(On the occasion of Republic Day, The Quint relaunches its campaign ‘Letter to India – Ek Naya Start’ and invites readers to send in suggestions to rebuild India after a tough 2020.
Adi Roy from Gurugram shares how India can start afresh. The views expressed are her own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)
When all of us went into a nationwide lockdown at the beginning of 2020, there were signs of hope (environmentally) in the middle of the soaring pandemic. Pollution levels were at an all-time low, the sky was bright and blue, and trees more lively and green, the animals that once restrained themselves from human civilisation came out on the streets and 'reclaimed' their long lost habitats.
This was, of course, a temporary bubble of fresh air for the flora and fauna in this country, as well as the environmentally conscious. The moments were just that... momentary!
I remember celebrating Diwali with my friends and family in my hometown of Santiniketan when I was quite young, this was around seven or eight years ago. We did burst crackers, mostly because my grandfather thoroughly enjoyed doing so with his family. The eight-year-old me didn’t understand the effects the ‘white air’ coming out of the crackers would have on me in the future.
Now I have developed HRAD, a reactive airway disease that is usually triggered by inhaling irritants, or in this case, pollutants. This was of course further exacerbated by the air quality of Delhi NCR.
This worsening condition was, of course, worse during Diwali. Naturally, you would expect people to take note from their surroundings and not do the inexplicable: Burst crackers. However, despite warnings by the National Green Tribunal and many more such authorities, people in my neighborhood were bursting crackers all night long on Diwali. AQI in the northern region went through the roof.
Ghastly smog during the winter after made everything worse. The smog creates permanent damage to us, our lungs, and our environment. It is an annual event of trauma further lit by the ignorant populace and the callous authorities, who turn a blind eye to it.
Having temporary answers and minor changes on a small scale is just not the solution anymore. We need a nation-wide, or at least region-wide (north India) effort to tackle this common enemy. Without a strong sense of duty to the environment as well as suffering citizens and wide-scale awareness, there's little one can do.
The cocktail of pollutants that come together annually: Stubble burning, vehicles, construction, or any other source of the monstrous pollution, truly need to be addressed with earnestness than with platitudes.
Ultimately, when the authorities fail, it is up to the citizens to make a change. Pollution and climate change have become our reality, if we don't step out of our little bubbles, there's only little we can hope for, and eventually, the bubbles will burst, but by then it will be too late.