Environment is the primary source of people’s health, well-being, and quality of life. Conversely environmental pollution costs life, happiness, and uncertainty leading to a complex social trauma. The Rig Vedic quote “Krinvanto Vishwam Aryam – Let us make this world a noble place to live in” reminds the reverential order of human commitment to nature and the environment. A recent Chicago University study revealed an alarming impact of Bharath’s hazardous Air quality, which caused 1.67 million deaths in 2019. Yet, political leadership selectively rises to act on environmental issues.
Ahead of the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, Gopal Rai, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, and Environment Minister, National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT-Delhi) imposed a ban on firecrackers, deeming it a main reason for Air pollution in the region. However, the fifth consecutive ban on firecrackers without substantial alternatives such as green crackers, most Hindus strongly see it as a cultural humiliation. The regional firecracker manufacturers, vendors, and laborers are also severely affected by unprecedented and inconsistent political decisions.
In mid-2023 incessant rains badly hit NCT-Delhi with Yamuna floods and water logging causing traffic jams to shut schools and offices displacing thousands. Aftermath floods and, the cost of public health issues including water/vector-borne diseases, viral infections, and post-traumatic stress disorders remind the disregarded interrelation between the environment and people’s well-being. Climate change and its impacts are well predictable, availing techno-scientific advances, but largely ignored. In the interest of social well-being, these vulnerabilities should not be papered over, but rather combat with sustainable strategies and enforcement.
➔ Will NCT-Delhi be freely Breathable at least in the next decade?
➔ Do the political parties in the Delhi Governance race, prioritise to act on ‘Environment and well-being’?
➔ Can NCT-Delhi afford an integrated life cycle assessment on ‘Environment – Public Health and Well-being?
➔ Do we need enforcement of ‘The Environmental Code of Ethics and Conduct’ for political parties, corporate, and NGOs?
At the beginning of Amrit Kaal (2022-2047), NCT-Delhi reserved greater attention after the success of the G20 summit. Delhi is also known for its integrated and diverse sociocultural landscape as Indraprastha for its rich historical reminiscences of Mahabharath and Buddist lineages, well known to the world. Recent state-of-the-art infrastructures including the National War Memorial, new parliament house, and Bharat Mandapam further enhanced its scope. However, all these bestow credible responsibility and accountability on both governance and civil society. As a result of deprived priorities, Delhi’s terrain turned toxic. Since Bharath is also leading the way for the global climate change mission, now it’s prime time to make Delhi’s Environment breathable as a standing model for other metros.
Is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) counting on the Environment?
AAP has been governing NCT-Delhi since 2014. Both in 2014 and 2020, apart from freebies, AAP prioritised its election manifestos for inclusive governance providing Health and a clean environment making Delhi a truly world-class city. Yet, the civilians are waiting a long time for the Government to deliver them. However, sequential chokes and climatic vulnerabilities in the Delhi Zone, call for a micro-analysis of AAP governance model for the same.
Genesis of Delhi Toxic Pollution
The major categories of environmental pollution in NCT-Delhi are gaseous pollutants, particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), heavy metals (Cr, Pb, Mn, Fe), fecal coliforms, municipal solid waste (MSW), Biomedical waste (BMW) and e-waste. The following facts narrate the genesis of environmental degradation.
- AAP 2020 Manifesto landmark initiative, #20 for ‘regularisation and registry of unauthorised colonies’ gave strength to illegal settlements. Some of these areas were homed for Illegal migrants such as Rohingyas.
- According to the Delhi Development Authority, as many as 1731 unauthorised colonies were listed. Consequent to encroachments, unauthorised constructions, and violation of commercial building regulations, many public spaces and roads were turned into illegal private parking lots.
- The recent average AQI is 167 with PM2.5 (73 µgm/m3) and PM10 (169 µgm/m3) marking the NCT-Delhi as a hazardous city in the country. In 2021, it reported an uncommon PM2.5 (339.5 μg/m³).
- During 2010-2020, an upsurge in transport pollutants PM2.5 (31.43 per cent), NOx (91.43 per cent), and Industrial toxins Black Carbon (57.04 per cent), and Organic Carbon (34.01 per cent) was observed.
- Delhi generates about 11144 tons of MSW per day, out of which 22 per cent is processed, 48 per cent is dumped, and the remaining 30 per cent is openly burnt in the unlined landfill sites, causing hazards for inhabitants. Illegal dumping of MSW leads to the accumulation of debris in the city.
- In 2022-23, the Delhi Airport recorded 67.33 million passenger traffic from 429964 Aircraft movements. The Landing/Take-off cycle of aircraft happens below the altitude of 1000 m, contributing to air pollution.
- The presence of microplastics in the Yamuna River is increasing the abundance downstream.
- Improper management of BMW affecting water, air, and soil quality. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the situation. Recently, NGT and DPCC also raised concerns over BMW treatment facilities.
- Delhi generates over 200,000 tonnes of e-waste a year, without a dedicated e-waste park.
IIT Delhi research article confirms the firecrackers emissions contribution to ambient air pollution is limited and the consequent health effects are subjected to a period of exposure. The Supreme Court had also expressed similar observations confirming the biomass burning in Haryana and Punjab as a primary source of air pollution. However, everyone must abide by the timely directions of the Government and the court of law.
