The fact that Delhi remains the most polluted capital city in the world flies in the face of the many exhortations and plans made by the authorities concerned to tackle with the noxious situation. Though, as per the World Air Quality Report, 2020, Delhi’s air quality improved by around 15 per cent between 2019 and 2020, there is not much to cheer about. For, the breather is largely attributable to the pandemic-induced lockdown when most poisonous fumes-emitting activities — resulting in industrial discharge, vehicular emission and construction dust — came to a halt. As these buzzed back to life gradually, so did the smog start engulfing the city. Incidentally, going by the number of premature deaths due to air pollution (seven million per year), it is more hazardous to health than Covid-19. In Delhi alone, particle pollution claimed nearly 54,000 lives in 2020. The concern is compounded as reports suggest that 7-33 per cent of the Covid deaths are linked to exposure to polluted air. Surely, it necessitates action on a war footing.
Green laws have been toughened over the years amid grand declarations and designs to deal with the alarming problem. But the continued poor ambience, unfortunately, reflects a lack of honest and steely determination to make Delhi free of the impurities. Notwithstanding the frequent warnings, raps and rebukes by both the high court and the Supreme Court, as also the green tribunals in the matter, the system has betrayed a stubborn impunity while implementing the rules framed for reducing air impurities.
Aggravating the malaise is the choking reality that not just Delhi, but large tracts of the country, especially urban areas, are also in the strangling grip of air pollution. With little to show by way of taming the monstrosity, not only is public health criminally compromised but also economy is drastically hit. Green and sustainable solutions are aplenty. They must be executed forthwith to a T. Any further laxity is fraught with the danger of reaching a point of no return.