As the Delhi-NCR faces the double whammy of the surge in Covid-19 cases and pollution, about 79 per cent of the residents want a ban on sale of regular crackers this Diwali, a survey revealed on Thursday.
Every winter, smoke or pollution in the air mixes with the fog — called smog — that engulfs the whole city with harmful air particles causing various pollution-related health hazards to humans.
Medical experts worry over the likelihood of smog that might influence the coronavirus to linger in the air for some more time, indicating an imminent threat of infection to increase in these cities.
‘LocalCircles’ conducted a survey to understand the issue. The question in the survey tried to understand the general perception of people in Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad on their willingness to avoid firecrackers during festival celebration.
To the question that asked citizens, “Given that many areas of Delhi-NCR are already in hazardous air quality category or beyond, what should be done with sale of crackers?”, more than half of the respondents in Gurugram, Delhi and Faridabad voted for a “complete ban on sale of all crackers this festive season”.
At an aggregate level, 79 per cent residents of Delhi-NCR want a ban on sale of regular crackers this Diwali. 32 per cent of them, however, support the sale of green crackers. 47 per cent residents want a complete ban on sale of all crackers. 20 per cent want sale of all crackers to be permitted while one per cent do not have an opinion.
The individual data of these five cities suggests that 64 per cent of 1,247 citizens in Gurugram, 51 per cent of 5,062 citizens in Delhi, and 50 per cent of 984 in Faridabad, 25 per cent of 1,416 in Noida, and 22 per cent of 1,496 in Ghaziabad voted for “complete ban on sale of firecrackers”.
On the contrary, 62 per cent of respondents in Noida voted for “ban on sale of regular crackers or only green crackers may be permitted to sell.” 26 per cent of respondents in Delhi, 27 per cent in Gurugram, 20 per cent in Faridabad, and 36 per cent in Ghaziabad echoed on similar lines.
Overall, it seems that increasing number of residents of Delhi-NCR are coming to the realisation that they can have little effect on the stubble burning or vehicular pollution, but cracker burning is something they can restrain from and most are willing to do it.
Another question was asked to understand how the ambitious plan that received Supreme Court’s nod in 2016 to tackle air pollution is being implemented across Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad.
The plan, GRAP or “Graded Response Action Plan” involves agencies — municipal corporations, traffic police, pollution control committee, transport department, police department, metro corporation, public works department, power plants — to undertake certain measures in their authority to control the amount of pollution released in the city’s air. It is a set of guidelines for state agencies to follow when the air quality index moves from “Moderate to Poor”, “Very Poor”, “Severe” to “Severe +” categories.
The second question asked Delhi-NCR citizens to check whether agencies are in action to stop dust pollution at construction and demolition sites and RMC plants, stop the burning of garbage in landfills and other places, mechanized periodic sweeping and water sprinkling on traffic roads, ban the usage of diesel generators.
Surprisingly, only 20 per cent to 25 per cent citizens in these five cities said all the aforementioned GRAP guidelines are being followed in their respective areas. Notably, 67 per cent of 1,496 respondents in Ghaziabad said “none of the four (aforementioned GRAP measures) are being followed in their areas.
Similarly, 40 per cent of 1,010 citizens in Faridabad, 37 per cent of 1,353 in Gurugram, 33 per cent of 1,362 in Noida and 29 per cent of 5,205 in Delhi echoed on similar lines. On the contrary 22 per cent, 25 per cent, 25 per cent, 20 per cent and 22 per cent citizens in Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad, respectively, said “all of these (GRAP measures) are being followed” in their respective areas.
On October 15, ‘LocalCircles’ had published the findings of its first air quality survey that said that 65 per cent households in Delhi-NCR have one or more individuals who have started experiencing pollution-related ailments.
The survey also pointed out that only 22 per cent citizens in the region believe that the Central and State Governments are working on reducing pollution in the last 12 months.
This latest LocalCircles survey further throws light over the continued lack of apathy from agencies responsible to implement the GRAP rules in Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad and the need for authorities to get more active in ensuring that GRAP rules are being enforced.
With Delhi already experiencing its third wave and daily cases of Covid-19 nearing 5,000 in the city, the threat is imminent and the medical experts are themselves worried about the combination of Covid-19 and hazardous air.
Some have even made a prediction of 15,000 daily cases in Delhi alone and an increase in death rate due to the combination of virus, polluted air, colder weather and increase in social interactions due to festivals.
The key here is for people to have self-control and for the state and the local government agencies to up GRAP enforcement on the ground and ensure they only give licenses for sale of green crackers this year.