Prior to Diwali this year, the usual suspects raised a shindy on the need to stop or at least restrict the use of crackers, which has been a traditional part of the Diwali celebration. The Supreme Court too got into the act and ordered a ban on the sale of crackers in the NCR. Post Diwali, the clamour has ceased, which calls into account the motive of some of the NGO’s seeking to curb the manner in which a revered Hindu festival is celebrated as none of them have raised their voice against the deteriorating levels of pollution which have occurred in November, for which Diwali cannot be blamed.
That Delhi and its surrounding regions air is toxic is well known, but the measures to control it fall far short of what is required. In military parlance, a General is destined to lose the battle, if he addresses the wrong enemy. The same holds good here too. Causative factors for pollution are many, but the root cause is overpopulation and the mindless migration into the cities, which do not have the infrastructure capacity to absorb the overflowing millions. Human beings remain the biggest polluters and unless something is done to address population growth, the war against pollution cannot be won. The time for political correctness is over and this issue must be addressed in all earnestness.
A question we need to ask ourselves is, when was the last time we saw the night sky in all its glory? When was the last time we saw the constellations in the sky? When was the last time we saw the Pole Star? Nothing is visible today in the night sky except a dull grey thickness caused by the myriad pollutants we throw up each day. That is something we need to worry about, especially their Lordships who find time to pontificate on every matter under the sun. The politicians and the babus too need to sit up and take notice.
What is also worrying is that the night sky is fast disappearing in the surrounding hills too. In a recent visit to Himachal Pradesh, I found that smog from the plains has seeped in the pristine Kangra Valley. The distant mountains are now but a blur, their shiny snowy caps no longer visible. The sky is a dull grey and the stars are not seen any more. We need to get our sky back, and we need this soonest. In Singapore, from where I write this piece, the sky is clear, despite the fact that this tiny city state is so industrialised. Can we learn from them?
The Prime Ministers Swachh Bharat campaign has at least seeped into the national consciousness, though it has failed as of now to change mindsets and lead to better control of waste management. People still litter, even the educated lot who can be seen throwing waste from their moving cars on to the road. But not throwing litter is but a small part of waste control. Proper waste disposal and its conversion to manure or for reuse is still a far cry. Every housing society needs to take this up as a national cause, every household has to take this up as a national mission. Incinerators for waste disposal poison our air, vehicular fumes and fumes from our factories and generation plants contribute their mite too. The babus, the factory owners, the industrialists and the slaughter houses—all need to sit up and take notice. We can no longer afford to pollute our skies and our water and our land. It will kill us all. We need to see a clear blue sky. We need to see the stars twinkle. Give us back our sky. Please.