By Vijay Darda | 07-05-2018
Will the Indian government wake up from its slumber after the latest report of World Health Organisation?
The latest report of the World Health Organisation on pollution in our country comes as no surprise to me. I keep touring the world and naturally know how serious the problem of pollution is. WHO analysed the cities worldwide in 2016, and has now released the report that shows that 14 of world’s 15 most polluted cities are in India. Although the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), an institution of the Indian government, had claimed before the release of the World Health Organisation report that the level of air pollution had improved in 2017 compared to 2016, the question is how can we trust the Board? The board has not put forth any fact or figure in support of its claim!
Actually, our biggest problem is that our officials and leaders always try to hide the problems. The deteriorating condition of our cities is visible to everyone. There is neither garbage management system nor sewage treatment mechanism, and there is no awareness among the people either. Even the government does not try to take concrete steps to stop pollution. Littering and throwing garbage around has become the national habit in the country. We remove garbage from the house and the shop and throw it on the road. There is no government control. The local administration too is not interested in lifting the waste either. The result is that through garbage, the dust reaches our homes and our lungs. In fact, we only transfer the waste. Corpses are still being immersed in the rivers. In spite of tall claims of defecation-free villages and cities, the tendency of open defecation has not changed yet. Overall, the fact is that we are not making any effort to keep our surroundings clean.
The fallout is that growing air pollution is causing more deaths in the country as compared to other countries in the world. Based on the data of 2015, it was stated in a report in 2016 that 28% of nearly 90 lakh pollution related deaths across the world occurred in India. That is, more than 25 lakh deaths in India were caused due to pollution. This figure is scary. You will be surprised to know that three times more people die from pollution related diseases as compared to those dying from AIDS and other serious diseases. While brave soldiers dying while guarding the borders of the country can be understood, if someone dies due to mosquito bites, TB or respiratory diseases, it is a stigma on our system.
Just take the case of Delhi. Its condition can be gauged from an environmental study report published by Jawaharlal Nehru University. This report says that those living within 500 metres of the road run four times the risk of pollution related diseases. Nearly 55 per cent of Delhi’s population lives within this 500 metres. Obviously, the poison of pollution is infecting their lungs daily.
Strangely, in spite of this grim scenario, our state governments and the Central government have not awakened to the fact that the level of pollution in our cities has assumed epidemic proportions. Our government’s attitude towards the problem of pollution is one of indifference and it is the root cause of so many problems. The government officials sit in five star hotels to discuss ways to tackle pollution. The presence of government is not seen anywhere. For example, vehicles plying on the roads cause maximum air pollution. But is there ever any investigation to find out how much pollution the vehicles are causing? Even if your vehicle is emitting black smoke, you can buy ‘Pollution Under Control’ certificate from the PUC vehicle standing along the roadside by paying 100!
In fact, the need for pollution control was first felt by Indira Gandhi when she was the Prime Minister. In 1974, the law which enforced the implementation of pollution prevention and control norms, resulted in the establishment of the Central Pollution Control Board at the centre and the State Pollution Control Board at the state level. The law continued to be made and amended subsequently, but the urgency which Indiraji showed in her time while dealing with the pollution is nowhere seen now. Polluting industries have also got out of control and are responsible for deteriorating the air quality of our cities.
While travelling all over the world, I have seen how other countries have controlled industrial pollution, saved their rivers, conserved the sources of water and prevented deforestation. Especially the European countries have done a great job. In contrast, in our country, plans for saving forests to saving rivers are mostly confined to the files. There is no visible proof of their implementation. The development of a country can happen only when its citizens are healthy. Pollution is making the entire country seriously sick. The question is how will we tackle this menace so that we continue to grow healthy and prosper?
Before I conclude…
The residents of Deota village of Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan have undertaken a laudable initiative. They have installed on the door of every house a piggy bank in which people put one rupee coin every day. This money will be used for providing water, electricity and sanitation, besides painting the village school. Funny cartoons will be drawn on the school walls to draw children to school. This initiative has seen a collection of Rs 9,180 in four months. Surely, this initiative is laudable and should be emulated by other villages across the country.
The latest report by the World Health Organisation has exposed the hollow claims of Clean India campaign. The reality is that India’s attitude towards controlling the problem of pollution is extremely indifferent. There is a long list of rules to follow but our government is proving to be very lax as far as implementation of the law is concerned. This is risky, to say the least!