DR. T. SUMATHY (A) THAMIZHACHI THANGAPANDIAN (CHENNAI SOUTH):
Hon. Chairperson, thank you very much for having allowed me to participate in
this discussion on air pollution.
I would like to begin my discussion about air pollution with the famous lines of Coleridge from his The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Those lines follow thus:
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink,
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
The modern version of this poem would be:
Air, air, everywhere,
Polluted, our lungs will shrink,
Air, air, everywhere,
Beware oxygenbars everywhere.
Alarming isn’t hon. Chairperson?
According to Air Visual, the leading source of International Quality Data,
India is home to 20 of the world’s 25 worst polluted cities. Needless to state,
increasing air pollution in our national Capital, Delhi is a matter of great concern as well as worry for all of us. But it is sad to note that the Government probably
concentrates more in taking temporary measures rather than finding any
permanent and preventive solutions in the long-run.
The Air Quality Index in Delhi indicates that the PM 2.5 concentration to be
more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre during the month of November which
is an alarming sign. These PM 2.5 levels are extremely damaging because they
can straightaway interfere with our human defensive mechanisms like sneezing,
swallowing as well as other involuntary human mechanisms. They can penetrate
our trachea, and they can easily get into our blood streams thereby damaging the
healthy lungs of a healthy person. So, the alarm bell has already rung. I would like
to bring to the attention of this august House the seriousness of the issue and
would like to persuade the Union Government as well as the State Government to
take proper measures and introduce stringent laws concerning the climate
changes as well as the air pollution.
This is not just the case in Delhi. According to the Air Quality Index of
Central Pollution Control Board, the ozone and the nitrogen dioxide particles are
increasing in Manali and Chennai as well in recent times. This is a matter of
personal concern to me. On 17th November in Velachery in my South-Chennai
constituency in Tamil Nadu, the nitrogen dioxide was the permanent pollutant
throughout the day. It remained prominent as well as permanent pollutant
throughout the day and the PM 2.5 levels were around 46 to 67 micrograms per cubic metre. In the Alandur Depot in Tamil Nadu, it remained more than 110 micrograms per cubic metre throughout the day. But the present State
the government instead of taking the bull by the horns just slumbered on it without
taking any proper steps. It is neither aware of the seriousness of the situation nor
it is taking any permanent and preventive measures. In contrast, when our party
leader, Dr. Kalaignar was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and our Party
President Shri M.K. Stalin was the Deputy Chief Minister, a lot of lung spaces
were created in Chennai. I would insist that the present State Government should
take lessons from Dr. Kalaignar as well as from our Party leader, Shri M.K. Stalin
in saving the environment from the hazards of air pollution as well as the global
I already stated that it is not a local issue, but a global one. Now that India
has been put on the top in the list of most polluted countries with Georgia and
Bangladesh, we need to take it up with utmost urgency like a health emergency. It
is also not a regional problem pertaining only to Delhi or to Manali or to Chennai.
It is a problem of the tomorrow’s youth, problem of today’s as well as tomorrow’s
children. It is the problem of our posterity. We say that the destiny of the nation is
known in the way in which it is treating its senior citizens as well as its children. I
urge upon the Union Government as well as the State Government, through you,
to take proper steps to ensure the health and safety of the children who are the
assets of the nation.
Our respected Member, Shri Manish Tiwari also had spoken about China
as a trend setter. In that pathway, I would like to bring to the attention of the
House the trend-setting attitude of the Londoners and the measures taken by Shri
Sadiq Khan in 2016 when he was holding the office of Mayor of London. He
declared the pollution rate of the city as public health emergency stating that the
children living and studying in pollution hotspots are growing up with
underdeveloped and stunted lungs.
Therefore, it is not just an environmental issue, but a health issue of utmost
emergency. That was what he had stated and along with Madam Shirley
Rodrigues, his Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, he published the city’s
first ever integrated environment strategy aiming to make London greener, cooler
and ready for future. Probably, they would have taken the clue from famous
English saying that “we have not inherited this earth from our ancestors, but we
have borrowed it from our children”. When London could take it, why not Delhi
and Chennai? But it is a journey of thousand miles.
I have a very shocking data to share with this House. Air pollution in India is
estimated to kill about 1.5 million people every year. It is the fifth largest killer in
India. According to the WHO, India has the world’s highest death rate from
chronic respiratory diseases and asthma.
In Delhi, poor quality of air irreversibly damages the lungs of 2.2 million or
50 per cent of all children. Do we not take utmost emergency methods on a warfooting at the level of climate change as well as to control the air pollution so that
we can give a very safe planet to our posterity?
