It’s poison everywhere
Radhika D Srivastava
The term poisoned garden aptly describes Delhi. With the air, water and soil polluted to an alarming level, knowing and combating these ills should not just be the judiciary’s duty, says Saurabh Sinha
Polluted air, water and soil. The perfect recipe for an environmental disaster. But scores of Delhiites live this disaster every day, mostly oblivious to the perils he combats. Whatever little action seems to be taking place to prevent Delhi from becoming a death trap can be safely attributed to judicial intervention. But Delhi’s malaise is deep-rooted and multifaceted, needing every little bit of help from every possible quarter.
Air pollution: On April 5, while passing its order on CNG buses, the Supreme Court noted: ‘‘Lack of concern or effort on the part of various government agencies had resulted in spiralling pollution levels. The quality of air was steadily decreasing...’’ According to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the city’s air kills a person every hour.
What makes our air so bad? Delhi’s air is contaminated with high levels of pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead and benzene. The deadly respirable suspended particulate material (RSPM) levels have been two or three times above the permissible limit of 100 micrograms per cubic metre. According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), benzene is extremely carcinogenic in nature, while lead damages the kidneys, nervous and reproductive system. Among other ill effects, RSPM and sulphur dioxide aggravate heart troubles among patients. The oxides of nitrogen lead to burning sensation in the eyes, headaches and increases the risk of viral infections.
CPCB member secretary B Sengupta said vehicles account for 65 to 70 per cent of the air pollution. The rest comes from generator sets, thermal power plants, industries and other sources like leaf and tyre burning.
But there is a silver line to the grey haze over the city. Following directions issued by the Supreme Court, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority chairman Bhure Lal said some steps were taken that helped stabilise pollution levels despite a consistent rise in the number of vehicles. ‘‘The sulphur content in diesel has been reduced from 0.5 to 0.05 per cent. Only lead-free petrol is being supplied. The court has directed the supply of pre-mix 2T oil petrol to two and three-wheelers,’’ CSE director Sunita Narain said.
Both said concerted efforts were required to clean up Delhi’s air as the pollutants were still above the permitted levels and vehicular population was constantly growing.
‘‘CNG is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done,’’ Lal said. School of Planning and Architecture director A K Maitra said the only way to control air pollution was improving the public transport system.
Waste pollution: According to CSE, the city generates approximately 7,000 tonnes of solid waste every day. The garbage collection, treatment and disposal facilities are highly inadequate. ‘‘Only about nine to 15 per cent of the garbage is segregated and recycled by rag-pickers. While the NDMC has started segregation in some places, other civic agencies are yet to begin it in right earnest,’’ Bharti Chaturvedi of Chintan, an NGO that works in the field of waste management, said. CSE claims only 70 per cent of Delhi’s garbage is collected. This can have serious repercussions.
The garbage, which includes poor quality plastic and discharged batteries, is just picked and dumped in the three landfill sites at Ghazipur, Bhalswa and Okhla. The sites don’t even have lining to prevent leeching of toxins from the waste to the sub-soil water reserves. Chaturvedi said large quantities of leaves being burnt every day added to the pollutants. ‘‘Leaves can just be put in a pit and allowed to decompose to form good quality compost,’’ she said.
‘‘The waste being generated per person has to be reduced, otherwise Delhi will drown in its own waste,’’ said Maitra.
Bio-medical waste: Sengupta said bio-medical waste management in the city was in a very bad shape. ‘‘There are about 3,000 nursing homes, hospitals and clinics. Of the 65 big hospitals, only 40 have installed incinerators, but their performance is not satisfactory,’’ he said.
As a result, a large quantity of this infectious and toxic waste is just mixed with municipal waste and dumped in landfills. The TB hospital at Kingsway Camp was recently slapped with a notice for not treating its waste and just dumping it with municipal waste.
As of now the city hospitals generate close to 2,000 kg of bio-medical waste. It is said of all waste about 15 per cent is capable of transmitting infections like hepatitis. Since these items are thrown in colony dustbins, street children who scavenge bins for plastic, glass and paper face the risk of contracting diseases. Delhi state government’s health secretary Adarsh Mishra said: ‘‘The incinerators in government hospitals had spare capacity. We tied up with private hospitals for disposing their waste. At the moment, an agency collects bio-medical waste from 1,500 establishments and brings it all to our hospitals.’’
Noise pollution: Only 30 per cent of the residential colonies in Delhi have noise levels within prescribed limits. Almost 25 per cent residential colonies and the commercial zones of the city have excessive levels of noise. These were the findings of a joint study — Status Report for Delhi 2021 — by the Union and state governments.
Stop pollution of Bhadra river, KSPCB told
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
BANGALORE: Chief Justice N.K. Jain and Justice N. Kumar of the Karnataka High Court on Monday disposed of a writ petition, after directing the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to act against the pollution in the Bhadra River.
The writ petition arose out of a letter addressed to the chief justice by High Court judge Justice Mohammed Anwar. The letter enclosed a news report that Bhadra river was being polluted by the industrial effluents flowing into the river from the Visveshvaraya Iron and Steel Works and Mysore Paper Mills situated nearby.
The letter was treated as a public interest litigation and was dispose of by the bench after directing the authority concerned to take action.