It’s been eighteen months since,
I read the headline with a wince,
“Delhi most polluted city in the world”, it said,
Filling me with great anxiety and dread,
Two little tots dandled on my knee,
And another likely, to make it three,
“Don’t worry”, said my wife, “it’ll be fine”,
“We had the same air in ‘99,
And then see how it changed,
With a little hope, all can be arranged.”
“I’ll wait a year”, quoth I,
“and then give something else a try”,
“For our elected must now sound the clarion cry,
And we shall see what our netas do,
To turn our sky from grey to blue”.
The days fled past, as if in terror,
Running from the grim pallor,
That left us breathless with the wheeze,
As we watched our youngest cough and sneeze.
The presses worked overtime to convey,
Awful statistics with increasing dismay,
Of billowing plumes from nocturnal trucks,
That from our lungs the power sucks,
And construction dust and smoking stacks,
All displaying what the capital lacks,
Some left town so the air wouldn’t kill,
The Government however sat stock still,
With nary acknowledgment or apology,
Bidding adieu to the environmental refugee.
“Enough of this stupor”, I thought,
“My patience has gone and my nerves are fraught,
It is time to try my inadequate bit,
And see if any solution would fit.”
The problem was a mountain high,
But not for kindred souls who aren’t shy,
Using our legal skills, albeit modest,
We moved the Supreme Court for our youngest,
Two couples joined forces with us,
As we sought to kick up a fuss.
The “Infants’ petition” was in autumn born,
And on every paper and channel it was on,
People who knew that fireworks charred and killed,
Now learnt of tiny lungs that stilled.
The Court was sadly unconvinced of this fate,
And allowed the case to be given another date,
But come Diwali week and we find,
That Delhi’s heart is stronger than its mind,
Sales have plummeted giving succour,
So that kids and animals don’t suffer,
No court or leader gave us this answer,
For wisdom and empathy can never be asunder,
Now with brightness of eye and sense of purpose,
Our promises to little hearts leave us nerveless,
With ten million voices fuelling our vigour anew.
This struggle will grow and continue,
No matter what, we will fight and survive,
And bury alive that dreaded PM 2.5.
Gopal Sankaranarayanan is an advocate of the Supreme Court of India and founding member, Care for Air. When his wife and middle child developed allergies, he started looking for solutions. He sees clean air as a fundamental right of all citizens and believes in action by the people where the Government abdicates its role.
It’s amazing that even with all the current media attention, people are unwilling to come to terms with the idea that our current lifestyle and municipal systems (or lack of) are causing the largest health crisis of the century. Right here in India.
From outdated diesel/petrol cars, the lower quality fuel used, multiple diesel generator sets as power backups to burning of leaves and trash even by our own gardeners, lack of landfills and environmentally friendly trash management...the list goes on. These factors (and more) unwittingly causing hazardously polluted air quality and scores of illness among our youngest family members.
Think about it for a moment: We are living in an era where our children can potentially live up to 120 years (according to a recent Time magazine article). But what are the odds of that happening, given the daily levels of air pollution they are exposed to?
If only we all could just take a piece of personal responsibility to make a difference, even if its just in our own backyard.
Its sad to hear people arguing that the government should do this and ought to do that. But what about us? Aren’t we all morally responsible to do something? Even small changes can make a big difference. Be it something as simple as carpooling, or in-lane driving. We seem to brake more than we honk! Can we not do something at a personal level? It’s seems like no one is willing to give up their lifestyle, as it’s not their problem and they are not the cause of it.
Recently, I’ve been pushing for a petition with the residents of our association to pledge that we will not buy diesel cars until the quality of diesel is raised, in this case, to Euro 6 standards, by 2020. Instead we should only buy Electric/ Hybrids cars. I feel that this will put pressure on the automobile industry to expedite the transition and the fuel industry to create a better supply chain and infrastructure. As they say, no pain no gain! I thought people would embrace this concept, but alas this is not the case. The younger generation is still willing to inconvenience themselves, but often not the older folks. Unfortunately, many are property owners and have very strong opinions even in the face of blasting evidence. But I will not give up and am optimistic that these folks will listen! Wish me good luck!
Dr Manjali Khosla
Manjali Khosla is a founding member, Care For Air. She moved to New Delhi from Canada over 3 years ago with her family. Since then, she has been diagnosed with pneumonia twice. As a research scientist in asthma medication, her investigations have convinced her that this is due to her exposure to Delhi's toxic air. Manjali and her family wear masks all year round.
I bought an electronic air quality monitor last summer and since then I’ve been monitoring the pollution levels inside our apartment – and crucially in our kids’ bedroom. Before I got the monitor everything was guess work: I couldn’t tell how effective the filters were, whether they needed replacing, which size to purchase, etc.
The good news its that the Sharp air filters we’ve been using (and are readily available in India) are excellent. That said, if we kept the doors and windows open, there wouldn’t be any point in having them. I’ve found that the levels inside our apartment in south Delhi aren’t much lower than those outside. In other words, remaining inside and breathing unfiltered air doesn’t make a whole lot of difference when Delhi’s air quality is unhealthy to hazardous i.e. for the entire winter.
So here’s what I recommend, based on my own little controlled experiments. Adopt some simple – albeit tedious – practices and you can have good air quality inside the house round-the-clock – that is assuming you don’t live in a mansion, in which case you might want to think again.
Please also note the following:
NB When the levels are as consistently high as they've been over the last few months, the filters need changing every two months. It's worth noting that the full compliment of filters in my house i.e. six Sharp machines, costs 25,000 rupees.
You know it. It comes with the arrival of the cooler temperatures. Delhi’s air quality decreases - out go the blue skies and in come that gray-hued smog. Many factors contribute to the air pollution in Delhi. But winter weather patterns make the problem worse. The cooler winter air traps pollutants from rising higher into the atmosphere, a situation exacerbated by the geography of our city. With the onset of the season, we often see the little members of the family affected. Coughing, sniffling, sneezing and general discomfort begin. Is it our imagination or are the children more vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution? They are more vulnerable. Their lungs are not fully developed until their late teens and they breathe more air per pound of body weight.
So how can we protect our little ones from taking the brunt of the season’s worst air in our city?
Well for starters, keep a few things in mind:
Tell us your personal stories on how you battle air pollution in your daily life and in your community.