Report Card of 'Smog Politics' of MPs
Bengaluru, Apr 09: Every year, in the months of November and December when the national capital gets covered with the smog, politicians start playing 'Smog Politics' by blaming each other rather than addressing the real issue at hand. The time when world's largest democratic election exercise is underway, 'smog politics' should also be the part of the debates. Before you think and compare your constituency with the national capital's air quality, let's take a look on 16th Lok Sabha and see which parliamentarian took action on the issues related to air pollution, which has emerged as a major menace in cities in recent years.
Climate Trends has released a report/analysis on the various actions taken by Indian Parliamentarians on an issue of air pollution during the last held 16thLok Sabha, focusing particularly on the WHO's 14 most polluted cities in the country.
Here are the highlights of the report which presents a review of 14 most polluted cities of India ranked by WHO in 2018:
While the city administration and state government has recently started to acknowledge the issue of air pollution and accordingly take some steps, MP Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi has been very much silent and inactive in the constituency and Parliament. The local residents and stakeholders have been voicing their concerns on the health impacts of air pollution which have gone 3-4 times over the national prescribed safe limits.
The warning bells had been ringing since long in this industrial NCR town and all types of pollution sources exist here that lead to high levels of pollution in both summer and winter months, contrary to the state government view. While the state government has been blaming Delhi and in denial of the issue so much as to open up Aravalis for mining and infrastructure against people's wish, there have been actions taken by the state and MP Krishan Pal mostly to help address the issue of degraded air quality.
Air quality in Varanasi has been deteriorating faster than many other towns in the state largely due to a lot of construction in the city. Doctors and residents are confirming the rise in allergies and respiratory diseases. MP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's focus has been on beautification and infrastructure. Not on poor air quality in the city.
Everybody think that sand from the river Falgu is the main source of air pollution but the real culprit is polluted air. While the SPCB aims to do its own study on sources of pollution, it's going to delay action on causes of pre-mature deaths so research and civil society organisations have presented their own findings to the state government. The statement from Gaya MP Hari Manjhi in response to the WHO report indicated the level of priority given to the issue.
Patna is the most polluted and least livable city in Bihar. Vehicular pollution and brick kilns emissions have been on the rise and recognising that the state government has begun issuing directives to address the issue. The MP from Patna Sahib constituency Shatrughn Sinha has been seen more active in Delhi 'smog politics' than his own.
A city with 7 MPs and an elected government with several MLAs, the government institutional machinery can at best be described as reactive than pro-active based on the evidence available. Instead of instant relief, the city has got a tag of the world's most polluted capital city.
A global study has found Uttar Pradesh 2nd highest in the country to suffer from pre-mature deaths due to air pollution. While the MP Rajnath Singh has stayed silent and country's central government has refuted global study findings on pre-mature deaths and diseases linked to air pollution, the city doctors have on their own started to engage the public through creative actions and information sharing.
Agra remains in the top most polluted cities in India despite letting go of its polluting industries in the interest of Taj Mahal about 23 years ago, as more sources of particulate matter and gases have come about. The crackdown from city and state administration has been on polluting industries and garbage burning, while the MP Prof. Ram Shankar mostly restricted to raising questions in parliament on the issue.
Rank 9 - Muzaffarpur
Besides toxins in agro-products, the polluted air is becoming a risk to the health of children, women and elderly due to construction, fuel emissions and partly from the pollution of other states brought by the winds. The MP Ajay Mishad has not been seen active in local pollution discourse or solutions except questions raised in Parliament on the impact of polluted air on heritage monuments.
The people in the city have been noticing the ill-effects of unplanned and unmanaged urbanisation, including waste and pollution. Still, the WHO rank came as a surprise to many, especially since the data was not provided by the state pollution control board. The government and elected MP Dr. Farooq Abdullah have so far mentioned the need to conserve natural spaces and resources due to their carrying capacity, though have not yet engaged local experts on the major cause of air pollution in the city which is domestic use of coal and firewood.
Despite poor air quality it does not yet feature in National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) of the government of India and monitoring of air pollution in the past few years has not been carried out by CPCB. Though high levels of toxic metals are being found in children in the city, the sole focus in government policy and MP Rao Inderjeet Singh's actions had been on road infrastructure and Metro Rail. Finally, the city got top ranking among most polluted cities in the world.
On the back of high vehicle density, construction and garbage burning, Jaipur have pollution levels at 3 times the safe standards. This has resulted in doctors seeing many cases of respiratory and other diseases in children. Although both the state government and MP Ram Chandra Bohra placed focus mostly on solar power, the key issue of urgently addressing the causes of pollution such as vehicles saw initiatives from the citizens and entrepreneurs of the city.
Rank 13 - Patiala
The SPCB recognises the sources of pollution though were surprised to find the city ranked in the WHO report. The consistent monitoring reported by CPCB indicates high pollution level from vehicles, crop burning and industries. While the MP Dharam Vira Gandhi gave the issue a miss most of his tenure, the state government engaged with central government and Delhi government on access to machines for solving crop burning issue.
Rank 14 -Jodhpur
The MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat showed interest in the issue through questions raised in parliament to learn about government plans to take action, though no actions seem to be taken by any elected leader or government agency on addressing the rising pollution levels in Jodhpur.