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Letter to the CM of Delhi demanding solutions to the air pollution crisis

By: Darsh Vatsa

Clean Air and Blue Skies! How beautiful indeed…Umm! Not really for most Indians, because it’s hard to notice it in the harshly polluted atmosphere filled with chemicals and deadly smoke.

In Winters, you also get this marvelously poisonous mixture, garnished with a hell lot of fog and you get a new lethal atmosphere filled with SMOG!
Okay! But from where do we get so much of smoke? “Definitely cars! Right?” Yes but no! Because this lethal atmosphere doesn’t just contain pollution from cars – but it also contains pollution from the Oil and Gas Industry, Stubble Burning, and a lot of other sources.

Let us first talk about the Oil and Gas Industry. The oil and gas industry annually pollutes the air with almost 8 million metric tons of methane in the US alone. Other than methane, the industry also pollutes the air with different gases that threaten human health, such as Benzene, Nitric Oxide, and Hydrogen Sulfide Gas. The people who live nearby any Oil or Gas development zone have reported incidents of asthma, liver failure, cancer, headaches, etc.

Moving ahead, let’s talk about another problem – Stubble Burning! Wondering what is it? Well! It’s one of the biggest reasons for Delhi’s charming pollution every year. “Stubble burning is setting fire to the straw stubble that remains after grains” this is the perfect explanation from Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia from where you copy the answers for your online tests.

Stubble Burning
Image Source: The Telegraph

I mean like! This is literally the simplest explanation for it. In the months of October and November, Delhi faces a sudden spike in pollution levels. Delhi is gripped under a thick layer of smog that is visible from space. But a large source of this pollution, are the states of Punjab and Haryana. In the 2000s, rice farming in these areas skyrocketed which led to water scarcity as the groundwater of these regions started decreasing.

To prevent this, the government made a new plan which banned rice farming before mid-June, which meant that now the farmers will be planting right before Monsoon as rains would help in the maintenance of groundwater levels. But this pushed the harvesting season into the months
of September and October, which eventually led to farmers having less time to prepare their fields for the fresh crop.

This whole scenario pushed the farmers into a new situation. They started setting the stubble on fire so that they can prepare the field. Since then, the smoke from this stubble heads towards Delhi due to the northern barrier which is the Himalayas, accompanied by the cold mountain wind which rushes towards the northern plains, thus, pushing the stubble smoke towards Delhi.

After this stubble smoke arrives in Delhi, it gets trapped under a layer of warm air from the lowlands and the cold air from the mountains and prepares – well! You guessed it right – Delhi’s charming pollution. Steps have been taken to reduce or even ban the stubble burning but it isn’t that easy, because the farmers would then have no option left for getting their fields ready for a fresh crop.

And if they don’t get their fields ready, there will be no food. No food would lead to starvation, and then eventually famine and basically India would enter a phase of an extensive crisis… Okay! Enough of my panic-spreading lines which literally don’t make sense but hey!

Let’s look at the positive side – THERE IS A BETTER SOLUTION FOR STUBBLE BURNING. The name of this solution is – HAPPY SEEDER (aww! How happy of a name it is). Now let me tell you that what does this thing do.

The Happy Seeder is a tractor-mounted machine that cuts and lifts rice straw, sows wheat into the bare soil, and deposits the straw over the sown area as Mulch. The machine is also cost-effective and, in some cases, even makes the farmer earn more profit than the conventional ways.

While some farmers might adopt this machine on their own, major government support is required in order to expand its usage rapidly. What’s quite sad is the fact that even though this solution came into being a long time ago, it’s still not in use and many people do not even know about it.

To solve the pollution problem, imposing laws won’t be enough; we need solutions. And perhaps there already are many, it’s just that we don’t know about them much. Governments need to work together to fight this issue off. And talking about Government, I have written a letter to the Chief Minister of Delhi in regards to the need for permanent reduction of Air Pollution levels in Delhi.

The main objectives of this letter were :

  1. How the Pandemic reduced Delhi’s pollution level and the need to retain good air conditions.
  2. Promoting cycling and ensuring safety for the same.
  3. The need for a campaign that helps people understand the severity of Air Pollution, by the use of psychological solutions in order to connect the people with the problem.
  4. The need for states to work together to solve the Stubble Burning problem by the use of awareness and already available solutions.
  5. Creating a space wherein people can suggest solutions for Stubble Burning if they already know any.

People really need to take the Pollution crisis very seriously. It’s no less than a massive health crisis as it kills nearly 1 million people in India every year. Reports suggest that breathing in Delhi’s deadly pollution is like smoking 40 cigarettes a day. Air pollution kills 80 people in India every day and yet it’s not being solved and discussed as a matter of highest priority.

This International Day of Clean Air for Blue skies, we all must take a pledge to raise awareness about pollution and how hazardous and lethal it already is, to reach out to solution-makers and innovators and upliftment them in whatever way possible, to question and suggest the government wherever required and to be conscious of our surroundings and what’s happening in it.

Remember that fighting our problems is not impossible, “because impossible means that we have not found the solution yet.”

(The first-ever International Day for Clean Air and Blue Skies is on 7th September 2020. We’re collecting voices on issues such as air pollution, stubble burning, vehicular emissions, cycling from all parts of India. This is your chance to share your story with us!)

(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.) 

Darsh Vatsa

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