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Gustavo De Aristegui: Feasible steps to combat Delhi smog crisis

The deadly smog in Delhi - Situation invites ideas from international emissaries. Former Spanish ambassador, Gustavo De Aristegui tells us steps we can use to control the smog situation in Delhi.

A deep analysis on Forbes, a Wikipedia page, and a dedicated newspaper column by the Spanish Diplomat, Gustavo De Aristegui, hints the direness of the situation. Smokescreen by a mixture of fog, sulfur oxide, and soot particles, Delhi is unable to see the impending calamity brought forth by the smog.

This portmanteau of smoke and fog is a slow chemical calamity robbing Delhiites of their well-being.  Aristegui agrees with the notion and addresses that it’s a wake-up call not just for India, but for the world. We are about to be welcomed by the emissaries of environmental catastrophes and that is putting it mildly. In short, Delhi is a gas chamber. 

Delhi's air quality plunges to season's worst
Delhi's air quality plunges to season's worst

Delhiites joke that a ‘Choking hazard’ warning should be displayed around the national capital region (NCR). Cases of respiratory problems have spiked by more than 30% since 2010. The immediate effects of smog include burning eyes, which escalates quickly to a migraine-like headache. Breathlessness follows, along with allergy and chest constriction. Long exposure to the baleful air can result in serious respiratory ailments like Tuberculosis, Bronchitis and in some cases, Emphysema.

Gustavo De Aristegui argues that environmental conservationists need to be pragmatic. A goliath pledge to overcome a 100-year problem in merely 10 years isn’t going to get us anywhere near. Adding insult to the injury is their apartheid against latest tech developments. Ultra Super Critical coal technology is efficient and an unpolluted method to run thermal power plants. Yet, environmentalists oppose such developments.

Radicals are found everywhere. ‘Tree-huggers’ opinionate that we can make a jump directly to renewable energy sources. Their myopic viewpoint does not reach the fact that the current generation lacks high capacity energy storage. The largest solar farm in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, can only generate 648 MW, which can power up to 150,000 homes. That’s only 5 per cent of the total Delhi homes.

The only viable path, for now, is to use a mixture of renewable and non-renewable resources. While over-polluting power units like the Badarpur Power plant need to be shut down, we need to keep a balance of conventional and non-conventional energy sources. Integrating pollution-reducing technology will further reduce the harmful impacts of smog.

The unorganized and ineffective ban of fire-crackers did very little to combat air pollution. Rather, it brought about a religious debate where Hindus felt they were targeted. The actual culprit is the practice of field torching, rampant in North India and Pakistan. The smoke was carried in the air to the densely populated capital where it engulfed the population with its accident-inducing effects.

Indian environmentalists and security experts are concerned that their unruly neighbors might use it as a method of passive terrorism. This is why Gustavo De Aristegui and preservationists want the world to take a strong stand since it’s a cross-border crisis.

The ideas come in forth as reflective of Spain's own fight with pollution. Spain's major cities are still failing due to lack of proper policies and norms. A report from the European Environment Agency has revealed that Spain exceeded safe pollution levels 150 times, putting people at risk of breathing problems and lung disease. Air pollution causes an estimated 30,000 premature deaths in Spain in 2013 according to a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Perhaps the problems in both countries can propel the governments and the citizens to take matters in hand and take steps to counter pollution.

India, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon, and China make the top-10 of the most polluted countries in the world. These states need to be the forerunners of the global anti-pollution movement. Gustavo De Aristegui suggests that we need to avoid the technical mumbo-jumbo and environmental fundamentalism. Instead, let’s work on a practical solution involving short-term but feasible steps.

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A non-conformist by nature and an empath by ideas, Vikram believes in directing change and deriving value out of large scale problems. His mushy, care-free attitude around friends goes for a toss whenever he encounters something new to learn. Vikram is also an advocate for crowd-learning and radical startup ideas.

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