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“Delhi Blames Farmers Instead Of Its Vehicles”: Delhi’s Pollution And Its Solutions

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A World Health Organization (WHO) report, 2012, states that 13 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities are in India. In 2014, researchers of Yale University, USA, and WHO declared Delhi the world’s most polluted city. In 2019, World Air Quality Report by Air Visual Institute revealed that 21 of the top 30 most polluted cities of the world are in India.

“Delhi’s Air pollution has been occurring perennially for more than 2 decades but gets worse in winters. Delhi blames farmers instead of its vehicles,” Dr Gurinder Kaur said.

“Delhi, as usual, is engulfed into smog with the onset of winter. The Delhi Government immediately started blaming other states for air pollution in Delhi. The Central Government was already not in line with the farmers’ interest, issued a new ordinance on 29 October 2020, stating farmers are responsible for Delhi’s smog,” Dr Gurinder Kaur said in a webinar organised by the Center for Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI) and India Water Portal on Delhi’s Air Pollution and its Solution.

Every year at the beginning of winter, not only Delhi but the whole of Northern India is enveloped in smog. It is a combination of Fog and Smoke. Fog is a natural phenomenon during winter, and it disappears soon after sunrise. Smog is formed when the air is contaminated with a huge amount of pollutants and it gets thicker after sunrise. 

In 1990–2000, when the air in Delhi was heavily polluted, the then Central Government was impartial, saved Delhi’s air from being polluted by diesel-driven motor vehicles by using CNG in place of diesel. For the last decade, air pollution has been causing havoc in Delhi and the Nation Capital Region.

Dr Kaur said, “The actual reason for increasing air pollution in Delhi is its increasing number of vehicles, industries, the rapid increase in construction activities, thermal power plants, bricks, burning of garbage dumps, indiscriminate cutting of trees and air flights.”

She evidenced this with facts and figures which says in recent years, the number of cars increased from 24 lakh (2000) to 1 crore (2018), releasing carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), Sulphur dioxide, ozone and other gases which pollute Delhi’s environment.

According to the Meteorological Department of Delhi and the Center for Science and Environment, in 2012, 70% of air pollution in Delhi is caused by vehicles only. Research by IIT Kanpur highlighted industrial units release 98% of Nitrogen oxide, 60% of sulphur dioxide, 14% of PM 10 and 10% of PM 2.5.

No doubt the burning of paddy and wheat residues pollute the air, but it only lasts for 20–25 days in a year, contributes to only 4–6% of the already existing pollution. Besides, paddy was not the crop of Punjab and Haryana; it was imposed on these states for meeting the requirements of the central pool of food grains through favourable MSP and assured procurement.

Paddy plantation season in Punjab was pushed from May to June to coincide with India’s monsoons. This has shortened the time between harvesting paddy and sowing wheat. Farmers are forced to burn paddy and wheat residues due to their economic hardship. APAU, Ludhiana research highlighted that in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the wind speed was below 5 kilometres per hour which couldn’t have drifted localised smog from Punjab to Delhi and the National Capital Region.

Neither the Central Government nor the State Government refutes that these internal activities of Delhi are responsible for pollution in Delhi because, during the COVID-19 lockdown, the skies had cleared up. At the same time, farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were harvesting the wheat crop and burning wheat straws.

The Central Government should not deny national and international reports of air pollution or find a scapegoat to blame it on; rather, it should have a solid strategy to mitigate the existing issues and tackle future risks related to air pollution.

Air Pollution In Delhi, India
80% of cities have polluted air according to the national air quality standard. (Photo by Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Air pollution is rising not only in Delhi and the National Capital Region but also in the other states of the country. According to a report of Greenpeace Organisation, India, released on 21 January, 2020, 80% of cities have polluted air according to national air quality standard. So, both the Delhi and Central Governments should take the initiatives they did in 2000 to mitigate the grave problem of air pollution but not punish the poor farmers.

Instead of punishing farmers, the Central Government should co-operate with them, understand their problems, provide helpful solutions, and hand in hand, save the nation’s air from getting polluted. 

The Government must take steps to control air pollution, or else our future looks grim if serious measures are not taken. The Indian Government needs to streamline public transport services to decrease the use of private vehicles. Pedestrian walkway and bicycle lanes should be constructed on the roads. Purification devices should be installed in industrial units so that the hazardous gases emitted from the industries don’t endanger people’s health.

Replace diesel engines with energy from natural sources. Pollution from the soil, sand and gravel, etc. during construction work should be reduced. Airports, both domestic and international, should be facilitated in every state to distribute air traffic more uniformly across the states, which will help reduce the extreme buildup of air pollution in Delhi.

Initiatives such as the National Clean Air program should be implemented. Appropriate fines on any polluting industrial units, vehicles, construction unit should be imposed.

Instead of playing a blame game, we must take immediate steps to ensure that our delays don’t lead innocent people to fall victim to air pollution. Besides the central Government, every citizen must keep their surroundings clean and protect our environment.

Dr Gurinder Kaur Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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