Alarming Pollution Levels

Alarming Pollution Levels
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Srinagar has been listed as the tenth most polluted city in the world in terms of air quality (PM 2.5 levels) by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database. This is as alarming as can be. There is not just the tourism or tourist dimension involved here but , more importantly, highly alarming levels of pollution in Srinagar city, the face of Kashmir valley, constitute serious public health hazard and issue. While the WHO is silent about the reasons of high levels of pollution in Srinagar city, it would appear that the reasons might lie in the high levels of emissions emitted by vehicles. It may also be pointed out that the methodology employed by the WHO is also not clear. This is not to nitpick but to point out lacunas in the report. Having said this, pollution levels are increasing, by the day, in Kashmir but sadly, nothing is being done about it. While it might not be entirely possible to revert to a pristine environmental condition, both across the Kashmir valley, in general, and, in Srinagar, in particular, but what falls eminently in the domain of the possible, is to actually check and decrease pollution levels here. If, the real reasons for pollution levels, in Srinagar, accrue largely from vehicular emissions, then one obvious solution that lends itself to implementation , is to have more stringent safeguards, in terms of checking pollution levels emitted by these. Cars, buses and other forms of transport, if they exceed emissions beyond a point must be seized and not allowed to ply. Denizens of Srinagar city must be encouraged to use public transport, at least, within the city, more often. (In fact, using public transport within the city must become the default option for all or most). This would call for streamlining public transport and making it more efficient, user friendly and effective. (Battery run electric vehicles could be viewed as a longer term and sustainable option). Last, but not the least, Srinagar city must be made to breathe, meaning that a sustainable and a dense forest cover be instituted along with plantations in and on the outskirts of the city. There might be many more solutions that could help the city breathe but, the approach to be instituted must be a stakeholder one, where each stakeholder must feel the city as his or her own body part. One this attitude sinks in, our city and, even our Kashmir will be redeemed, environmentally.