Delhi pollution impacts on Public Health
Pollution in NCT-Delhi has detrimental effects on the health of its citizens. Air pollution is characterised by high levels of PM2.5 and PM10, and is associated with increased respiratory ailments, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (CPOD). In 2020, in Delhi, ambient air pollution alone caused 54,000 premature deaths revealing its toxicity. The presence of heavy metals in water resources, such as in the Yamuna River, poses increased non-cancerous health risks. Noise pollution, primarily caused by traffic noise, also affects the well-being of individuals, leading to issues like hearing impairment, high blood pressure, and stress. Additionally, the presence of aerosols in the atmosphere contributes to aggravated air pollution, affecting the development of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer and further worsening air quality.
Why is AAP not delivering well-being?
Briefly, AAP was born as a surrogate, claiming Anna Hazare led ‘anti corruption movement’. AAP leadership principally ascribes to the left / Marxist evolved activism mode ‘Pink Tide 1.0’ consistently confronting the Idea of Bharath and Hindu ethos. Consequently, AAP adopted cultural Marxism and the British colonial model of ‘divide and rule’ to engage various social groups, including university campuses, youth, and the urban poor. NO incident was reported citing AAP and Marxist affiliates contradicting each other on Anti-Bharath, and Anti-Hindu, showcasing their synergy. Except for a fifth-time blanket ban on Diwali firecrackers during the Hindu festival, the AAP govt almost ceased action combating primary sources of Delhi air pollution i.e., stubble burning emanations from Haryana and Punjab. By all means AAP distracted itself and fully drowned into political aspirations over the environment and well-being.
AAP’s sparkling hatred of Bharat/ Hindu
In a decade-long electoral selective politics, AAP strategised to remain in Delhi governance, targeting the Urban poor by delivering pseudo development manifesto. The party leadership actively pursued joining with anti-national inclined groups including Khalistanis, Anti-CAA/NRC, Delhi riots, Anti-Farm Bill reforms, Anti-Kashmir, etc., questioning the integrity and sovereignty of the Nation. All these efforts paved the way to align with similar NGOs and political parties. Since 2014, Arvind Kejriwal, AAP national convener, and other fellow cadets have privileged themselves with sparkling hatred towards Hindus and Bharath, the list goes long, here are a few instances:
- 2023: Joined as a key member of I. N. D. I Alliance along with Congress, DMK, Communists, etc who don’t agree with the Idea of Bharath and Sanatana Dharma
- 2022: Insensitive to Kashmiri Hindu genocide calling it a ‘fake’ and attempted to stop regularising Government jobs for the Kashmiri Hindus
- 2021: AAP leader, Sanjay Singh assaulted Ayodhya Ram Mandir Trust, spreading misinformation
- 2021: AAP govt. ordered to demolish 100 year old Hanuman Temple at Chandni Chowk.
- 2020: Assaulted Hindus and holy Himalayan mountain ranges by comparing them with the Municipal Solid Waste dumping yard at Ghazipur in Delhi and spreading misinformation.
- 2019: Insulted Swastika symbol sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains; by sharing a picture where a man hitting swastika with a broom, i.e., AAP election symbol.
- 2017: AAP leader, Virender Singh Kadian made derogatory remarks on the Hindu community and rituals.
- 2016: Insulted Lord Hanuman, sharing a cartoon in support of JNU leftist union over ABVP
- 2016: Disagreed Bharath’s pride, integrity, and sovereignty in many critical situations like the Surgical strike.
- 2014: Expressed shame for building Ram mandir at Ayodhya.
However, occasionally, the AAP leaders pretended to showcase their crypto affinity towards Hindu culture to polarise Hindu electoral votes.
Impact of Publicity and Ads on the Environment
Digital/ print forms of advertising and publicity campaigns are adding extra greenhouse gas emissions to the environment. Many base materials used in Ad making are non-biodegradable and their disposal is a significant challenge. In 2022, the Indian advertising market crossed Rs 743 billion and is estimated to reach Rs 1412.5 billion by 2028. According to a research report estimated poll expenditure for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was Rs 60000 crore, i.e., twice than 2014 elections (Rs 30000) of which, 30-35 per cent was spent only on Campaign/Publicity. During 2021-22, AAP led NCT-Delhi govt spent Rs 488.97 crore on ads and publicity which is 44 times that 2012-13 (Rs 11.12 crore). Consequently, the Supreme Court and CAG also flagged concerns about a sharp rise in AAP spending on publicity from Rs 81.23 crore (2015-16) to Rs 293.30 crore (2020-21). Hence, prioritising environmental protection, the quantum of advertising/ publicity expenditure by the Government, Corporate, and NGOs to be accounted for by analysing their carbon footprint Impact.
As a preventive measure, before the 2024 elections, the National Green Tribunal, Election Commission, and Ministry of Home Affairs intervened to enforce a statute indicating the ‘Environmental Code of Ethics and Conduct’ for political parties, Corporate, and NGOs and timely audit the same. By this, all the contributing stakeholders are legally accountable for their actions causing environmental pollution. This collective and coherent response would lay down a stepping stone towards environmental protection and well-being.
NCT-Delhi is persistently looking forward to having a quality life. To improve air quality, efforts should focus on mitigating the primary sources, not just banning Diwali Firecrackers. Yet, an integrated life cycle assessment on ‘Environment – Public Health and well-being’ shall facilitate their mutual relevance in sourcing citizen awareness and policy decisions.