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My father usually develops a bad cough every winter by default. I don’t know if it’s biological. Over the last few years, it has worsened terribly. Every time he coughs, we get scared. We may not know whether his cough is genetic, or whether it is a medical anomaly. But we do know that the worsening air in the city exacerbates it. It’s definitely environmental in that sense!
I was born in Lucknow. I have lived and been schooled there on and off (due to my father’s transferable job), until 2013, when we shifted to the city for good. With a population of nearly 28 lakh, Lucknow is one of the fastest-growing cities in India with full-fledged extension projects going on the left side of the Gomti river.
I fondly remember a game I used to play as a child— to count the number of buildings around. Earlier, they could be counted on one’s fingertips. Now, not anymore. What I mean to say is that I’ve seen the city change right in front of my eyes. With a huge population influx, a sharp rise in the number of vehicles, and increased energy consumption amongst other things, Lucknow is not the ideal city it once was. This unsustainable development, too, has taken a toll on its citizens’ well-being.
In the year that went by, my father’s trouble had doubled. There was one, the annual cough, and two, Covid. He was isolated in a room to steer clear from both. He would go on the terrace to get some fresh air only to find that he is surrounded by a thick layer of smog.
When he felt a bit better, we decided to resume our morning walks and found that the number of people walking early morning had declined. Clearly, my father wasn’t the only one to be impacted by this double whammy.
Seeing the decline in the number of walkers, suggested to me indicated that air pollution wasn’t an issue troubling our family alone. Evidently, many residents of my city were affected by it adversely. A quick google search led to the revelation of some disheartening facts—
We have flyovers being constructed everywhere, simultaneously. The metro rail is being built at a full-fledged pace. The construction of multi-story buildings has also added to the menace.
“If air pollution is such a huge issue, why are we not talking about it?” I wondered. Lucknow —one of the most-polluted and also the fastest-growing city in India! Oh, the irony! If this ‘development’ comes at the cost of the air quality and the health of its residents, can we really call this progress? Something is definitely amiss here.
How many more avoidable deaths would it take for the government to act on their ‘Action Plan’? What role does the media (I’m mostly referring to newspapers) have to play in imparting awareness about such a grave concern? These questions need immediate thought.
To some extent, the pandemic and the winter that followed laid bare the deep-rooted problems being faced by the City of Nawabs. The so-called ‘development’ in Lucknow has come at a cost. What next though? How can we make the situation better? I hope to uncover answers to some of these questions soon.