IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 6 Issue I

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 6 Issue I

Newsletter- Jan-2014 (3.6 MB, 1034 downloads)

Right to Clean Air:

When I was planning to go to Beijing, I was advised by many people to be careful about pollution. I had read many reports published in the newspapers over the years and knew that the quality of air in Beijing is atrocious. Nevertheless, not going to Beijing on the pretext of pollution was a sure-fire way to get fired from the job. Today, reading a news report in New York Times stunned me, as it says that the quality of air in Delhi is far worse than that in Beijing.

We all know about the pollution levels in Delhi. There are times when the Delhi sky is filled with smog due to the farmers in Punjab burning the wheat stalks and the pollution levels skyrocket. Over the years, the Chief Minister of Delhi had little success in persuading the Punjab Government to control the menace. Perhaps the new activist Chief Minister of Delhi Shri Kejriwal will go and do a dharna in Punjab. However, it is not season to burn wheat stalk in the fields of Punjab, and still the average pollution levels recorded in the first three weeks in Delhi is twice the average level in Beijing. The daily peak level of harmful particulate matter PM 2.5 for Delhi in the first three weeks was 473 as compared to average of 227 of Beijing.

Delhi residents know that even when the doors and windows are closed, fine dust fills the rooms. It becomes virtually impossible to drive in the roads without rolling up the windows and using AC (and heater in winter). In Delhi, all the independent houses are demolished by builders to construct 4 storied buildings. Since this is a way of unlocking the value of your land, whereby the landowner and the builder both benefit, one can see construction of houses in every lane in Delhi throughout the year. With the prevailing manner of construction, dust and sound has become a constant companion of Delhites.

delhi pollution

pollution Image courtesy – Getty Images

In summer, Delhi gets enveloped by a blanket of dust and again makes breathing difficult. A 2003 study published in current science reports high concentrations of heavy metals like Cu (copper) in the particulate matter (aerosols) in Delhi (Yadav et al, Current Science, Vol 84, No. 3, Feb 2003). In Delhi, the impact of dust storm is enhanced due to the low moisture content in the air in summer, leading to a higher resuspension of road dust (Guttikunda, Sarath et al, Health impacts of particulate pollution in a megacityDelhi, India, Environmental Development, 2012). There appears to be no thought by the authorities to create systemic solutions to lessen the impact of the dust storms. The gradual deforestation and rapid urbanisation is resulting in no natural green barriers. The Delhi ridge forest is virtually destroyed. In the neighbouring Haryana, illegal mining has taken its toll. The rapid urbanisation has resulted in lack of green spaces.

Car ownership is a perceived sign of status symbol and people love to flaunt it. With the disastrous state of public transport, it is often a safer mode. No wonder, each person driving a car alone contributes to the pollution levels and every year more and more cars are added to the pool.

Autorickshaw drivers have become a law onto themselves. Since banks wont extend loans to them, the autorickshaw drivers have to go to agents for loans as well as to get the permits. After being fleeced by this system, the auto-rickshaw drivers justify it to themselves that they have the right to fleece the passengers. With the recent Government formation of the Aam Aadmi Party riding on a wave of support from the auto-rickshaw drivers and other economically weaker sections of the society, the Government neither appears to tackle the menace of the auto-drivers nor wants to tackle the root cause. The bitter commuters are compelled to buy cars on EMI.

auto rikshaws in delhi

The Delhi Metro which is tom-tommed as a success story has not become the panacea of Delhis traffic problems. It is estimated that the Delhi Metro perhaps moved about 5% of the cars off road. These days, I personally prefer to take the metro to the railway station as the distance of about 16kms takes one and half hours by car but only 30mins by metro. However, the daily commuters driving from other parts of NCR area to Delhi say that driving down to work is better for them because they often need to take couple of connecting trains and also the amount of money charged for parking by Metro is high. So a lot of people prefer to drive their own cars.

In the winter the people living in the streets burn whatever they can lay their hands on to beat the heat thereby further increasing the pollution levels.

Several years back on the directions of the Honble SC, the Delhi Government acted to adopt CNG as a clean fuel for transportation. However moving to CNG as a fuel for our public buses and autos was a good move but is simply not enough. We need to take serious steps to reduce the overall pollution levels originating from industries, transportation sector, farm sector as well as from construction activities.

Impact on People:

Unfortunately, the people of Delhi are not aware of the severity of the danger they are facing everyday. The long term health concerns like lung cancer, asthma, bronchitis, heart problems are going to be compounded. Due to the lack of health care system, many people are going to die as well as suffer causing a social challenge. A 2010 report by the Health Ministry says that 1.3 crore people above 15 years of age suffer from asthma and 1.1 crore people above the age of 35 years suffer from chronic bronchitis. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project estimated that 627,000 people lost their lives in India due to air pollution. The economy will also suffer due to the impact of absenteeism, drop in productivity of the work force.

Impact of Air pollution on ecosystem:

The Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) released from the motor vehicles react with the atmospheric moisture to form nitric acid. This leads to the acid rain and has a deleterious impact on the ecosystem. It contributes to eutrophication of water bodies( ) whereby the amount of nutrients increases and the available oxygen in the water decreases. This has a detrimental impact on the aquatic life.

Pollution due to immersion of idols

Pollution due to immersion of idols


Right to Clean Air:

While writing the constitution of India 65 years ago, the founding fathers couldnt visualise a scenario where the air will become so polluted that people will suffer interminably. Else, they would have included the Right to Clean Air as one of our fundamental rights.

The Government of India as well as the State Governments should give priority to pollution and the pollution levels should be publicised every day to make people aware. Today people are suffering due to ignorance. Else they would have raised their voice to demand a pollution free air to breathe.

I am sure Pandit Nehru didnt envision his Temples of Modern India ie the industries to pollute the air and water. The mirage of economic development has left India coughing and bleeding. It is time we amend our constitution to include Right to Clean Air as one of our fundamental rights and act to bring down the pollution to permissible levels.


Other Conservation News:

Environment minister Veerappa Moily okays Rs 19,000 crore projects in a week

Snow leopards in forbidden Spiti valley to be radio collared

Book Review:

The Asian Elephant A Natural History by J.C. Daniel

The Asian Elephant

The Asian Elephant – A Natural History by J. C. Daniel

Equipment Discussions:

Nikon unveils D3300 with new sensor, processor and kit lens

Canon updates firmware for EOS-1D X

Natural History:

COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M. Krishnan: ‘Voice of the dusk (Nightjar) by Saktipada Panigrahi

Wildlife Photography:

The Swamplands of Kanha – Barasingha – The Swamp deer by Shyamala Kumar

Bekal Fort by Abhishek Mallick

Young Lady by Sabyasachi Patra

Cute Little Indian Pika by Sucheth Lingachar

Sunrise by Gajanan Bapat

Tikells Blue Flycatcher by Bibhav Behera

Contemplating a strike – Juvenile Garden Lizard by Anil Kumar Verma

Asian One-horned Rhino – Assam Diary by Samrat Sarkar

Ashy Prinia by Jitendra Katre

Jungle Babbler by Arpan Saha



Sabyasachi Patra

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Newsletter- Jan-2014 (3.6 MB, 1034 downloads)
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