Published: Tuesday 15 February 2000

Killers at large

Air pollution in Delhi is rising at an alarming rate, but government agencies are moving at a snail's pace to counter the menace ('Deadly Particles', Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 14; December 15). The Delhi government is yet to convert the 3,000-odd Delhi Transport Corporation buses to run on compressed natural gas ( cng) which are currently running on the 'killer' diesel. This despite a deadline set by the Supreme Court for the conversion. Delhi and many other cities are slowly becoming gas chambers and, as a result, innocent people are dying due to air pollution-related diseases.

However, it is not always the government which is to blame. For the fear of losing their votebank, and hence power, politicians refrain from taking unpopular decisions. It is here that a need to educate people about the dangers of air pollution becomes important. A recent article 'State and individual' by S S Gill in Hindustan Times said that due to the efforts of schoolchildren, in Delhi, the level of pollution during last year's Diwali was lower; noise levels were lower than in previous years and there was no haze the next morning.

All this was possible only due to initiatives taken by the community as a whole. People's movements have succeeded where government agencies have failed. The initiatives taken in Sukhomajri in Haryana, Anand in Gujarat and the revival of the Ruparel river in Rajasthan are some of the paradigms of success....

Afflicted by pollution

My daughter had to cut short her trip to India because of ill health. She arrived in Delhi from Canada in the beginning of November and stayed there for about 10 days. Throughout her stay in the capital, she was vomiting and once she even fainted. Then she travelled to Kerala. She was in good health in the train journey, which lasted for three days, but when she arrived in Kochi she felt ill again. The doctor who treated her told her that she is allergic to diesel.

She was supposed to stay in India till February, but she had to return to Canada much earlier. She has been forced to believe that there is some "weakness" in her and that forced her to cut short her programme. I resented this but after reading your website I no longer feel that way. The articles in Down To Earth on the harmful effects of diesel emissions have been an eye-opener for both of us and helped my daughter understand the nature of the problem much better. I am wondering if her sickness may have been due to carbon monoxide. She seems fine now. Thank you for the information posted at your website. Your work is helping the people of India....

Filthy small towns

The story about air pollution in smaller towns made interesting reading ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 11; October 31). It is true that when we talk of pollution, we normally think of only the metros. The fact is smaller towns today are as much, if not more polluting that the bigger cities, and this trend is on the rise.

When the time comes for implementing pollution control measures or formulating policies, the metros receive priority, though it is essential to formulate a countrywide plan for pollution control with a time frame for its implementation.

I stay in Bhopal and have been watching the "development" of this city. It is estimated that the number of vehicles in Bhopal has increased at least two-fold during the last five to seven years. Diesel tempos, one of the major causes of air pollution in cities, minibuses and jeeps are worsening the air quality in the city. As a result smog engulfs the city almost daily. As it is a growing city, construction work is proceeding at a feverish pitch and trucks carrying building material are increasingly plying in the city. Multi-storeyed buildings are coming up on plots where once only single-storey houses were planned, thus putting pressure on the city's civic amenities. On one hand, I feel happy that more opportunities and facilities are now available to the residents but, on the other, the environmental costs of such development are also a cause for concern....

Polluted towns

It seems that the state governments, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, are doing nothing about the growing pollution in the cities. Though emissions from trucks, buses and other vehicles is on the rise, nobody seems to have heard about 'pollution under control' certificate. While travelling through the Grand Trunk Road, I did not notice any pollution control stickers on any of the vehicles.

The city of Khurja is engulfed in smoke, while factories in Sikandrabad are releasing effluents in the open which could be contaminating the groundwater. In Gajraula, the air is so polluted that one has difficulty breathing while travelling in a train. It appears that civic bodies and the pollution control officials are hand-in-glove with the industry.

One way to bring about a change would be to empower the district administration, the district magistrates, the sub-divisional magistrates so that they can bring polluters to task....

Appropriate technology

India has the technology to obtain both energy and fertiliser from biogas plants run on cowdung. There are viable alternatives which can be set up and commissioned using technology that is available and appropriate. For example, solar energy, bullock power, Sulabh shauchalayas , urban waste conservation, smokeless chulas , microhydels are eco-friendly ventures that are known to be successful. We need to be guided on the path to greater, if not total, self-reliance which can reduce our dependence on back-breaking import bills....

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