Open House: What should be done to check rising air pollution?

Planning and strict governance to go a long way

Open House:  What should be done to check rising air pollution?

Smog, a combination of smoke and fog, engulfs the city troubling the elderly and patients the most. Tribune file

Pollution leading to severe health problems

It’s axiomatic that this season, which is full of festivals, is also marked by public health problems such as bronchitis, asthma and heart diseases. No single entity is to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs. In fact, the culprits include people, police and government. Smog, a combination of smoke and fog, engulfs the whole atmosphere and surroundings. The elderly and the patients are the worst sufferers. It is appalling that Delhi Government blames Punjab farmers for air pollution in their state. The Supreme Court has rightly castigated the Delhi Government for the same and asked them to keep their own house in order. Keeping that aside, we should also keep our own house in order. The Punjab Government should subsidise farmers during harvesting of paddy season so that they don’t burn stubble but mow it with available machinery to later use it as manure for the next season crop. Though all festivals are worth celebrating, burning firecrackers should be strictly controlled, even prohibited during Diwali. Not only air pollution, but also noise pollution is a worrying factor. They disturb sleep and can even cause high blood pressure and hypertension.

Dr JS Wadhwa

Crackers still making their presence felt

Despite educating farmers not to burn stubble, few of them have not acceded to the request and burnt stubble, causing thick smog and deteriorating the air quality. Sharing my personal experience, I have been taking medicines due to breathing issues caused by deteriorating air quality. The government also is more concerned about revenue generated from the sale of fire crackers. Even though the administration had specified the timings for bursting of crackers, the overenthusiastic masses did not care about the appeal and went on burning crackers even up to midnight. Other reasons for pollution are emission from vehicles, industry and felling of number of trees for expanding the National Highways. Because of air pollution, patients of bronchitis and asthma have to suffer a lot. Unless we all stand united to curb the menace of pollution, no positive outcome can be expected.

Rajat Kumar Mohindru

Failed to learn lessons from Covid

Every year, Diwali and stubble burning come almost at the same time. It becomes a double whammy for people and adds to their woes and makes it difficult for them to breathe. Hospitals are flooded with people having breathing problems. Air quality is poor. It is not a new thing, we have to bear. We have not learnt anything from Covid, people are already struggling with lungs infection and poor air quality has worsened their situation. I am still wondering why cracker factories are there, what purpose they solve. If these should be shut permanently, from where will the people buy crackers? On the other hand, farmers are burning stubble to protest against the government to meet their demands. Shutting down schools and other activities is no solution. Atleast for the time being, we should go for carpools and public transport to save and improve the air quality. Stop burning leaves, trash and other materials to improve the air quality. Go for an air purifier if you can afford it, close the windows to avoid outdoor air and avoid outdoor exercise, and stay inside as much as possible.

SHASHI KIRAN

Persuasion and tech upgrade can help

At the onset of winter, Air Quality Index starts depleting continuously and reaches dangerous level across Delhi and its surrounding areas around Diwali. The causes of this environment degradation are many but the burning of crop residue left in the fields in the neighbouring states is much in debate for the past few years. It is a fact that in the process of producing more food grains, there is a colossal increase in biomass residue. Upon harvest, farmers set the stubble on fire for readying the soil for transplantation of the next crop as it takes long time for decomposing it in the fields otherwise. Besides, vehicular emissions and indiscriminate firing of crackers on Diwali badly affects the AQI, causing serious health hazards such as bronchitis and heart-related ailments to many. The visibility on the roads gets impaired due to the emergence of thick smog all around, and consequently serious accidents occur at many places. Taking note of the issue, NGT and PCBs have issued several instructions for environment managing, which includes forewarning people to follow the suggested measures scrupulously as well as heavy penalties against violations, but the problem goes on escalating year by year. The situation has turned so grievous that the Supreme Court had to intervene and direct the states to address the matter according top priority. Meanwhile, schools in Delhi & NCR have been shut till air quality improves. Post Diwali, sudden spike in number of Covid cases reported at various hospitals is a cause of big worry as our economy and the people in general have already suffered a lot. While humans are still battling with the deadly virus, the experts apprehend that current adverse situation may not end up in resurgence of the disease again. It is, therefore the responsibility of each one of us to be extra conscious to keep our water and air in its pure form so as to lead a disease-free life and protect other living organisms as well. Although, rising pollution is of worldwide concern before the global leaders. Among the various measures, use of toxic chemicals, unspecified chimneys and untreated flow of harmful affluent into water reservoirs be strictly prohibited. For early decomposition of bio-waste to avoid burning, technology be made available to farmers at an affordable cost in abundance. Further, to make good use of agricultural organic residue, scientists should be promptly engaged to invent alternatives while industrial pollution has to be curbed by incentives such as subsidies and carbon credit etc. As regards the vehicular pollution, congestion on roads and busy markets during peak hours ought to be monitored and properly channelised to control emissions. Construction activity be allowed only upon complying with the laid down norms. Regular persuasion mantra as well as technology upgrade and improvising city infra can do wonders. Obviously, air pollution has to be contained by all means!