After a great smog of Delhi in 2017, the air pollution has spread far beyond
acceptable levels in the last two years. Levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10 particulate
matter hit 999 micrograms per cubic metre, while the safe limits for those
pollutants are just 60 and 100 respectively.
Hon. Chairperson, Delhi is described as gas chamber. I am reminded of the
line of Shelley about wind, west wind in particular, which can be very well befitting
to air also. He said, “Wild Spirit which art moving everywhere, Destroyer and
Preserver; hear, O hear!”
Air in Delhi is a destroyer, rather than the preserver. The air quality index of
999, Sir, is equivalent to smoking 45 to 50 cigarettes a day. It is very alarming.
According to one study, Delhi citizens would live on an average of extra nine
years, if Delhi met WHO air quality standards.
The popular myth about the cat is that every cat has nine lives. Can our
own individual be not entitled to have those extra nine years? The Government
should take up the issue very seriously and work on it with stringent laws with
utmost care and also adopt preventive methods.
Coming to the causes of air pollution to note a few, I understand that
vehicle emissions, wood-burning fires, fires on agricultural land, exhaust from
diesel generators, dust from construction sites, burning garbage and illegal
industrial activities in Delhi are the haphazard factors, but blaming the voiceless
firework manufacturers alone is not very fair. I come from Tamil Nadu and my
village is next to Sivakasi, which thrives mainly on the firework industry and just to
blame the firework manufacturers is not very fair just as we cannot be blaming the
burning of the agricultural wastage. There are many other factors like fire in
Bhalswa landfill, which is the cause for it.
I would just like to mention a few loopholes and lacunae in the system. The
usage of machines called high-volume samplers to measure PM 2.5 is not up to
the standard in India. Also, there is data manipulation as most Pollution Control
Boards of States present outdated data. For example, Odisha has 2006 data on
its website. Gujarat gives an annual average for 2009-2010. No exact figure has
been given, and only the average figures have been given so far.
One more important fact, which I would like to draw your attention to is that
the Ministry of Earth Sciences has published a research paper in October, 2018
attributing almost 41 per cent to vehicular emissions; 21.5 per cent to dust; and 18
per cent to industries. The Director of Centre for Science and Environment
alleged that the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers is lobbying against the Report because it is inconvenient to the automobile industry. So, it is a very
serious factor, which I would like the Government to take attention towards.
Further, the Indian Government is imitative, parrot-like, in adopting methods
set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. For example, some of the
machines only work when the temperature is between 25 and 35 degrees, which
is not suitable for a tropical country like India.
Sir, kindly give me two more minutes to speak. I have got a few
suggestions and questions. I would like to pose a few questions. There are other
States around, which follow slash and burn agriculture. But is there another State
whose Air Quality Index is this low as Delhi? Also, has India being part of the
Paris Climate Change been to any good? Has India taken up any fruitful tips from
the treaty to tackle the situation on an emergency basis? Also, I would like to ask
this from the Union Minister, through you, Sir. Are there any major important
policy decisions in the pipeline to tackle this situation? I would also like to mention
a few solutions. The major contributor for the air pollution is the construction sites,
and the Government instead of making policies on the shadow-level or the
cosmetic-level should make very strict laws thereby insisting compulsory covering
of sheets around the construction areas and burning of debris should be banned
inside the cities.
One other way can be by introducing pre-fabrication and modular
construction techniques, which is cheaper, and cost and time effective also.
HON. CHAIRPERSON: Hon. Member, kindly conclude now.
DR. T. SUMATHY (A) THAMIZHACHI THANGAPANDIAN:
Sir, I would like to
make an appeal, through you, to establish a state-of-art scientific lab to produce
artificial rain in the beginning of winter season to wash away and reduce
particulate matter and other pollutants in the atmosphere.
Great Poet, Bharathiyar, from Tamil Nadu who can be kept on par with
Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore has written beautiful lines about ‘air’ – prana, as a
source elixir of life.
He says :
Makarantha thoolai sumanthu kondu
Iniya Vaasanai Udan Vaa
Mikuntha Piraanla Rasathai
Kondu Vanthu Kodu
Kaatre Unnai Vaazhthukinrom
Unakku Pattukal Paadukinrom
Unakku Pukazhchigal Koorukinrom
The English translation is – O winds, I welcome you the carrier of wonderful
pollens, spreading the aroma of fragrant flowers, come gently, kissing the leaves
and waves, you bequeath the elixir of life to us, we sing in praise of you, we
adore you in awe, we worship you with the bow