Pollution Jane

By Sunil Kumar

With the national capital Delhi’s air quality being rated as worse than Beijing; the former pollution capital of the world; it is high time our government woke up to the fact that we are sitting on a walking time bomb.

English: Pic taken at 12th WIEF

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in English: Pic taken at 12th WIEF (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Smokestacks from a wartime production...

Visit sunil-kumar.co.in English: Smokestacks from a wartime production plant, World War II. Myanmasa: ဒုတိယကမ္ဘာစစ်အတွင်း ထုတ်လုပ်မှုကြောင့် လေထုညစ်ညမ်းခြင်း။ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PM2.5 levels are among the worse in the world; with 13 of the most polluted 20 cites being in India. Chai Jing‘s documentary “Under The Dome” produced by her at the cost of $160,000 is an interesting, intelligent potrait of the rise of China; and worst of all pollution. Since the dragon to the East has already outstripped us in every possible parameter; this is a dubious distinction it would rather not advertise.

On the flip side; as a democracy; India often shows its warts for the world to see; and even exaggerates them via its 24×7 media cycle. As our former President A.P.J Abdul Kalam put it; there are countless achievements which we can be proud of. These are not highlighted in the media; the focus being on the insurmountable misery; poverty; rapes and general negativity.

The West; in its self-centred egotistical vacuity often laps up this narrative; as in the “Slumdog Millionaire” version of life; that exists on a global level; I’d rather look after myself. Charity also comes with various riders; that subvert the initial goodness we were supposed to admire. This by no means is meant to denigrate any effort done in a truly noble spirit.

The Prime Minister should also make this one of his priorities; apart from the idea of “Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan”; a radical initiative that could do wonders if implemented properly. In the documentary; Chai Jing gives the Chinese examples of how the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom reduced their pollution levels; and urges the government to take this up seriously. Her anguish stemmed from the fact that her own daughter was diagnosed with a benign tumor shortly after birth.

India’s renewable energy initiatives aim at 100 GW installations; but the media in its reality check tells us that actual capacity declined during the last year.

It is high time the Modi government also addressed actual implementation; as well competes with China in reducing vehicular pollution in the national capital and across the country. Air quality checks often reveal that Gwalior, Delhi, Kolkata are among the most polluted in the country. Any initiative that the country makes mandatory would potentially open up a huge untapped market; even if it is accompanied by inevitable corruption.

Jing’s description of change in China are touching; and her documentary is a clever attempt at raising awareness on a very pertinent issue. The Communists have done their people and the world a disservice by banning something relevant. We often hear many interest groups in our vacuous democracy shooting themselves in the foot; and giving hollow, preachy lessons on morality.

In the digital world; inquisitiveness cannot be curbed; and banning anything is almost always counterproductive; leading to increased interest in the subject; which would otherwise have lost its sheen. I earnestly hope decision-makers in this country watch Chai Jing’s documentary and devise a policy to stem the rot; and make our cities more livable and above all; breathable.


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