Op-ed Pollution & Climate Change

Here’s why I call, Delhi – the capital of Pollution !

Having an opportunity in hand to do an internship in Delhi, I was excited naturally. The prospect of India Gate, Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, buzzing markets of Connaught Place and Janpath, the famous Delhi metro ferrying millions, all appealed me and kept me excited. Probably any habitual newspaper reader would know the ugly face of the capital (not politics guys) – air pollution. 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in terms of PM 2.5 pollution with the Indian capital adamantly defending it’s place for a long time and for some time to come.  I know winter is coming but it is a good 4-5 months away. There won’t be any air pollution issues in summer or so I thought.

And then air pollution happened just like that and the culprit was to be some western disturbance which had carried along dust from Rajasthan and sprayed it around in Delhi. But it’s a no-brainer that we are the major cause of such calamities. Dust-storms, flash floods, cloud bursts, heat waves are the effects of climate change and have become usual occurrences which threaten to overtake the publicity stunts of politicians in newspapers.

Quite recently, Delhi too was affected by dust-storms. Number of casualties touched 500 with many more in the fray due to intake of heavily polluted air. The AQI shot up quite severely and shockingly. Entire Delhi resembled a hill station where a customary romantic song is recorded – all hazy and misty, the only difference being the color – full brown due to dust. The dust gave me throat infections; spare a thought for those with respiratory troubles or illness. Extensive measures have to be taken. Instead, there were rumors that the metro price will be hiked in coming months which is like throwing baby out with the bathwater. This move will just incentivise private vehicle usage.

Let’s talk about power (no pun intended). The weather is extremely dry and hot. Mercury levels often hit the roof and refuse to go below 35o C even during nights. By the end of May, the demand for power shot up to a whooping 7000 MW and the think-tank CSE points out that this figure is greater than the demand of Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata Combined! For comparison, The entire Tamil Nadu has a demand of around 15,000-16,000 MW in summer. So, technically Delhi needs what half of what the entire state of TN consumes. Most buildings have very old, inefficient window AC’s which are energy guzzlers. And we have to make sure that the electricity to cater should be from a renewable source to avoid pollution.  In my paying guest accommodation, there would be easily around 20 of those AC’s which run for approx. 9 hours a day. Unless we try to reduce the demand, it’s going to be very difficult for Delhi in coming days. 

And coming to the most ignominious part, waste management. On my travel in metro to Anand Vihar, I saw this strange structure – A plateau-ish pile which was taller than multi-storey buildings. Later, I was told that the plateau is the infamous GHAZIPUR LANDFILL of Delhi. Without new place to dump the waste, they have taken the height of waste to 17-stories high. Isn’t it a shame for our nation to have such a thing in the heart of our capital? As if it’s not enough, waste collectors often go on strike when their demands are not met. Karol Bagh, where most south Indians reside, is just a mess when the workers go on strike.

Gazipur landfill

Talking about Delhittes, their driving seriously crazed me out. Driving is a strict no-no for those new to Delhi. I’m damn sure that my mom will flay me alive if she catches me driving like those in Delhi. Public transport is the best option, both for environment and for your life. There are literally no policemen in traffic signals. There is a serious staff crunch. On one side, there’s unemployment and on the other, staff crunch. Gods know when the opposites will attract each other.

Karol Bagh, Delhi

Indians have this resilience and adaptation to any kind of environment. Maybe that’s the issue with us. We just decide to ignore and adjust. In the infamous India vs Sri Lanka test match which was hindered by air pollution, the Sri Lankan Players were vomiting and then there was our Delhi guy Virat Kohli hitting sixes! We need to come out of our adjustment mindset and seriously make our capital a better place to live. For God’s sake, it’s our capital city, the pride of our nation.

“Clean” Delhi – Connaught Place

Delhiwaalas are welcome to comment and criticize my point of view. I’m not asking why delhi is dirty, I’m just curious why the Parliament area is pitch perfect and the remaining are so indigestible? Yes, there are positives but they are all tiny. We need more of them. We all need to act together.

– Yours Sincerely, from a concerned guy who thinks his career and life lies in Delhi.

Sathes Kumar
Sathes Kumar is a graduate of B.Tech. Energy and Environmental Engineering. He is currently working as a Research Analyst (Climate Change & Sustainability) in All India Institute of Local Self Government - New Delhi. His interests include sustainability and green buildings and is also into anything which is interesting and thought provoking