Delhi Fast Turning Asthma Capital

30% rise in ocular, respiratory complaints in Delhi

By Sunil Dang

Recent smog that created panic among the Delhiites about the dipping quality of the air that they have been forced to breathe has put some question mark over the political parties who chose to play the blame game and defying the authorized institutions like NGT and various court verdict for the sake of their petty politics. For example, it’s well known that Parli or paddy burning in Punjab and Haryana is causing hazardous effect on the air that the Delhi-NCR people inhale. It’s not that we have toothless institutions which don’t have any tool to contain the dipping pollution level in Delhi-NCR. In fact, if the various notifications of the Central Environment, Forest and Climate Change  Ministry  are implemented then they can help in controlling the pollution level irrespective of other seasonal events that cause Delhiites to breath air that can cause Asthama and other respiratory diseases. Measures that the Delhi government and the MCD took after the air pollution reached to alarming level, could have been bit more useful if the MCD and the Delhi government had responded to the Central Environment and Forest Ministry’s notification on time.

Not just Delhi, even Punjab and Haryana government are not far behind. They know that paddy burning is hitting the pollution control measures not just in their state but their neighboring states too. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed fines ranging between Rs 2,500 and Rs 15,000 on farmers to prevent them from burning paddy fields. However, rather implementing this decision with immediate effect, the Punjab government is busy in its petty politics to appease the farmer community by allowing them to continue burning the paddy field and reap its benefits in the fast approaching assembly elections.

To prepare the field for sowing wheat, farmers burn the paddy stubble as it involves no cost. However, toxic chemicals are released into the atmosphere due to this. The thick smoke which emanates as a result of setting fields on fire poses serious health hazards for people. Burning fields also affects the quality of the soil, robbing it of vital nutrients. The smoke contains toxic chemicals which causes respiratory problems and other diseases. The national capital is the most affected by bad air quality as it lies close to Punjab and Haryana where paddy burning is common. Every year in Punjab, about 7 to 8 million metric tonnes of paddy residue is burnt openly between October and November. Though, the Punjab government has been promising to take proper action to control this customary practice of Punjab-based farmers, Akali-BJP government has never taken this problem seriously and to some extent are purely responsible for transforming the national capital into the Asthama Capital of India.

With continuous burning of paddy fields, Delhi’s air quality is deteriorating. Data collected from October 30 to November 2 shows that there has been a continuous rise in the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the city. The more the AQI rises, the more people are likely to suffer from adverse health impacts. The monitored value of AQI from October 30 to November 2 ranges from 201 to 297 which fall under the “Very Unhealthy” category. Punjab and Haryana are both responsible for causing air pollution due to burning. These two states contribute to 48 per cent of the total emission due to paddy burning across India. Burning of crop residues emits traces of carbon dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and particulates which affect human health. It is estimated that India annually emits 1,44,719 mg of total particulate matter from open burning of stubble.

But, as said by Anil Madhav Dave, these states are responsible for polluting Delhi-NCR air for around 25-30 percent while rest of the reasons for dipping air quality in Delhi is due to the local reasons. It is also a common practice in Delhi to burn the garbage on the road side and rise in construction work causing rise dust particles in the air. So, the Delhi government along with the MCD should have taken action in this regard to maintain the pollution control measures during October and November month as it is paddy burning time in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

So, it’s petty politics which caused Delhiites to breath polluted air not paddy burning.