NEW DELHI: To protest government’s inaction to handle poor air quality, hundreds of Delhi citizens gathered at India Gate on Tuesday to voice their concerns over the toxic air quality and demand concrete action to improve the situation.
Vimlendu Jha, an environmentalist, led the ‘citizens’ protest’. “This is an issue which comes in public attention each November and is forgotten by December. Due to this negligence, Delhi has become a gas chamber”, he said. Groups of students, many of whom were wearing colorful masks, were shoted slogans like “There is no Earth B”, “Are we the last generation?”, and demanded to “bring back blue skies”.
“It is the same story every year. It always ends up in blame game and bickering. We are desperate and are asking our leaders to sit down and find a solution.” said Bhaveer Khandari, an environment activist.
A major theme of the protest was to put forth various aspects that were contributing to the poor air quality and some viable solutions . An activist sought action against the various faulty power plants that operate in the city and emit toxic fumes with PM 2.5. Along with this, the major constructions that are happening in Dwarka, Rohini amongst other districts of Delhi were also criticized as people claimed that the natural vegetation of the area is being razed.
Many activists from other north Indian cities dealing with the same problem were also present and called for action at the protest. A speaker from Bhiwani, Haryana said that despite the land protection act being in place, the forest coverage in Haryana has diminished to three per cent. “Government must ensure at least 20 per cent forest coverage across the state in order to achieve a sustainable solution to the problem.”
The issue of stubble burning, which is one of the major contributors to air pollution, was also raised. Viable alternatives for the government were demanded. Jhasaid, “The farmers only have 15 days to clear out farms in order to ready the land for the next cultivation. No alternative is provided to them hence they resort to burning the stubble.”
Delhi’s air quality has been dipping continuously over the past few weeks of October and November. The annual problem has intensified this year and the toxicity of the air is at all-time high. On account of this, the Supreme Court, on November 1, declared it a public health emergency and directed the state governments to take swift actions.