Air pollution: Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there

November 17, 2017, 2:02 pm IST in Arise Awake And Stop Not | India | TOI

When the pollution level was at hazardous for 20 days straight the government didn’t act. It took one day of smog and countless number of accidents for the government of New Delhi to wake up and begin planning to curb pollution. When the pollution is visible, makes breathing and eating difficult is when actions are taken. What most people don’t know is that pollution is high for most of the year, and indoor pollution level is more than outdoor pollution. A delayed reaction to pollution is equivalent to no action taken whatsoever, but there are small changes that we can make to help our environment.

The effect of pollution is most harmful for the elderly, young children, and especially more for the child in the mother’s womb. Pregnant mothers who face Delhi’s terrible pollution levels are at a higher risk to give birth to an asthmatic child. More and more people are prone to lung infections, persistent cough, inflammations of the skin, the risk and statistic of heart attacks increases manifold. Public and government school children who go to school during these pollution days have no protection whatsoever, windows are broken or open and so are classroom doors. This means that apart from the 3 day holiday this month that the government issued as a protection notice, the rest of the month children have to inhale life threatening pollutants into their lungs. There is no need to pollute the developing lungs of the future of our nation, reduced lung function also affects the performance of the mind. Pollution decreases performance and activity of the brain, so smog isn’t only in the air it’s also in the mind.

Pollution is more indoors due to the fumes from cooking oil, the gas stove, incense and mosquito repellants. There is limited ventilation, there are some preventative measures that can be used at home. Instead of lighting candles and incense sticks, light a lamp at the temple. Install powerful exhaust fans in the kitchen, and indoor plants to act as natural air purifiers. The unfortunate scenario is that air purifiers are at an extremely hiked price, for a middle class or underprivileged family it becomes an expensive added expenditure. Yet whoever can buy these purifiers, and face masks should do so. Keep checking the pollution levels on a daily basis, and if a mother fears that it’s too polluted and schools aren’t closed, then keep the child indoors. There is nothing more important than living a complete and healthy life.

Doctors suggest people should leave the city during dangerous pollution levels, so does the government, so do armchair pollution experts. It is a good solution, unfortunately it isn’t a feasible solution. There are many responsibilities that a person has in Delhi, whether it’s their job, or their education everything cannot be left for 3 – 4 months. Also it isn’t possible for a large population of our national capital to afford migrating for chunks of a year to another city. Rehabilitation isn’t a feasible solution, economically or even socially.

The solution shouldn’t be to displace a major portion of our population from the capital of our nation, a place where nation building decisions are made. The solution should be to make our people re-habilitate our Delhi, to create a feeling of compassion instead of fear by stopping this pollution problem once and for all.

The Delhi government started the odd-even formula last year, this year it has been rejected. The reason for rejection is the exemption for women and 2-wheelers. This is a fear that has been called out by anti-feminists and pro-humanists, when women empowerment becomes a bias to put women at a higher pedestal than other genders, when women empowerment is confused with special treatment, and when women empowerment is only done for the appeasement of the vote banks. I am sure that the women of Delhi will agree that for the healthy and long life of millions of Delhiites they can stop driving and start taking public conveyance, that there are other ways to look at the safety of women, and that when it comes to the safety of women major rules haven’t been implemented. The safety of women isn’t guaranteed by a woman driving a car, it’s by the installation of CCTV cameras, of rules, laws and regulations for her safety, and for proper lighting in parks and on roads. If someone drives a car it doesn’t mean that they are safe!

Pollution levels didn’t hike to the level that they did last year during Diwali, fortunately due to the temporary ban in distribution of crackers. Yet the common knowledge is that pollution travels from the villages of Punjab and Haryana due to crop burning. This air travels to Delhi, and is landlocked until the winds circulate the air.

Strict measures need to be taken in Punjab and Haryana to curb these activities, during metro construction water should be poured so that particulate matter from dust doesn’t circulate, and holidays should be declared for offices and schools when pollution levels are too dangerous. But the battle against pollution is a far off struggle, and the most that can be done is a mother can take over the household and protect her unborn fetus, her infant, and her child from a short lived future by taking small steps at home.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Author

Lalita Nijhawan Lalita Nijhawan
An entrepreneur, educationist and a social activist, Lalita Nijhawan, has donned many hats but considers the issues of women uplift and empowerment closest . . .

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          Jess

          This is a really cool product that can help remove it in cars, have been following it on Kickstarter, its called the Airbubbl

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          DELHI TUTORS WORLD

          Hi Lalita Nijhawan,very nice article, keep up the good works.

          Reply
          Raghu Raghunathan

          Delhi pollution, and pollution in most major cities in India, is at unsafe levels every single day of the year. A safe level is for PM2.5 pollution is...

          Reply