Consistency key to tackle pollution

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Consistency key to tackle pollution

Air pollution is the crisis of today, whether it is due to vehicle emission or firecrackers. The challenge is to not differentiate between the causes but to control it. This is where efficiency of the administration is tested. Consistency in efforts all year round is the need of the hour to curb pollution

With Diwali round the corner, the annual anti-pollution campaign has predictably gone into overdrive. The petition seeking a ban on firecrackers has been pending before the Supreme Court since 2015, yet the court’s approach had been varying on the issue with the first order to ban its sale being modified to allow a limited sale. This year has finally seen the apex court impose a complete ban on the sale of firecrackers ostensibly in an effort to curb the spike in pollution during the ‘D-day’.

One of the main reason for the varying actions of the court as well as the delay in coming out with a definitive ban on firecrackers has been the absence of a conclusive scientific study that ties up the adverse impact of bursting of firecrackers on environment.

The apex court had in 2015 turned down a plea to ban firecrackers during Diwali, but had to intervene in the aftermath of 2016 Diwali that saw a severe spike in pollution levels. Subsequent court orders ensured the suspension of all licenses of sellers of firecrackers. The court also directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to conduct a study and file a report within three months on the harmful effects of the materials used in fireworks. But more concerning than the pollution was the fact that inspite of having clear instructions of the Supreme Court, the CPCB failed to submit a report as it claimed that firecrackers did not come within its jurisdiction and the task should be entrusted to another Government agency, the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO).

These state of affairs not only demonstrate how Government agencies pass the buck on sensitive issues inspite of having clear mandate from the top most court of India, but also display a lack of concern for the environment.

It is critical to scientifically correlate air pollution with the sale and bursting of fireworks in Delhi and the National Capital Region. Though it is clear that air pollution occurs due to usage of firecrackers but the extent of pollution can only be established by an authoritative study in this regard. But once the festival passes, the hyperactive pollution prevention machinery gets into a slow mode for the reminder of the year only to be kick started for the next year’s Diwali.

The time of the year, beginning with Ganesh puja and Durga puja, which invariably consists of idol immersion in our rivers, followed by a smokey Diwali, raises tremendous amount of protests from the authorities as well as public, but the same entities are not active the rest of the year and are mute spectators to the unfolding environmental horrors, be it large-scale pollution of the Gandigudem lake in Telangana by Pharma companies dumping their waste or the regular large scale polluted frothing of the Bellandur lake in Bengaluru.

These are only some examples of ecological excesses inflicted by man on nature in the year gone by, but still, they are yet to impact the collective national conscience. Compared to this, the festive season has become a time of the year when the regulatory agencies operate at their peak and enforce stringent restrictions. This alacrity to guard the environment is conspicuous by its absence the rest of the year. Consistency in efforts all year round is the need of the hour to rein in pollution and prevent degradation of the environment. We breathe the same air and drink the same water all year round and it is essential for the Government to ensure that these basic resources are pure so that quality of life is assured.

In fact, consistent efforts to manage pollution can have a cascading effect and the authorities may find it easy to reduce air and water pollution remarkably in the festive season. Currently, the general public and industry is let off easily for practicing environmentally polluting activities, put full measures to curb pollution are applied for certain days of the year which also happen to be key festivals. This leads to misunderstanding amongst the common man that the authorities are against festivities, which is hopefully not the case.

Public awareness is an extremely powerful tool, which, if utilised effectively can guarantee achievement of even the toughest of national goals. Authorities must ensure consistency of efforts through policy and public participation that aim at environmental protection. This will generate a feeling of ownership among the people for the anti-pollution campaign, which will automatically take care of suitable environment protective measures being applied and followed even during festive season with the whole hearted participation of the general public.

Pollution is the same whether it is due to vehicular or firecracker. The challenge is to not differentiate it in order to control it and this is where the efficiency of administration is tested.

(The writer is an environmental journalist)

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