Growing pollution of air and water has emerged as a global concern today, more so in the developing world where environment protection norms are violated with impunity. The issue has worsened into a major health hazard across urban landscapes in thickly-populated settlements. The cities in particular have borne the brunt of growing pollution and according to periodical surveys, a number of Indian cities score high in the pollution index. Delhi, the national capital, had earlier earned the dubious distinction of being the world’s most polluted city. This also exposes how insensitive our authorities have been in checking growing air pollution even as the menace was aggravating into a health hazard. Children have been the worst victim of the hazard as the mounting atmospheric pollution has made them vulnerable to develop a host of serious ailments. The situation has triggered legitimate apprehension that millions of children in India could suffer debilitating health problems later in life. According to a WHO assessment, half of Delhi’s 4.4 million school children would never recover full lung capacity. The WHO report further stated that India had the world’s highest rate of death from respiratory disease. Similar have been the concerns stemming from acute contamination of surface water and groundwater triggered by industrial and domestic effluents – compounded manifold by the absence of sewage treatment.
It is against this disturbing backdrop that the time has come to take preventive action to check the growing air and water pollution that is slowly but surely engulfing the towns and cities of Assam. We may not have yet reached the level of Delhi but nonetheless it is a matter of serious concern, warranting timely interventions. The Central Pollution Control Board had earlier placed Guwahati and four other towns of Assam – Nalbari, Nagaon, Silchar and Sivasagar – as polluted cities not meeting the required air pollution norms. The air quality of State capital Guwahati has consistently been showing a decline in quality, with air quality monitoring stations revealing the presence of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) above the prescribed limit for the past one decade. This is being attributed to prolonged dryness during the winter months, increasing number of vehicles on road, growing industrial activities, construction, and other human activities. Unless the authorities act fast, a Delhi-like situation definitely awaits the Guwahatians. Interventions from the authorities apart, the citizens also need to display enhanced civic sense and effect necessary changes in their lifestyles to ease the situation. As in Delhi, vehicular pollution is a major cause of the city’s degrading air quality and given the rapid increase of vehicles on the city roads, the situation can only worsen in the days ahead.