Promote e-autos, reduce traffic snarls
Environmental pollution is a global problem and has to be tackled urgently. At the national level, our indifference to the problem can be seen from the very fact that most of our power plants are coal-based. Efforts must continue to create awareness regarding the dangers of bursting crackers and farm fires. Electric auto-rickshaws should be encouraged by giving subsidy and/or zero-interest credit. Another major air pollutant is frequent traffic jams. It can be tackled by providing quality and encroachment-free roads/lanes with an adequate deployment of well-trained traffic police. During the peak hours no heavy commercial vehicles should be allowed entry into the cities/towns. There should be no entry for four-wheelers in crowded bazaars. Instead of one big ISBT at city centre, there should be three small bus stands on the three main entry points to the city and these could be connected to the metro bus service. Citizens too should show responsibility in the effort. With a collective will, the air quality can certainly be improved.
Air pollution causing many other ailments
We are still taking the ill-effects of air pollution very casually though it is a major cause of many diseases. The World Health Organization has already warned that one out of eight deaths in the whole world is caused by air pollution. Some of the major diseases caused by air pollution are asthma, bronchitis, heart problems, regular chest pain, headache and increased fatigue. Following the pattern of statutory warning of smoking on every cigarette pack, the government should put up big hoardings giving details of ill-effects of air pollution. Pollution should be included in the syllabus of the schools.
Stop burning waste out in the open
The main emphasis of the central and state governments is to control bursting of crackers and stubble burning to control air pollution. No doubt that crackers and stubble burning are major reasons for poor air quality but we should not ignore the other causes like vehicular pollution. The government should boost public transport such as BRTS and include more routes under the service. We should try to minimise the use of ACs. Steps should be taken at the government level to avoid burning of dry leaves in the gardens or roadsides and to stop forest fires which is causing a lot of damage to the environment. Our VIP culture is also making lot of contribution to give a big boost to air pollution. On any given day, at any time on any road one find a VIP moving with a convoy of vehicles in the name of security, thus causing a lot of air pollution. Also, high ranking government official should set up an example of car-pooling for the public.
Seek NGOs help to raise awareness
Though farm fires and bursting of crackers on Diwali and other festivals are not exclusive factors for the alarming situation of air pollution but its contribution should not be ignored. These two factors got prominence because of smog it creates. It is a well-known fact that stubble burning is not only harmful to human being but also deteriorates the health of the soil. However, debt-ridden farmers, in a hurry to sow the next crop, burn the stubble in the fields. Moreover, the management of over 20 million tonnes of paddy straw every season is not possible at the individual level. To manage the same by the central and state governments should provide money, machinery and motivation to the farmers to find a solution to this long-pending problem. The government on its part took the initiative and signed an MoU with a Chennai-based firm in November 2017 for setting up 400 stubble processing plants at the cost of Rs 10,000 crore but even after four years results are not visible. Similarly, in October 17, 2019, The Tribune highlighted a scam relating to spending of hundreds of crores of rupees for stubble management machinery, but the culprits are still untraceable. This amount was sent by Centre under its in-situ crop residue management scheme. These are just two examples of carelessness shown by the government to address the problem. The government should also take the services of NGOs as the gurbani says that polluting the environment is against the teaching of our great gurus.
E-vehicles should be given more thrust
Degradation of environment is a cause of concern for human beings and human itself is responsible for this. There are multifarious activities that are held liable for the damage caused to our surroundings. Air pollution is a prominent issue that has been proliferating since last decade. Stubble burning by farmers and bursting of fire crackers on Diwali are not the paramount reasons leading to decline in air quality. Harmful gases that are released by contemporary vehicles and poisonous extracts by industrial sector have gained much proportion in declining air quality graph. The problem can be surmounted with ample measures. For instance, awareness programmes should be conducted to stimulate residents not to use their private cars unnecessarily or a day-off from cars help in reducing air pollution to some extent, electric vehicles should be given more importance, industries should not be closer to residential areas otherwise leading to inhalation of gases resulting in asthma and other severe health hazards and plastic bags should be banned and replaced with jute bags.
Give strict punishment to violators
All things which cause widespread pollution should be made an offense punishable by law. Strictest punishment should be given to all violators. It is not a joke or joyous thing that gives relief to everyone but its causing havoc to heart patients. Also awareness must be created in a widespread manner to minimize causes leading to widespread pollution.
Pollution leads to Covid complications
The impact of air pollution increased by the farm fires and crackers on Covid can’t be ignored. After paddy harvesting is over, its stubble has to be removed to prepare the ground for rabi sowing. The smoke from stubble burning in northern states, particularly Punjab and Haryana, is the main cause of spurt in respiratory ailments due to dipping air quality during the winter. But in the year of pandemic air pollution due to stubble burning will be affecting the patients as Covid virus causes respiratory problems in serious cases. Polluted air worsens the impact of Covid-19 causing increase in death count. Though farmers argue that stubble burning saves them labour and equipment hiring costs, they must realise that their own families are at greater risks of respiratory and the cardiac ailments. Considering the huge cost to public health incurred in treating the respiratory ailments, expenses of deploying officials to monitor fires and impose fines, cooperation of the farmers in pandemic, will go a long way in reducing the impact of air pollution on Covid-19. Stubble burning needs to be stopped before it aggravates the already very high Covid infections.
