution to Air Pollution in Delhi

April is the month of joy in all parts of India, since it marks the onset of the harvest season. April is also a joyous month for environmentalists since it is the month which brings the world together to celebrate the Earth and creates an opportunity for citizens around the world to rededicate themselves to protecting their environment on 22nd April, Earth Day.

The theme of Earth Day 2018 was to End Plastic Pollution. Discarded or waste plastic has already reached the seas and oceans of the world in such proportions that the situation has now become alarming. According to The Telegraph, the explosion in plastic waste is having a devastating impact on marine environments [1].

A recent study suggests that many cosmetics available in the Indian market contain micro plastics or micro-beads which can pose a serious threat to the marine environment [2]. This means that plastic waste is not only overflowing in our landfills, it is also traveling to far off places and hurting us in different ways. This also necessitates that we revisit our use of plastics, create biodegradable materials as replacement to plastics and initiate research & innovation in the direction of ridding the seas and oceans free from this plastic mess that we have created.

The first step in this direction is certainly to sign the global End Plastic Pollution pledge/ reduction plan on the Earth Day Network’s website. The next step is to take action at your level to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic in every possible way. The Delhi Government has played its part by instructing students to not use plastic covers on school books [3]. This is understandable since both the Delhi Government and Delhi’s municipal corporations have been unsuccessfully looking to find land for a new landfill [4] since all existing landfills are overflowing with waste.

While this ever increasing waste problem remains the least spoken burning environmental issue in Delhi, the most popular of the latter — air pollution — also continues to plague and haunt the people of Delhi. Air pollution is an environmental problem that every citizen of Delhi is adequately familiar with by now. Its causes are also well known to people as are its human health implications. Despite this, air pollution continues to remain a grave threat to the health and life of the people in Delhi.

The November of last year (2017) witnessed a three-fold rise in patient numbers in hospitals across Delhi. Doctors continued to warn that rising air pollution has led to a decrease in life span of the people regularly breathing this toxic air [5]. The concentration of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) became several times its permissible limit during this time. RSPM has the ability to bypass the defense mechanisms of your nose and respiratory system and reach straight to the lungs, causing infections of varying degrees.

This year too, the trend so far does not look any better. This is especially because the most recent Forest Survey of India Report informs that the Forest Cover of Delhi is only 12.97% of the total geographical area of the city [6]. Further the replacement of lush green and thinly populated East Kidwai Nagar (South Delhi) with a massive and multi-storied residential complex [7], and a similar plan in the pipeline for neighbouring colonies is going to come at a huge environmental cost. For one, a city already having too much population is certainly not going to benefit with replacing fewer housing units with many more housing units.

The bleak light at the end of the tunnel is the recent directive of Delhi’s Environment and Forest Minister to undertaken vertical plantation activities [8]. The Delhi Government certainly seems to have its heart and mind at the right place when it calls for ensuring the enhancement of greenery in Delhi as a measure to curb air pollution in Delhi. Indeed vertical plantation activities in other cities have been undertaken somewhat successfully.

However, what also needs to be the focus is to protect the existing green spaces and green cover of Delhi, especially from ad hoc development practices that presently seem to be underway. Let us hope that the April month is also able to create the right kind of awareness and environmental sensitivity in all of us, so we can realize and understand that without clean, green environment…there can be no development.

References:

  1. Kirk, A. 2018. Earth Day 2018: The shocking facts about the scale of plastic pollution choking our seas. Accessed from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/22/earth-day-2018-shocking-facts-scale-plastic-pollution-choking/ on 1 May 2018.
  2. PTI. 2018. Micro-beads in Cosmetics a Threat to Environment. Accessed from http://www.dailypioneer.com/city/micro-beads-in-cosmetics-a-threat-to-environment.html on 1 May 2018.
  3. Vyawahare, M. 2018. Restrict students from using plastic covers on books: Delhi govt to schools. Accessed from https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/restrict-students-from-using-plastic-covers-on-books-delhi-govt-to-schools/story-Uovya38JG3GZAbhkriLUhK.html on 1 May 2018.
  4. State Bureau, 2018. पर्यावरणविदों ने यमुना खादर में लैंडफिल साइट का प्रस्ताव किया खारिज. Accessed from https://www.jagran.com/delhi/new-delhi-city-delhi-yamuna-khadar-landfill-site-environment-17884948.html on 1 May 2018.
  5. AFP. 2017. Delhi air pollution: Threefold rise in patients number at hospitals, doctors say smog shortening lives. Accessed from https://www.firstpost.com/india/delhi-air-pollution-threefold-rise-in-patients-number-at-hospitals-doctors-say-smog-shortening-lives-4205453.html on 1 May 2018.
  6. Forest Survey of India. (Ministry of Environment & Forests). India State of Forest Report 2017. Accessed from http://fsi.nic.in/details.php?pgID=sb_64 on 1 May 2018.
  7. Jain, A. 2015. NGT nod for Rs. 4,264-cr. East Kidwai Nagar housing project. Accessed from http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ngt-nod-for-rs-4264cr-east-kidwai-nagar-housing-project/article6798154.ece on 1 May 2018.
  8. PTI. 2018.  Delhi govt orders action plan to undertake vertical plantation activities. Accessed from http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/delhi-govt-orders-action-plan-to-undertake-vertical-plantation-activites-118042601166_1.html on 1 May 2018.