New Delhi wrapped in a thick blanket of smog.
"China has long insisted other countries refrain from meddling in its domestic affairs. Now it appears even its smog is sacrosanct. Foreign embassies that issue air pollution readings are actually illegal and interfering in its internal business, a senior official warned on Tuesday." This is what The Guardian had reported sometimes back (China warns foreign embassies smog readings is illegal, June 5, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/
What is happening in China will soon begin to happen in India. After all, a country that is desperately trying to ape China in industrial growth will also face similar problems sooner than later.
To tell you the truth. It is already happening. Despite Beijing's widespread reputation of having some of the most polluted air of any major city in the world, an examination of daily pollution figures collected from both cities (New Delhi included) suggests that New Delhi's air is more laden with dangerous small particles of pollution, more often, than Beijing's. Lately, a very bad day in Beijing is about an average one in New Delhi. (Delhi's air quality is worse than one of the world's most polluted cities Beijing, Data shows. The Times of India. Jan 26, 2014. http://bit.ly/1d3Mgrd).
In other words, India has already surpassed China in the track record to save environment. According to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index prepared jointly be researchers at the Yale and Columbia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, India is ranked 155th in a list of 178 countries. It ranks much below China (118th rank), Brazil (77th rank) and South Africa (72nd rank). In fact, India's performance doesn't even match that of its neighbours Nepal (139 rank) and Pakistan (148th).
It's time to celebrate. Isn't it? After all, India has surpassed China in environmental destruction !
This dismal performance has however not caused any national outrage. To the Corporate-funded mainline media the only ranking that makes any sense is India's ranking in the global growth chart. Nor are the policy makers interested. Strangely even those TV channels and print media reporters covering the WEF at Davos are quiet on the Environmental Performance Index report.
Forgetting the Himalayan Tsunami that struck the hill State of Uttarakhand last year, the Prime Minister's office has already directed opening up 25 per cent of forests that were previously listed as 'no go' areas. This will allow fast-track 'development' of some of the industrial projects languishing for some time. In fact, still worse is the way industrial corridors are being allowed with complete disregard for environmental safeguards. Take the Kolkata-Amritsar industrial corridor as well as the Delhi-Mumbai corridor, India will soon witness a massive destruction of its environment and that too in the name of economic growth.
With almost all its major river highly polluted, forests being cut at an alarming rate, hills being chopped off for mining, and the cultivable soils poisoned with excessive use and abuse of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, I don't know whether economists and planners have ever given a thought to the birds, the butterflies and the earthworms. No, I am not being a romantic, but unless you considered the survival of these inmates of ours you cannot save the environment from an imminent collapse. In our quest for a higher economic growth we have lost the vision for a sustainable living.
But why only blame the planners and the economists? What about us, the common people. Do we care?