As Delhi gasps for air, our children are inheriting damaged planet

Published: 06th November 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th November 2016 11:36 PM   |  A+A-

The winters are upon the capital. There was a time when this meant unwrapping our woolens, sitting on the terrace and cracking open peanuts. In today’s scenario, however, winter means taking out your pollution masks, and for the young and elderly cutting back on outdoor activities.

We must thank the toxic fog for these conditions. Flights to the capital were delayed and friends who had travelled out had to hover in the air for almost 20 minutes this November. The fog was so thick in certain areas that people reported zero visibility and commuters had a tough time making it to work.  

Leading dailies recorded the air quality index reading at a severe 447. There are several conditions that lead to toxic gases being get trapped in the air. Normally they would rise and dissipate at a quicker rate, but due to the lowering of temperatures and ‘near stagnant’ wind movement, they remain trapped in our immediate breathing environment. Next we have the high-level of fuel emissions of vehicular traffic that has not become more manageable, despite the brief respite during the odd-even scheme. Then there is crop burning from nearby fields and finally, a large proportion of fumes emitted by crackers.

According to scientists, the pollution level is classified as severe if it is between 401 and 500. In some areas like Shadipur, it was recorded at 500. This is extremely dangerous for the local population, especially children and elderly who have lesser capability to fight the number of respiratory diseases that come in the wake of such polluted environment.

Besides, children breath twice as fast as adults, taking in more pollutants which can adversely affect their growth and immune system. What is even more alarming is continued exposure to average annual concentrations of PM2.5 of 35 or above, associated with a 15 per cent higher long-term mortality risk. The pollution levels in Delhi have been rising steadily since 2001 and are at an all-time high now.

This is not just a city concern but a global phenomenon, bringing this to the fore is a video shot in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, which has gone viral on WhatsApp. I watched a moving speech by Severn Suzuki, a 13-year-old Canadian girl who had formed the group ECO (The Environmental Children’s Organisation) to bring about environmental awareness.

The group of teenagers included Venessa Suittie, Morgan Geisler and Michelle Quigg. Their message was clear: we are leaving a damaged planet for our coming generations. “I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in our ozone, I am afraid to breath the air because I don’t know what chemicals are in it.”  Suzuki said.

It is 2016 and it seems the warning signs raised by these teens went unheard. Animals continue go extinct because their natural habitat has been destroyed. Our waters are so polluted that fish have been found with cancer and forests have turned to deserts. The buy and throw away culture is ruining the planet. Recycling should not just remain a few green arrows printed on packets. It is time for us to recycle our waste, be it organic, chemical, technological or otherwise. It is time for us to use public transport more. We must stop being afraid or nonchalant to change our ways. We owe it to our children to give them a better city, a better planet.


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