More trees should be planted
The problem of air pollution has increased manifold post Diwali and is threatening the lives of bronchitis and heart patients in particular and people in general. The district administration’s order restricting bursting of firecrackers from 8 to 10 pm on Diwali night went up in smoke as residents didn’t care two hoots about the guidelines. As a huge contributor to climate change, air pollution is damaging our planet by causing the depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere. We must pay heed to TS Eliot who said: “Clear the air! Clean the sky! Wash the wind!” Therefore, stringent anti-pollution laws should be enacted and enforced without any discrimination. The public should be educated and enlightened about the dire need of fighting air pollution if the environment in the district is to be made clean, conducive and salubrious to good health and mental peace. Open burning of garbage waste should be banned altogether. Agricultural activities have a grave impact on the decreasing air quality. Pesticides and fertilisers are the main source of the contamination of the surrounding air. Conserving energy is one of the primary steps towards ensuring a better future with clean air to breathe. Understanding the concept and imbibing the habit of reducing, reusing and recycling is crucial. Public transport should be used whenever it is feasible to save fuel and reduce vehicle pollution. The need of the hour is to move away from fossil fuels replacing them with alternative energies such as solar, wind and geothermal. Car journeys should be cut down as far as possible. More trees should be planted as air pollution is harmful even when it is invisible. Blanket ban should be imposed on burning stubble and farm residue.
Tarsem S Bumrah
Switch to alternate energy sources
Stubble burning is a local problem. Fortunately, thanks to the concerted efforts of the administration and cooperation of our farmers, the number of farm fires has come down in the district. However, more serious causes of winter smog remain unattended. As a matter of fact, combustion, whether caused in households on account of cooking or the one due to smoke from vehicles, chimneys and aeroplanes produce poisonous 2.5 umg particulate matter. In a sigh of relief, the AQI (Air Quality Index) of Amritsar is much better than it used to be in before Covid. Levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide are also within permissible limits. We must restrict the number of cars entering in the walled city. We should avail the gas crematoriums to cremate bodies instead of firewood. The administration has paid no attention to this side of the problem. Moreover, there is absolutely no check on garbage burning on the circular road and you will soon see highly polluting huge tyres set on fire to serve as a nightlong ‘basking facility’ for beggars. It is the general lackadaisical attitude to the problem of air and water pollution which must change. Some inconvenience, some hardship, some expense has to be borne by the common man too.
Permanent solutions need of the hour
Burning straw and burning firecrackers pollutes the air, when smoke gets mixed with fog it makes smog. It is difficult to breathe in the smog and also breathing issues like asthma are exacerbated. Nowadays, pollution has increased to a level that in Delhi people are forced to wear masks at home. The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and state government to take measures to reduce air pollution urgently. Schools have been closed in Dehli. Employees working in government offices have been asked to work from home. Constructions work has been stopped which causes dust and ash fly. The government should to take concrete steps to prevent air pollution. Farmers should be made more aware that they should not set fire to the straw and also alternative machines and equipments must be provided as an alternative at cheap rates. Firecracker manufacturing factories should be controlled and number of crackers must be limited. Industries must have electrostatic precipitators and must treat air before releasing into environment.
Govt bodies have failed to deliver
Whenever we talk of air pollution, we look at industries as its biggest contributor. But in the past 25 years, Amritsar’s industry has either closed or it has migrated to other states, but surprisingly the pollution has increased in the period. The depletion of greenery in the city owing to increase in residential areas, construction of new roads and widening of the existing roads particularly laying out of BRTS project, sans any effort to plant more trees, exponential increase of vehicles, use of air-conditioners, refrigerators and other gadgets relating to air, incapacitation of the walkers and cyclists on roads are some of the reasons of the air pollution. The governments depend upon pollution control boards only to regulate the organisations and factors responsible for enhancing the pollution. Over the period such authorities have either become redundant or have a skeleton infrastructure not geared up for taking any deterrent action against the wrong doers, thereby becoming imbecile. JD Khanna, deputy commissioner of Amritsar in 1976-77, had done some valuable work in eliminating air pollution. But some JD Khanna can definitely lower down the water pollution. All this is linked to the good administration, which has been eluding the state for a considerable time.
Abhiraj Singh Bajwa
Work towards curbing traffic snarls
Air pollution in Amritsar has always been a matter of concern for all. The city is among one of the most polluted in the state, while a previous World Health Organization (WHO) report on air pollution, covering 1,600 cities of the world, had cited Amritsar as one of the 20 most polluted cities of the world. The fact remains that besides farm fires and indiscriminate bursting of firecrackers during Diwali and the immense vehicular congestion, there are several factors that are accountable for the deterioration in the quality of the ambient air in the city. The foremost of these is government and public indifference towards the issue. According to experts, increasing pollution can lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases. Enhancing the city’s green cover by planting trees that help reduce pollution is a viable solution. The city could benefit from trees like ‘Neem’, which are very efficient natural air filters and also help reduce green house gases. The administration should also come forward to tackle the vehicular congestion by introducing and promoting suitable public transport to take the excessive automotive load off the roads.
Shaheen P Parshad
Now that the PM has announced withdrawal of the three contentious farm laws, farmers’ unions have refused to end their protest and vacate the protest sites. Are farmers right in continuing with their protest and waiting for the actual follow-up of the decision and for their other demands, including legal protection of MSP, to be met?
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