We are used to seeing rain disrupt play during a cricket match. But in a worrying sign of the times we live in, it was pollution that held up a recent match more than once in the national capital between India and Sri Lanka. Studies that highlight adverse effects of pollution are in the news almost everyday. The latest says it damages children’s brains. Masks are a common sight, sales of air purifiers are rocketing, schools get ‘pollution breaks’ and oxygen chambers could well be the new cafés. Amid all this, when the powers that be—in this case, Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan—say that “to attribute any death to a cause like pollution may be too much”, we are left gasping, quite literally. What we get in answer to policy to tackle pollution are half-baked schemes like odd-even and a lot of noise over things like stubble burning. Yes, there are measures to check stubble burning and polluting industries. But where is the implementation?
Earlier this year, the environment ministry notified a ‘Graded Response Action Plan’ to combat air pollution in Delhi-NCR and the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) was given responsibility for implementing it. However, even EPCA chairperson Bhure Lal feels implementation is the key. “If people (agencies) don’t implement things, the situation will get out of hand,” he had said at the Indian Express’ Idea Exchange programme. The push for electric vehicles is a step in the right direction, but that is a target 13 years down the line and that, too, if everything goes to plan. Pollution levels in other cities should be a wake-up call for the Centre that it is not a problem restricted to NCR. A study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC-India) found the annual concentration of major pollutant, PM2.5, or particles with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers….