Rajesh Kumar, 48, a construction engineer in Faridabad, says he shudders to think how people with respiratory issues cope with NCR air pollution in winter
I grew up in Dhanbad, one of the most polluted places in the country, but trust me the air quality in Delhi-NCR is even poorer than the simmering smoke from coal mines. I live in Faridabad, and while a lot of people are focusing on how polluted Delhi is, the entire NCR is equally bad, if not worse.
I had shifted to Delhi-NCR in 2005 from Manipur and the difference in air quality between the two places was palpable. I begun having difficulty in breathing while driving, and the pollution has shot to such alarming levels in the last five years, that it has become unmanageable. Every day is an ordeal.
Owing to the nature of my work as an engineer, I have to drive every day to my workplace that is often a dusty mass of construction land. I’m not asthmatic, but still if a normally young and healthy person like me can find the situation so troublesome, imagine what it can do to senior citizens, kids and those fighting respiratory illnesses.
My mother, 67, spends her time between Dhanbad and Faridabad. She is asthmatic and with each passing year that she spends in Faridabad, she has been complaining of breathing issues. She stays put inside the house when she comes here to avoid the “heavy, pungent air”. My younger son also finds it difficult to navigate winter months because of the pollution levels. He is allergic to dust and keeps sniffling continuously.
There are factories upon factories in NCR and a never ending series of construction work going on, adding to the pollution. Many of these factories don’t follow the pollution control norms adding to the misery of people. I have even stopped going for my morning and evening walks owing to the pollution. I tried for a few days, but then I begun facing difficulty in breathing (one cannot even think of jogging) and my eyes also started burning.
Last year was so different: there was the spectre of Covid looming large over our heads, but the lockdown meant lesser vehicles, lesser factories open and thus very low levels of pollution. It was like we had moved to a different world. Even post-Diwali, the air quality hadn’t deteriorated like every year, the visibility wasn’t low. But we are back to square one again this year. Seems like we have squandered away all the gains made last year.
Climate change is real and a solution is required urgently. Not only are dialogues between nations important, it is prudent for governments across the world to hold dialogues with their citizens. In India, we need to really take a quick, hard look at the problem. As a government employee, my team and I ensure that we don’t compromise the Earth and its people’s health in the name of development. If we have to cut a particular number of trees for construction, we ensure that we plant double the number of trees.
Unless we give the Earth back more than we take from it, we are going to keep facing difficulties. As we have noticed, each year is getting more difficult climate change wise and the weather is getting more and more unpredictable. We cannot ignore the problem of pollution anymore. The parali burning in Punjab also needs to be addressed. Rather than just blaming the farmers, we need to work together in helping them find a solution as well. We all need to come together to save the Earth.