Delhi's battle with severe pollution comes on the top every year typically, around this time. It is an awakening call for the rest of India to make efforts to tackle pollution better so that we don't end up being like Delhi. Teens weigh in on the matter by asking questions to know more, analysing information that is available and pondering over how this issue can be fixed. A page from the writing program for teens.
A 10 year old boy, a resident of Delhi and a football enthusiast was eagerly waiting to join his new football class. A week into his classes, the classes had to be cancelled. The parents were told that the sessions had be cancelled on account of extremely high levels of pollution, making it unsafe to step outside without a mask. Playing an active sport such as football clearly was out of question especially for children. What kind of a childhood would it be if a child cannot go out to play his or her favourite sport?
What kind of a childhood would it be if a child cannot go out to play his or her favourite sport?
What could be a solution to this problem? Rain? But that's under no one's control. Then what is?
Getting familiar with the facts of the problem first, at the Young Writers' Club.
(This club is writing program for teens that includes a group discussion component along with writing. This blogpost is a synopsis of the discussion. Featured writing work from the teens are available to read on the Young Writers' Club magazine- see here.)
All the members of this club are located across India and some abroad as well. No one from Delhi. Hence before we began analysing the problem, we had to first ask questions to know the basic facts.
Extent of awareness about the problem
The teens were somewhat aware that there is pollution problem in Delhi. Some of them had heard and watched the news. Some knew little about it or hadn't heard anything about the matter.
visuals showed a lot of smoke in the air.
heard about the use of air purifiers
situation looks bad
cold weather makes it worse as air is dense and hence captures more smoke.
Questions raised by the teens to know more. (Facts found have been marked in green)
Answers to some of the questions raised were discovered through research undertaken by the teens. Some of the answers also came about based on what they had heard from friends/relatives living in Delhi.
Q."Delhi is polluted throughout the year. Why not take action before in summer months? Why talk about it now every year. Why not take more stringent rules? No point having a city of this kind where citizens cannot live without breathing toxic air. "
Experts acknowledge that Delhi's two decade-long effort to improve air quality has also shown some results. The city has moved out formal polluting industries, shut coal-based power plants, introduced the world's largest natural gas-based public transport programme, forced old commercial vehicles off the roads, slapped stricter emission standards and built an efficient metro. Long term air quality trends indicate that the pollution level has not been going up on a year on year basis. While that is good news, the extent of pollution hasn't changed much.
By banning old vehicles, Delhi has reduced the number of cars on its roads - nearly eight million - by more than a third from the numbers recorded in 2015. Yet, vehicular emissions remain the primary contributor to pollution in a city whose urban design is friendlier towards cars and skewed against pedestrians and cyclists. In addition, there continues to be smoke from coal fired industries, burning of waste and dust from construction sites.
Q. Inspite of all the measures, why does pollution persist in Delhi?
There is no pollution monitoring system as such that is used by the government making it an issue that isn't in spotlight always. Government bodies are fragmented and plans are not being executed on time by all the departments involved. There is poor integration between bus and metro systems. Although the buses are electric, there is low usage as it is not very convenient.
Q. "Odd and even number vehicles on alternative days. How effective was it? Didn't impact much and probably doesn't exist now."
This caused a lot of inconvenience to people and perhaps did not really solve the problem.
Q."Why hasn't the metro connection been completed? What is the reason for delay? The finding- the metro has been completed- if connectivity has improved why is there a recurrent pollution problem?"
Metro is being widely used whereever there is connectivity. It is available for a significant part of the day and night. Although the metro is available, often people need to go to neighbouring cities on work. For some reason there appears to be a preference to own a car than use public transport. Perhaps a matter of prestige? Could a different kind of messaging help to convince people to give up owning cars and rely on public transport? This also raises the question about the reliability of public transport to make these inter city trips.
Delhi and Beijing were both extremely polluted cities as of 2013. But now things have considerably changed for Beijing. Beijing's pollution index is 73. Several greener measures have been implemented. Delhi inspite of all the efforts is close to 350! What went wrong?
Pollution in Delhi, is not an isolated problem. The smoke spreads to neighbouring cities too. Cities across northern India, Eastern Pakistan and parts of Nepal and Bangladesh are also filled with smog. Shockingly the levels of pollution in Bihar is often higher than that of Delhi, but strangely this does not come to the forefront often. It is said that this is where Beijing succeeded. They set a target of 2017, had rigorous regional plans and implemented them well.
Teens who are fans of chemistry went a step further and dug up important facts in terms of chemical composition of the smoke.
Bio mass burning and burning of agricultural produce has a particulate matter which happens to be a common element in the polluted air in Beijing and Delhi. Delhi has a higher concentration of carbon monoxide while Beijing had Sulphur dioxide that can suffocate people and far more deadly.
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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-12 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 13-15 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.
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