Saturday, July 13, 2024

Delhi and its sham fight against Covid-19, air pollution: Anyone these 5 steps please?

Rich hobby cyclists whiz past wearing fancy clothes, multi-coloured and helmets, visibly without masks as that interferes with their morning exercise, whilst commuter cyclists from another class and category often referred to as workers blue/brown/grey-collar are pulled up by what appear to be bouncers performing the role of vigilantes carrying pens, pads and some sort of challan document which even I with a reasonable understanding of Hindi and English could not understand.

This is part of Delhi’s fight against Covid-19, not visible to the white-collar blue bloods inside their hepa-filter equipped cars, heading for office or spa or similar from their equally multiple filter equipped homes. Which air filter and how many of them have become the new status symbols, though Diwali gifts of larger diesel operated cars continue to be prominent too, whilst trying to collect the subsidy for electric vehicles in Delhi means a trip to the local political satrap for a certificate.

Welcome to Delhi’s war against Covid-19 and also pollution of all sorts. We are told that one makes the other worse and then we are told that the two main culprits are farmers far away who are burning stubble and people who may burst fire-crackers. For the rest, we have committees, and authorities, and grandiose terms like “National Capital Region” which till today has not been effective for anything other than equally grandiose titles and seminars, amongst other things.

What we can do to curtail pollution and Covid-19, simple steps along the preventive healthcare sort, we will not do. Here are some options which can be put to task right away.

1) Ensure that all heavy and medium vehicles, passenger or cargo, private or government, use side slip roads wherever possible instead of groaning up the steep gradients of our flyovers. In addition, re-locate the bus-stops to below the flyovers, instead of at the beginning and the end. This can and should be done right away, regardless of whether heavy and medium vehicle is on petrol, diesel, CNG, battery or any other fuel.

2) Stop using oil based solvent type exterior and interior paints right away. There are enough water based solvent type paints for exterior and interior. Along with that, move all paint shops, for anything and everything, out of the NCR area, whether self-contained or open-air. Even the best of hermetically sealed paint shops will release pollutants and emissions into the air. Few people know better than seafarers what poisons are released into the atmosphere by paints, application or after coating.

3) In synchronisation with point #2, a return to using local materials like limewash, as well as stone blocks that do not require painting, is urgently needed for new constructions – and there is no better proof for this than some of the older buildings in the National Capital Region. It is a simple fact of life that using long-life “plastic” paints for interiors or exteriors causes the growth of all sorts of pathogens and worse – which would otherwise have been sorted out if safer coating methods had been used. 

4) Give the commuter pedestrian, cyclists, bus passenger and metro/train user a chance. Return the pavements to her, as is the case in civilised cities all over the world – where street food comes on pavements only after office hours are over. In Delhi and NCR, sadly, even Cell Towers on Wheels (image above) have now started usurping pavements. What is worse is that appears to be no single authority which considers clearing pavements a priority.

5) The biggest elephant in the room is that there are multiple agencies and authorities and departments across at least three layers of decision making, not including the Judiciary and the Tribunals – all of which have a say on what can and should be done and not done. That we now have a new Committee in Delhi by way of an Ordinance gives us some hope.

Five simple steps, to start with?

Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.

A survivor of two brain-strokes, triggered by a ship explosion in the 70s, Veeresh moved beyond fear decades ago. 

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