Three years ago, when some of us concerned citizens organised a townhall titled ‘Country with a Mask’ at the Constitution Club in Delhi, it was in the hope that our efforts might rouse the authorities from their perennial slumber and take action to tackle the ever-growing menace. But here we are, at the fag end of 2021, living the same old life, breathing even more toxic air. From two good air days in 2019 and five in 2020 amid the Covid lockdown, we managed only one this year. The national capital region’s air quality has stayed in the ‘very poor’ category for months now, often touching the maximum that the monitoring gauges can read.
On paper, a lot has happened in the last year, from dismantling of the EPCA to constitution of another committee with a different name, ‘Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas’ (CAQM), first through an ordinance and then by way of an Act of Parliament. The commission recently came out with the idea of having ‘flying squads’, 40 in number, to check violation of norms in Delhi and adjoining areas. That’s a total of 6.8-lakh square kilometres spread across Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, besides Delhi.