Manzoor Ahmad Parey
The pollution level in and around Delhi has touched new heights and has crossed all limits. In fact, it was reported that Delhi was virtually converted into a gas chamber few days back and the denizens of this city are living in an extremely polluted environment; if doctors in AIIMS are to be believed, a normal human being who as such is a non-smoker is taking 30 cigarettes per day. Air quality index (AQI) in some parts of the city had reached 486 on November 9 this year, which falls in the “severe” category. The fact of the matter then is that Delhi was facing a public health emergency. The situation is so serious that Supreme Court of India has expressed serious concerns over the increasing air pollution in Delhi, stating that it was a very serious problem and solutions need to be found urgently. So, the crux of the matter is that Delhiites are grappling with toxic air each day and the intensity of this toxic air surges during the winter months. As per different research reports, the average Total Suspended Particulate (TSP) level in Delhi is approximately five to seven times the World Health Organisation’s annual average standards. Vehicular emissions along with industrial output are believed to be major contributors of air pollution in Delhi.
Having said this, I believe it is an appropriate time for Jammu and Kashmir to wake up and learn lessons before it will be too late. Air pollution is a serious problem across the world. Although as of now, air pollution is not an issue in Jammu and Kashmir but maturity and wisdom demands that we should be ready for any kind of such eventuality in the future, and especially under conditions when J&K does not have even the elementary environmental measures at place. Emerging problem of air pollution demands a long term and multipronged strategy.
The everyday increase in the volume and intensity of private transport on the already narrow lanes of J & K, adds to the pollution especially because our public transport system is in complete shambles and unreliable. There is an urgent need that the department of transport be regulated on modern lines and an efficient and effective transport service may be provided to the general public in such a way that this will be the first and last choice of people. This step will give a lot of dividends because it will discourage the use of private transport which will pave the way for pollution free air. Moreover , why can’t we initiate phase wise use of CNG buses? Or, if this is not possible, then any other alternative must be initiated. Verification of vehicular emissions in every six months should be made a regular affair.
In recent times, we have been seeing a new trend of second hand vehicle business in our state wherein used and rejected vehicles from other states are bought and sold over here. These vehicles mostly are diesel ones which release extremely harmful substances in the air, making it dangerous to breathe. The need of the hour is that steps should be taken to regulate this business of second hand cars and, we all need to understand if these vehicles are dangerous in Delhi, they will be more dangerous in our beautiful region. For this purpose, people of J&K need to understand the perils of this business.
The best the administration can do is to put an immediate ban on sale of these second hand vehicles from outside and help us to protect our precious environment and air. Since a long time, we have been hearing that the registration of 25 year old vehicles in Jammu and Kashmir state will be cancelled but to our amusement this thing never got materialised. The need is to put this in to practice and allow us to breathe fresh air. Another area which needs immediate attention is the provision of uninterrupted power supply, especially during winters, so that people will not be forced to use charcoal or firewood as a source of heat both of which are sources of air pollution.
Although, there are a bevy of laws regarding the preservation of environment, the pragmatic approach will be to modify and align those laws according to current circumstances and at the same time make these stringent so that their implementation becomes imperative on part of the people. At the same time, mass awareness campaigns may be started across the nook and corner of the state in which public will be made to understand the importance of clean environment. Awareness must be raised in the schools and colleges too. The importance of environment must be made understood to the students at different levels. The student awareness can help us to save the environment at the pragmatic level.
For long, we have been seeing politicians across political divide resorting to rhetoric at the cost of governance of the state. It is time we all will put our heads together not only to protect our air from pollution but at the same time we should have a holistic environmental policy backed by proper and standardised regulations for preservation and conservation of natural resources of Jammu and Kashmir which would redound to the good of the people and the region itself.
—The author is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Higher Education, and is posted at Government Degree College, Ganderbal. He can be reached at: [email protected]