Confront this air

I am sure many people in Jammu still believe that the air quality of Jammu is normal and healthier for all of us to inhale. As of now this scenario prevails only in case when we compare it with neighboring states like Punjab, Haryana and New Delhi. Presently, I would like to share that the suspended particulate matter (SPM) and respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) present in air of Jammu is above the permissible levels and is even surpassing all the earlier records. You should get convinced to this fact as my column is inspired after my recent visit to the office of State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) in Jammu.

Few days back we all witnessed what kind of situation erupted in New Delhi when smog engulfed it. In that case, New Delhi blamed neighboring states Haryana, Punjab and their farmers. This was the second instance, within days which created toxic air problem in New Delhi. Before it, immediately after Diwali also air levels in Delhi turned very toxic. By now there are many proven results which have shown that people in Delhi are suffering from lungs (asthma and respiratory problems), chest & throat problems.

Jammu was once known for fresh air and clean environment but now the problem of air pollution has build up in our city. Almost one month back thick smog was witnessed in Jammu city due to burning of crackers on the night of Diwali which raised levels of suspended particulate matter (SPM) and respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) to surpass all the previous records. Even visibility was reduced to large extent because of smog and it was an evidence of how pollutants in air have started putting the health of our people to a grave risk. The fact that the air pollution caused due to emission of smoke and gases from the vehicles and factories kill many Indians every year is not making any impact on government authorities in Jammu. The level of stubble burning witnessed in neighboring states may not be here but pollution caused by vehicular traffic, construction, domestic and industrial activities are very must present in Jammu. The number of vehicles plying on the roads in Jammu has shown a sharp rise over the last few years due to rise in the standard of living and loan facilities offered by the banks. Though several factors are causing air pollution here but up till now there is no strict political or administrative action seen to curb this problem. These dangerous levels of toxicity present in air of Jammu are going unnoticed and are bound to cause various respiratory diseases very soon to our people. Recently, in one of its study the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that Jammu is among the twenty cities in the world having dirtiest air.

It appears Jammu very silently in last some years paid a heavy ecological price for all the development activities. Air pollution continues to remain as one of the biggest threat for Jammu residents, as I too got to know of it only after seeing the data collected by State Pollution Control Board (SPCB). It is proven that the suspended particulate matter (SPM) and respiratory suspended particulate matter (RSPM) have witnessed a steep rise in the recent past. However, what I observed at SPCB is that the SPCB is ill equipped to take up this task. But why to blame SPCB only, overall on the whole our state is ill prepared to deal with the situation and government is not taking corrective steps to control this menace. The need of the hour is to take urgent and harsh steps to control air pollution before it is too late.
While talking with officials in SPCB, I got to know that the old vehicles plying on Jammu roads are one of the biggest contributors to air pollution. They even told me how several extensions are given to increase life of vehicles by the transport department in our state.

What is required is that this practice should be stopped and all such vehicles should be phased out in a time bound manner. Besides, many transporters in Jammu are running their commercial vehicles on kerosene which is furthering this air pollution problem. I believe it is appropriate time to introduce CNG or LPG as a fuel to run small commercial vehicles. Similarly, appropriate measures are needed to be taken to check pollution caused by factories in and around Jammu because many officials of SPCB have turned a blind eye to such factories. In addition to it, action should be taken against all the brick kilns around Jammu city which are functioning without mandatory clearance. Furthermore, plantations should be done to cover all open spaces in the Jammu city in order to increase its greenery.

I may not be able to point out here about each and every thing which is polluting the air quality of Jammu. But whatever I have pointed out is a big threat to health of people in Jammu and all this is happening due to the failure of the government. Health of the citizens should be the prime concern of any government and the government should not hesitate in taking harsher decisions to safeguard the health of the citizens. Some of the departments such as forest, transport, industries, pollution control board, traffic police etc have to work out with a strategy to check rising pollution level in the state. Surprisingly, no one is taking it seriously and appears that it will be discussed only when the problem will become too clear to ignore. I appeal government officials to wake up from the deep slumber and confront this air as we all breathe the same air.

Disclaimer: The article reflects the opinion of the author and Jammu Links News do not endorse the same.

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Author

Satwant Singh Rissam