Nirmaljit Singh Chatrath

Provide farmers with sound solution

Increasingly concerned over the worsening air quality in Northern India, Jalandhar Tribune has been repeatedly seeking suggestions from the residents for checking pollution. In turn, the residents have always come out with multiple remedial measures. But despite intervention by various government pollution control agencies and the SC, the problem goes on unabated, becoming more and more complex with each passing year. The crux of the matter is that we, the government and the public at large, are not serious about the issue, courtesy lack of visionary leadership, strong political will, efficient legal framework and personal self-restraint and discipline. Closing educational institutions, shutting down industrial units and implementing work from home are only emergency solutions. Like China, the US and Mexico, we should focus on a comprehensive, integrated and long-term plan of action involving all stakeholders. Compared to industrial smoke, construction activities, power plants run with coal, brick kilns, vehicular traffic etc, it is the farm fires and indiscriminate bursting of traditional fire crackers on Diwali that bear the major blame for air pollution. But there is still utter confusion about the percentage of air pollution created by paddy residue burning. In the absence of proper stubble management facilities, farmers have been compelled to take this high-risk recourse. The government should liberally help farmers prepare their fields for the next crop. It should enhance public awareness, frame and implement stringent laws against farm fires and ban the manufacture and bursting of traditional fire crackers to tackle the appalling situation.

Tajpreet S Kang

Govt measures not up to the mark

There has been a sudden surge in farm fires cases since Diwali and also the stubble burning by farmers. There are many reasons for this. Some of the prime reasons are the straw management not being up to the mark. The subsidy paid by government is not fully sufficient so that each and every farmer could afford proper machines, above all people had been bursting crackers recklessly which led to large scale pollution. Also, people did not follow norms imposed by the government as the government had imposed a restriction for the timings of bursting crackers. This has resulted in smog in the atmosphere which could turn out to be problematic for people and could also worsen the air quality too (which is on the higher side). The government could take a ton of precautionary steps such as imposing a ban on stubble burning and imposing fines so that farmers don’t burn stubble, the government can also publish posters and other means of communication for spreading awareness.

Sanidhya Bhaskar

Vehicular emissions also to blame

Though Jalandhar administration was fully aware of the problem of air pollution before Diwali and even blanket ban on bursting firecrackers was announced, unfortunately no follow-up action plan for enforcement was in place. The most intriguing was the fact that not even a single FIR was filed against the blatant violators anywhere in the city, a message wrongly received by the people who continued indulging in bursting firecrackers even after Diwali. Now, since the stubble burning is at the peak and such incidents are reported more than the numbers of last year, the problem has multiplied precariously to the extent that it has culminated into a severest health hazard besides being nightmare for those suffering from breathing and heart diseases. Of late, issue of farm fires which are substantially contributing to air pollution, is being politicized due to ensuing state election early next year, there is least left to be done by the local administration. However, what the local administration can do is to prevent the incidents of garbage burning and unauthorised cutting of trees at the public places. The violators and delinquent officials need to be punished to ensure zero tolerance. Since a significant chunk of air pollution comes from vehicular emissions and dust particles resulting from construction activities, there is much scope for local administration to take effective measures to minimise the incidence. Needless to add that spreading public awareness about the value of clean and healthy environment through checking all pollutants must be a coercive and regular phenomenon of the administration.

Jagdish Chander

Lure farmers with monetary incentives

The constantly deteriorating level of air quality index (AQI) has raised a serious national concern. Not only the Delhi-NCR region and its surrounding areas, the industrial cities of Punjab, including Jalandhar, have also experienced a choked atmosphere during the last few days. Rather than the industry, transport, construction work, dust, coal power plants and households, paddy stubble burning and bursting of fire crackers on Diwali are primarily held responsible for the mess. From time to time, environmentalists and health experts have been expressing their anguish over increasing pollution that has a debilitating impact on human health, ecology and economy. Despite directions from the NGT, PCB and the apex court, and launching of awareness campaigns by government agencies and civil society organisations, nothing constructive has been undertaken so far to reduce it. The state government has reportedly spent a huge amount of money on machinery for in situ and ex situ stubble management but it has not benefited the hapless small and marginalised farmers who are left with no choice but to burn their crop residue. The government must give monetary incentives to restrain farmers from doing so. The authorities must enforce laws strictly to rein in the alleged violators. Instead of indulging in a political slugfest over this challenging issue, parties should rise above petty electoral mileage and cooperate with the ruling dispensation to find out a tangible solution to the vexing problem. Hopefully, after the fresh Supreme Court directions to the Centre and the concerned state governments, a meaningful executive action will be taken to ensure that future generations breathe in a cleaner air.

D S Kang

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.

HL Sharma


QUESTION

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?

Suggestions in not more than 200 words can be sent to jalandhardesk@tribunemail.com by Thursday (November 25)

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