Shrouded in blurriness of smog

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Ali Sukhanver

Getting all around foggy; smoggy and smoky; historical city of Delhi seems shrouded in a strange blurriness. Same is the condition of the districts surrounding Delhi from the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. But this is something not new; the National Capital Territory of Delhi commonly known as the NCR and the adjacent areas have been facing worst situation regarding pollution particularly air pollution since long. Smog is a type of intense air pollution. The word ‘smog’ is a contraction of the words smoke and fog. It is considered the most visible kind of air pollution usually composed of sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, ozone and other particulates. Smog could be a result of coal combustion emissions, vehicular and industrial emissions and emissions from forest and agricultural fires. But Vineet Agarwal Sharda, a very active BJP leader, has an altogether different point of view with reference to the air pollution caused by the smog.
Talking to some media-persons in Mureet, a few days back, he said that Pakistan and China are responsible for the high levels of pollution in the national capital region (NCR) and adjacent areas. He alleged either of the two neighbouring countries could have released poisonous gases into India. He further said, “We must seriously consider whether Pakistan has released any poisonous gas because Pakistan was frustrated ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah took charge.” But the facts narrate another story; in the first week of this November, BBC published a report on the worst situation of pollution in Delhi.
The report said “A major factor behind the high pollution levels at this time of the year is farmers in neighbouring states burning crop stubble to clear their fields. Police are wearing face masks to protect themselves from the toxic smog. This creates a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide – all worsened by fireworks set off during the Hindu festival Diwali a week ago. Vehicle fumes, construction and industrial emissions have also contributed to the smog.” Fortunately there was no reference to Pakistan or China in this BBC report. In response to Vineet Agarwal’s statement Deputy Director General Information Department, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lijan Zhao, in a tweet equated BJP leader with a JOKER. Lijan Zhao had been serving at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad sometime back. This statement of the honourable BJP member would have become more funny and ridiculous if the people of India had believed what he had said; fortunately they never take such things serious.
According to a recent survey, 22 of the world’s most polluted 30 cities are in India. The situation was as horrible in 2016 as it is now in 2019. A survey conducted in 2016 said that at least 140 million people in India breathe air that is 10 times or more over the WHO safe limit. This horrible ratio of pollution in the air is the basic reason of the premature deaths of two million Indians every year. In urban areas the basic source of this pollution is the use of sub-standard vehicles and industrial units without sufficient anti-pollution arrangements. On the other hand, in rural areas the basic source of this pollution is burning of biomass for cooking and for keeping houses warm. In autumn and winter seasons air pollution reaches a horrible level because of smoke and smog produced by burning of the remains of crops in agriculture fields. In short, air pollution in India is purely an administrative and managerial problem. If not properly taken care of, the situation would certainly become more hazardous and painful.
In such a horrible scenario neither Pakistan nor China needs pumping of poisonous gases into Indian air. It is simply an Indian obsession with Pakistan and China that everything bad there is linked with the two neighbouring countries — Pakistan and China. This obsession is getting more and more serious day by day. It has become a trend among Indian politicians to point fingers towards Pakistan and China whenever something goes wrong due to ineligibility and inability of the Indian government. Blaming Pakistan and China of ‘pumping’ a poisonous gas to add more pollution to the already most polluted cities of the world seems nothing but a childish attempt of the BJP politicians. They in fact could do nothing but levy baseless allegations on those who don’t have even the remotest connection with the issue.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Multan.