Alright, so it is that time again, putting a status, because FB keeps asking me what’s on your mind, and since Wednesday something is bugging me (well it started as an FB post, but then it got little too big to be put as a status, so here I am).
Wednesday evening I got out of my office and saw a dense cover of smog. It was there in the morning as well, but by 5 in the evening it was at its peak. Since then on my timeline here (on FB), I have seen numerous posts by lot of intelligent and aware citizens of Delhi, like so many Newspaper stories, condemning Diwali celebrations and bursting of crackers by lesser mortals and holding this form of celebration responsible for all the pollution.
Personally, I am allergic to pollution & Delhi’s foul air. Every year I spent my whole winters coughing because of the polluted air I am breathing in. I know it’s because of pollution and not cold, because the moment I step out of Delhi, the coughing is gone; so I am a big advocator of green Delhi and I really appreciate people becoming more aware about environment, and how they want to change the mess we are all living in. But (yes there is a but, there’s always a but) there are few points I want to draw attention to before jumping the gun on blaming Diwali and holding all evil generator Hindu Religion and its orthodox practices.
Diwali was on Sunday and all the crackers bursting took place on Sunday evening, 3 days before the smog engulfed Delhi. Now lot of FB experts claim that the smoke generated on Sunday night failed to dissipate for 3 days and then decided to engulf the city on Wednesday evening. This is substantiated with change in weather; increased humidity makes particulate matter and pollutants heavy; add to it lower wind speed make dissipation of these heavy particles difficult and they accumulate. Blaming Diwali celebration is based on a presumption that no more smoke or pollutants were being added to air for these 3 days (as we all will agree, after Sunday evening majority of cracker bursting stopped).
We very conveniently forgets about our favorite diesel guzzling SUVs and cars, which we bought because we wanted to save on high fuel cost of petrol and don’t bother about environment or pollution while using it. We also forget about those polluting factories that are running in Delhi, residential and industrial area, without following pollution control norms, because they are too expensive and cumbersome to follow. And when my neighbor doesn’t follow then why should I. We also don’t bother about thermal power plants (4 gas based and 2 coal based) operating in Delhi (not talking about NCR here but only Delhi), because Duh we all need electricity. Why to blame them, they all solve a purpose, except bursting crackers so lets blame Diwali.
By this time, most of you will be thinking, if not crackers then why smog is there after Diwali only? All other activities are there all year along and only crackers are new during Diwali. Valid argument! And as I often say, for some ignorance is bliss, answer to this lies in stubble burning in farmlands. Haryana and Punjab are agriculture states and harvesting of Khareef crop in these states is complete by end of September. Then farmers will sell of their crop and get into festival celebrations. It is after Diwali only, when the festivities are over, that they get back to work, prepare for sowing for Rabi and start with burning of stubble lying in fields. There are other ways of cleaning the field as well, but burning is the cheapest, fastest and most effective way (being in an agriculture based industry, I know for sure this burning takes place after Diwali, no matter if its in beginning of October or mid-November). Imagine amount of smoke and pollutants generated by burning of agricultural refuse in hectares and hectares of land all around Delhi. As per images released by NASA, in Punjab alone burning took place in area spanning over 250 kms http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=79630
When you will think about the massive scale on which this burning takes place, one night of bursting crackers will appear to be insignificant to you. This is the reason it takes 2-3 days after Diwali for the smog to form. But hey lets not bother about that, because poor farmers can’t be blamed for polluting environment, that is ‘politically incorrect’ and farmer feeds us, solving another purpose.
In India, it’s in vogue to condemn every and any religious practice. I am not saying religion is above reproach or everything religious is good. But everything associated with religion and religious sentiments of people is bad, responsible for all evil is also not justified.