Having lived in Delhi for all these years, I can testify to the fact that the air quality in Delhi has gone from bad to worse over the years. We used taking pride in being Delhiites but now all of us have developed a sense of shame in associating ourselves with the city.
I went on to study in Vancouver and just nine months in that city made me realise how pernicious the air in Delhi is. One evening, I was chatting with a friend who lives in Shanghai, China. I got into an argument on which was the more polluted city – Delhi or Shanghai. I generally end up losing arguments with my friends but this was the rare occasion on which I won. We made our decision based on the evidence provided to us by a google search.
I was so proud stating that I had won the argument and my hometown is, in fact, one of the most polluted cities in the world. I felt like I had won the battle but lost the war. This was one of the first times that I had come out victorious from an argument. It’s only fate that it had been this particular argument. I was hit by a reality check and I started feeling scared for my family and my friends. I felt scared for my dog, who deserved a happy life, but instead, will have to suffer a lifetime of breathing problems. When she could have been running in open fields breathing fresh air, she would instead be stuck in a metro city breathing in its lung crunching air.
According to experts, breathing Delhi’s air for 24 hours is equivalent to smoking 10 cigarettes a day. Growing up, I had seen my father smoke more than five cigarettes. I remember my mother telling me the harmful effects of smoking and how it sucks your life away. Little did I know that the city I called home was itself a giant smoking room. What bugs me most is how little we do to change that. Every day, we still contribute to pollution like we have all these years. We continue to contaminate our rivers, we continue to poison our environment through our vehicles, we continue to put our children in danger.
Festivals are supposed to be filled with happiness and joy. Over the years, India has celebrated the festival of Diwali – the festival of lights – together as one nation. But Delhi’s air pollution hit dangerous levels last year due to its celebration of Diwali.
The definition of the festival has changed over time. From the festival of lights, today, it is known to be the festival in which firecrackers are burnt. In an atmosphere already contaminated with pollutants, this makes things worse. The dark background of how these crackers are manufactured is hidden. Such crackers are made, without anyone’s notice, in factories, and by children. Hours spent inside these factories could lead to substantial effects on the mental and physical well-being of these children.
Continuing this behaviour would eventually lead to cataclysm and therefore, a step towards change should be taken now. Those of us who are ordinary individuals must think of contributing in greater ways. The drive to do so must exist within. There are several organisations running campaigns to desperately try and improve the conditions in this city. Supporting such campaigns and taking small steps, such as planting trees, can be of major help.
If supporting campaigns seems futile, a generous step by planting a tree in your own backyard can put us one step closer to saving us from the situation we have put ourselves in. With the advancement of technology, man can contribute to the betterment of the society in ways which were considered impossible a few years ago. Moreover, with such technology, the future seems to include marvellous inventions and discoveries which our children and grandchildren will not be able to witness if we continue on this path. We need to be sustainable and selfless, to secure a safe future for the coming generations.
While you were reading this piece, several more cars were added to Delhi’s roads and several trees were chopped off for our ‘development’. As a response to the same, Swechha India is back with Monsoon Wooding to add a breath of fresh air to Delhi, the city we all love, the city we have all polluted, the city that needs us now.
Support and adopt at Monsoon Wooding and help keep Delhi green because #EveryTreeMatters.