National Pollution Control Day is observed by the Indian government every year to commemorate the people who lost their lives in the unfortunate Bhopal Gas Tragedy that occurred 1984.
Those who lived through the aftermath, the ghastly image of glassy eyed infants being buried, and people dying with peculiar physical complications still linger around their eyes, reminding them how tragedy takes away a life which is yet to be lived.
The day is also observed to raise awareness about the increasing pollution levels and its irreversible after-effects. It is very difficult to tackle and handle the situation of pollution when there is a big effect of pollution on the environment.
Pollution has increased due to reasons like bursting of crackers, vehicles running on the roads, pollutants from the industries and so on.
Objectives of National Pollution Control Day
The observation of the National Pollution Control Day has certain major objectives.
- It aims at raising awareness about the increasing air pollution and educating people about how to control and manage industrial disasters.
- ● National Pollution Control Day is celebrated to make everyone aware of the significance of the pollution control acts and ways to prevent the industrial pollution that is a result of human negligence.
- It is also used to educate people on reducing and saving them from the dangerous effects of pollution.
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy
This year marks the 36th anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy that took the lives of thousands of people at midnight on December 2 in the year 1984.
Considered as the world’s worst industrial disaster, Bhopal Gas Tragedy occurred after a highly toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas made its way into and around the area situated near the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal.
According to the official data, the incident claimed the lives of 2,259 people immediately after the incident. However, the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed that a total of 3,787 people died due to the gas release.
Significance of National Pollution Day
According to the National Health Portal of India, every year around 7 million people globally die due to air pollution.
It also states that the condition is so worse that nine among ten people globally do not have access to safe air. Notably, the pollutants present in the air can potentially pass through the protective barriers present in the body and can damage your lungs, brain, and heart.
It is the air pollution that is responsible for the damage of the ozone layer. This shows how impactful air pollution is.
Current pollution status
In previous years, pollution levels across India have elevated alarmingly. The Indo Gangetic basin region has become unsuitable for inhabitation with AQI levels crossing the dangerous level on a regular basis. In the NCR, schools have been shut due to pollution twice already this year, and the real chill of winter has yet to set in.
The situation in the rest of India is not very good.
On the regulatory side of air pollution, more affordable and real time air pollution monitoring is enabling tighter emission control norms for small and medium size polluting factories.
Global precedents have been established where citizen-led initiatives have tracked down pollution levels of large companies like steel or copper manufacturing facilities and made them accountable.
Pollution issues like construction dust and vehicular emissions require tighter regulatory control combined with the adoption of the latest technologies for ensuring compliance.
The mainstream media, armed with data from geographically distributed cities across the entire Northern India, has provided extensive coverage to this issue on prime-time TV and front-page print news.
This has also brought focus and spotlight to this issue at the highest Judiciary level in the Supreme Court and in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Bringing the issue front and centre is necessary and at the same time recognising that the mitigation and improvements are going to be periodic and iterative.
There are lessons to be learnt from the failure of the Supreme Court empowered civil society led pollution control authority. In the absence of an energised, motivated and knowledgeably equipped team, the civil society can fail as spectacularly as our government authorities.
Bharati Chaturvedi, Founder and Director, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group said, “There has been a lot of awareness created in part from state agencies and in part non-state actors including experiences of people themselves, victims of pollution, people whose children are born with extraordinary challenges due to pollution, growing up with hideous pollution-induced diseases, with extraordinary challenges brought about through direct exposure through pollution in the air, in the water, in your body. Overall, I think we haven’t yet as a society managed to convert that knowledge into action, both mass action that will have people pressurise state agencies to push for change, for enforcements of pollution norms as well as to push manufacturers and production units to be mindful and to be scared to pollute. So, we haven’t really crossed the threshold, we’re still in a very safe space as far as awareness goes and that is the great challenge we have.
“Every year on National Pollution Day, we need to look at the top five most polluted places, it would be great if the Central Pollution Board also engaged. And also, look at what we want to achieve in the next five years or even the next year to reduce the pollution, to remove it, to remediate it, to eliminate it, to prevent such pollution both there, and in other places. Because so much of our industry is not formal, it is important for us to invest in clean tech which is affordable for small and medium scale industries to invest in. It is very, very difficult to fight pollution if you’re not going to invest at that level.”
Siddharth Singh, author of The Great Smog of India: “The last few years have been important in our fight against pollution. Both awareness and outrage is far more widespread than ever before. However, it is still unfortunately below the threshold that can trigger political upsets based on this issue alone. For these reasons, a lot more still needs to be done. There needs to be greater understanding on how pollution impacts human health, particularly for the underprivileged and those who have greater exposure to pollutants.”
“While India has taken several measures to reduce pollution, it has not yet moved the needle in a significant way. We have done well in renewable energy capacity additions, energy efficiency and expanding metro systems. But in terms of reducing pollutants from existing sources, we have largely failed. This includes thermal power plants, trucks, agricultural residue burning, and construction dust. That’s what the focus should be for the next few years. It is possible to have a noticeable impact within a year or two if it was taken up on mission mode,” added Singh.