Rajat Sharma


AKB30 On Friday November 3, the national capital was covered with a thick layer of toxic haze. The Air Quality Index reaching the upper end of the ‘severe’ category at 468, the highest in the last two years. The thick haze covered the sun completely as the people in National Capital Region gasped for fresh air. The entire Delhi-NCR region was converted into a veritable gas chamber, sparing none. People living in Delhi, Faridabad, Gurugram, Noida, Greater Noida and Ghaziabad had difficulty in breathing. Though stage 3 of GRAP (Graded Response Action Plan) is in force, construction work was going on in full swing in several parts of NCR. Bharat Stage-III petrol and Bharat Stage-IV diesel cars have been banned from plying, but the enforcement was slack. Only 122 car owners were fined Rs 20,000 each. Steps like water spraying, use of smog guns are going on in Delhi, while use of diesel generators has been banned. Experts said there is little possibility of the situation improving in the next two weeks due to no change in wind speed and other factors. Delhi government has practically showed its helplessness with Environment Minister Gopal Rai saying that people will also have to come forward to ease the situation. He did not say what people will have to do. Will people stop coming out of their homes? Or, stop breathing? Doctors have already warned the dangers of breathing in this haze. It has become an annual feature in Delhi-NCR with haze covering the capital in this time of the year. While some are blaming pollution due to burning of ‘parali’ (paddy stubble), others are blaming vehicular smoke emission. Some blame Delhi’s geographical condition as the main reason. Aam Aadmi Party and BJP are busy engaged in wordy duels, with Congress leaders chipping in. On Friday, Burari in Delhi registered an AQI of 465, Anand Vihar 441, Jahangirpuri and Wazirpur industrial area at 491, Noida at 428, Greater Noida and Faridabad at 498. Ghaziabad registered 398 and Gurugram 372. It must be noted that Lucknow, Kanpur and Agra also have severe air pollution, but their situation is better compared to Delhi-NCR. UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath himself explained the difference. He said, two days ago, his helicopter landed at Hindon airbase near Ghaziabad. He saw a haze outside the window and thought it might be the fog at the onset on winter. But when he alighted from his helicopter, his eyes started burning and he had trouble breathing. By the time he reached Ghaziabad, Yogi realized what the people in the suburban township are facing. Yogi blamed air pollution on burning of paddy stubble. Gopal Rai thinks otherwise. This is not an issue for scoring political points. It relates to the life of people living in the capital. Several reasons have been cited. One, Delhi is a landlocked city and when the wind blows from the north, it carries pollution from Punjab, Haryana and UP. Two, paddy stubble is being burnt on a massive scale in both Punjab and Haryana, and since the paddy crop has been reaped and sowing season for wheat and other crops is going to begin, stubble is being burnt in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The result: Delhi gets choked. Contribution of paddy stubble in Delhi’s pollution is between 20-25 per cent. Three, exhaust smoke emission from vehicles in NCR. Delhi is known as the car capital of the world. There are nearly one crore vehicles in Delhi-NCR, and they contribute 17 per cent to the capital’s air pollution. Dust arising from construction work, and chemical-mixed smoke coming out of chimneys of factories poison the capital’s air. Industry accounts for 11 pc to Delhi’s air pollution. Human activities in residential areas contribute 13 pc to air pollution. Gopal Rai blamed stubble burning in Haryana, Rajasthan and UP, but left out Punjab, because it is run by AAP government. Two years ago, when Congress was ruling Punjab, Kejriwal government in Delhi used to blamed Punjab for stubble burning. Nearly 10,000 cases of paddy stubble burning has taken place in Punjab this year. On November 2 alone, 1,921 stubble burning cases came from Punjab. Stubble burning is taking place in Sangrur, Taran Taran, Ferozepur, Mansa and Patiala districts. This is reflected in AQI levels in the district towns, with Bathinda registering 279, Ludhiana 254 and Amritsar 218. While politicians are busy pointing fingers, people of Delhi are forced to breath in a toxic haze. The number of patients is on the rise in hospitals. Children and aged people are the hardest hit. Toxic haze not only causes cough, cold and allergy, but it has severe consequences for skin, kidney and liver. Doctors have advised the old, infirm and kids to stay inside homes. There are some plants which can provide you protection from air pollution. They include areca palm, snake plant and money plant. (1) Areca palm is known as ‘living room plant’. It is available in nurseries for Rs 50 each. It absorbs formaldehyde and carbon dioxide present in air and reduces air pollution by almost half. Four areca palm plants of 5 feet height each, can keep the air clean in your home. It does not require much sunlight. You can keep them in sunlight once in three months. (2) Snake plant is known as ‘bedroom plant’ or ‘mother-in-law tongue’ plant. It releases oxygen in daytime and also provides oxygen at night by absorbing carbon dioxide from air. Six snake plants of 3 feet each can provide enough oxygen for a family of four. (3) Money plant, as it name suggests, may not give you money, but can save your money in hospital, when there is air pollution. It absorbs chemical toxins from air and releases fresh air. It uses less space and does not need much care. I had mentioned the names of these plants in my ‘Aaj Ki Baat’show a few years ago. The situation has not changed much since then. Researchers in IIT, Kanpur, have worked on these plants. All these three plants are easily available. You can use them in your homes to beat air pollution. These natural air purifiers can help protect your life. Let governments do what they can, but all of us can take small steps inside our homes to reduce air pollution. These plants will save you from toxic air and help cleanse the air outside.

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