Our capital city Delhi’s air pollution problem around Diwali is getting worse with every passing year. Yet all authorities do year after year is to try to cap bursting of firecrackers. But will not bursting firecrackers make Delhi air breathable? Isn’t this a superficial and temporary solution to a grave problem? Certainly, it needs more commitment from authorities and citizens alike.

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court of India issued an order banning sales of non-green crackers in Delhi-NCR. According to a report in The Indian Express, the court also permitted bursting of crackers for two hours between 8 pm and 10 pm on Diwali. Naturally, there was an outrage on social media, but then don’t we go through this exact cycle of concern, ensuing ban and outrage every year? Don’t we only begin worrying about the toxicity of Delhi’s air when the winter is upon us, conveniently ignoring it for the rest of the year? It isn’t as if air quality is supreme in the Delhi-NCR area for the rest of the year. But it only begins to worry us when it becomes too toxic to breathe. When it starts suffocating us and putting the health of our children and dear ones in danger. Only then do we begin this cycle of concern and outrage. This shows how our efforts to curb it are insincere and lazy.

What the air pollution problem needs is not a knee jerk blanket ban on the bursting of firecrackers, but a long-term solution which will keep the Delhi air breathable throughout the year.

We have an entire year before us to seek solutions, so that winter doesn’t beget further ill-health to the Delhi residents. But both citizens and government authorities neglect the issue of air pollution till it is too late. The result is hasty bans on Diwali, which hurt religious sentiments. People take the ban personally and go on to do further damage, by bursting more crackers than they previously intended to, as a mark of rebellion. A look at these tweets, will explain what we mean.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • The problem of Delhi’s grievous air pollution levels needs more long-term solutions than capping bursting of firecrackers.
  • Diwali crackers do raise the levels of air pollution and the SC is right in encouraging manufacturing and use of green crackers which have a low emission.
  • We must acknowledge that the root of all evil is our insincerity towards curbing air pollution.

So every year the citizens get divided into two groups. Those who think that banning crackers is a political move meant to oppress a certain community, and those who root for it, because they think bursting crackers during Diwali is what causes immense air pollution in Delhi. What both these groups do not see, is that our collective ignorance all-year round is doing irreparable damage to our environment.

Yes, Diwali crackers do raise the levels of air pollution and the SC is right in encouraging manufacturing and use of green crackers which have a low emission.

But we also need to acknowledge that the root of all evil is our insincerity towards curbing air pollution. The lack of awareness regarding vehicular pollution, sluggish pace of traffic, dust and industrial emission and public transport, which is forever in disarray, are all bigger factors which contribute to air pollution all year round. Firecrackers are just a factor which aggravates an existing problem. How much relief, do we expect to achieve by taking it out of the equation, if we do nothing to counter other factors?

For the sake of our children and beloveds, we all need to pledge that we will not forget this problem as soon as winter goes away. That we will remember how air pollution affects our well-being. That is the only way we can motivate authorities to seek sustainable long-term solutions. It is too late to worry about what will happen this year after Diwali. But hopefully the experience from 2018 will have a long-lasting effect on both our memory and conscience.

Pic credits: Narada News

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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