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Delhi pollution: Protesters at India Gate demand government action

Air pollution levels increased exponentially after Diwali, due to the burning of crackers. Stubble burning by farmers in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana contributed a significant percentage of the pollution in the city.

Written by Vidhi Verma | New Delhi |
Updated: November 6, 2019 3:25:06 pm
Delhi pollution: Protesters at India Gate demand government action The protest saw participation from people of all classes, children, their parents and the elderly. (Express photo: Vidhi Verma)

In the wake of the air pollution reaching alarming levels in Delhi, hundreds of people gathered near the Amar Jawan Jyoti at India Gate Tuesday evening, demanding government action.

“My eyes and lungs are burning while I talk right now,” said Aman Sharma, a student at the protest. “I suffer from rhinitis, which has gotten worse due to the present situation. There is no need for us children to be here, demanding clean air to breathe. Air pollution is a political, environmental, national, human rights issue. Why do we have to protest or things as basic as clean air?”

Talking about the AAP government’s odd-even road rationing scheme, which came into effect since yesterday, a resident of Golf Links, a posh locality in the city, is worried about how people in her neighbourhood are using fake number plates to escape the law. “These are all rich, upper class people who do not want to comply with the law,” she said.

Tamseel Hussain, founder of Let Me Breathe, a storytelling platform on climate change and pollution, said that the protest is a reflection of people’s anger.

Manisha, who studies in a government school, is worried about her future in a city which is getting worse day by day. “It is very difficult to step outdoors without a mask. Breathing in this air is equivalent to killing yourself,” she said.

Khushi, whose mother suffers from respiratory disease, said there are so many people who cannot afford to buy air purifiers and masks to combat the pollution. “An air mask costs Rs 300. The poor cannot afford such things and are hence affected the most by the alarming pollution level in the city,” she added.

Rama Sitharaman, from an environmental conservation organization named ‘There is no Earth B’, said it is a collective failure of the nation if children have to miss school and demand action on climate change.

Talking about the effectiveness of air masks and air purifiers, environmentalist Vimlendu Jha, who organised the protest with his colleague Bhavreen Kandhari, says that they are not a solution to air pollution. “They are just emergency measures. Emergency measures are not policy solutions. Citizens are fed up of excuses by the political class. Blaming farmers is not the way out of this problem. We need to look at the sources which are causing air pollution,” he said.

The protest saw participation from people of all classes, children, their parents and the elderly. “The best thing about the protest is that it isn’t an elitist movement. Everyone is equally affected by climate change. Air pollution is just one of the aspects of that,” said Asheer, a protestor.

Delhi has been enveloped in a thick blanket of smog, with Air Quality Index (AQI) levels oscillating between ‘severe’ and ‘very poor’ category. Air pollution levels increased exponentially after Diwali, due to the burning of crackers. Stubble burning by farmers in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana contributed a significant percentage of the pollution in the city.

An air emergency was declared on November 1 when the pollution rose to alarming levels, following the closure of schools in the city till November 5. State governments, including that of Delhi and Punjab, however, have been playing a blame game and politics over the present situation. The Supreme Court Monday came down heavily on state governments and banned all construction activities and garbage burning in the city. The air quality improved from ‘severe plus’ category to ‘severe’ and then reached ‘very poor’ category on Tuesday.

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