The winter season is welcomed with religious festivals being celebrated by burning fireworks. Here are some ways to do your bit in lessening the effects of air pollution, to which children and senior members are increasingly susceptible.
By Verhaen Khanna
It’s a well-known fact around the world that Delhi has the highest air pollution on the entire planet. The winter months are especially worse because of several factors.
Most air pollution monitors can only read up to 999, but the air quality in Delhi is many times higher than 999 which cannot be read by most monitors.
0-50 is Good
51-100 is Moderate
101-150 is Unhealthy for sensitive groups
151-200 is Unhealthy
201-300 is Very unhealthy
301-500 is Hazardous
If you are waiting for somebody to come and fix the problem, you will be left waiting for a long time. You have to take necessary steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.
During winters, cool air stays near the ground trapping all the pollution in our immediate atmosphere. In summers, the land heats up and the upward movement of air disperses the pollution particles elsewhere.
– The winter season is welcomed with religious festivals being celebrated by burning fireworks, which have harmful chemicals and metals as ingredients. When air is heavily saturated with pollution particles, one may choke or even die. A lot of those harmful materials do not even get burnt and directly land on our skin, food and in our lungs.
– Due to colder temperatures, people outdoors usually burn garbage for warmth. They burn plastic wrappers, leaves, tire tubes, torn shoes and whatever they can find, without considering that the harmful fumes are saturating the very same air which children and elderly people are breathing. Children and senior members of our community have extra sensitive organs.
– All the pollution from cars, constructions and factories is not going anywhere far and is also damaging our health immensely.
– Farmers in nearby cities burn crops and that too adds to the pollution mix which sends thousands of humans to the hospital.
– Since many trees shed their leaves, the sweepers will just burn the leaves so that they have less work.
What can we do about this?
– Avoid burning any fireworks so that your loved ones can breathe clean air and live longer healthier lives. Educate your children, too, on the dangers of fireworks on air quality.
– If you see people burning garbage to keep warm, you can ask them nicely to extinguish the fire and gift them a blanket, jacket, gloves or socks to keep warm. If they are outside your home you can arrange an electric heater for them.
– Use your car wisely so that the pollution is minimised or use public transport or any eco-friendly mode of transport (walking, cycling, electric vehicles).
– The fallen leaves from trees can be kept around the tree which will turn into soil after some time, a process called mulching. This is the natural way that trees send nutrition to their roots in the forest, but in cities those leaves are swept away and burnt. Alternately, these leaves can be composted in a pit or a cage and later the final product can be spread around the base of trees as nutrition.
– DON’T CUT TREES, as each and every leaf on the tree is important, but some people in the city illegally chop the trees around their home to gain sunlight. To me, it seems that these people forget that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; for them, the sun is stuck in one place and turns off and on like a bulb in the sky. Days are shorter and nights are longer in the winters, because the northern hemisphere of earth is pointing away from the sun (the path of the sun in our sky is slightly lower to the horizon in winters as compared to summer months). Leafy trees are the only way to reduce the existing pollution, but many inconsiderate people will be de-greening your neighborhood during these months of highest air pollution with an excuse for sunlight. Cutting any part of trees for sunlight is illegal and one may be penalized Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 by the Forest Department for each tree damaged. Roofs, balconies and public parks are great places to get sunlight. If you see anybody cutting a tree you must report it to the Forest Department.
To safeguard yourself and your loved ones during these high pollution months, one must try to avoid exposure to the pollution by remaining indoors, perhaps with an air purifier, grow lots of air purification plants inside and around your home, wear a good quality air pollution mask to step out.
If you see any large fires, please call 100 or 101 for immediate assistance. Report the issue with the exact location. You will receive a call back from somebody nearby so you can help them reach the location. Stay there till help arrives and click pictures to share on social media. This is a free service by the Delhi Fire Fighters and you do not need to pay anything or sign any documents. All it takes is one phone call and few minutes of waiting for them to arrive. A small heroic action by you can protect the health of crores of people living in the capital. Any small fire can be easily extinguished with water or mud.
Pollution affects not only one’s physical health but mental health as well. It can affect one’s mood or even have an impact on one’s decisions. Some may feel depressed while others feel stressed, which is all due to the unhealthy environment being forced upon us. The capital of India has the highest air pollution on the entire planet, despite the Supreme Court and Parliament also being in this city. We have already seen how our leaders have allowed thousands of trees to be chopped, in a city with the highest pollution. The government even considered monkeys, donkeys, dogs, cats and cows as “birds” (this is not a typo) when they granted permission to NBCC for killing 16,500 beautiful trees full of wildlife.
Now that you are well informed about this matter, you can teach your children, other family members and friends so that we can all participate together in making our environment breathable for all. If we manage to keep the air pollution minimised, we won’t even need to wear those masks anymore. We can see each other’s smiles and even eat comfortably. The future is in our hands today. Let’s stay healthy together.
(The writer is founder of the New Delhi Nature Society (NDNS), which organises regular events for children and families, such as tree climbing, nature walks and camping. Follow on social media @newdelhinaturesociety)