Air pollution is a silent killer. The air pollution levels in India are among the highest in the world, posing a heavy threat to the country’s health and economy. Almost all of India’s 1.4 billion people are exposed to unhealthy levels of ambient PM 2.5 – the most harmful pollutant – emanating from multiple sources. Ambient and indoor air pollution is estimated to have caused 1.7 million premature deaths in India in 2019. Lost labor income due to fatal illness from PM 2.5 pollution in 2017 was in the range of $30-78 billion, equal in magnitude to about 0.3-0.9 percent of the country’s GDP.
Though most of the cities are affected by air pollution, it’s the NCR and that too the national capital Delhi which is the worst affected by the air pollution. The news of air pollution in the national capital is making headlines (especially during winter) since last few years and it has been treated as annual ritual with no serious attempts being made to contain the problem.
Maintenance of ecological balance and preservation of environment is essential for the very survival of life on earth. At the same time, we cannot ignore development aspect which is also needed for our survival. It’s true that we need to raise standards of living of the people for which the economy needs to grow rapidly and tourism needs to be promoted. The challenge before us, therefore, is to strike the right balance between the two imperatives as a holistic national enterprise. While, on the one hand, Delhi is waging a war against air pollution, on the other, trees, which play a very vital role in reducing one of our biggest environmental problems, are being indiscriminately felled in the name of developmental projects. This felling of trees has also adversely affected the biodiversity of Delhi.
Such development projects which call for felling of many trees should be revisited and the project proponents of these developmental projects should be requested to submit revised proposals with minimal requirement of tree felling. In view of the critical air pollution scenario in Delhi, all possible efforts should be made for preserving the trees at the sites. Further, the possibility of translocation of the maximum number of trees (instead of felling them) should also be explored. In future, whenever any developmental/redevelopmental project comes up, efforts should be made for minimum felling of trees at the planning stage itself.