Too filthy, too rich
Urban centres are fast becoming zones of uninhabitability. Report after report has been pointing out the utter degradation in terms of air, soil and water quality, dwindling presence of other living forms in the ecosystem as well as in the unsavoury spikes in levels of minerals and elements. This is true for not only extreme pollution in cities of the developing world, particularly New Delhi, Mumbai, Beijing or Shanghai, but is equally applicable for European metropolises such as Paris, London among others, which have been grappling with alarming levels of air, water and soil toxicity. If the current levels of pollution are not brought down as soon as possible, the cities would not only be medically unfit for human beings, they would be health hazards for every other species of flora and fauna. Carcinogenic pollutants, particulate matter and non-biodegradable contaminants have overshot permissible levels in air, water and soil heavily, mostly because of fuel and factory emissions. There are still no concerted attempts on the part of governments and regulators to curb emissions, and transnational petrochemical giants have been given a free rein to tweak policies and regulations wherever they exist in meager forms. Despite instituting a culture of using public and non-hazardous mode of transport such as metro, bicycles, etc, few cities have been able to see it become a wider, more accepted form of movement. New Delhi has outdone many other cities in its pollution report card, and it is not surprising that the heart of India’s political circus is also the kernel of its biggest and gravest bio hazard, with record instances of asthmatic disorders and lung cancers registered in our own national capital. Evidently, the greater the ‘richness’ of a city, the higher its disease. We need to urgently rethink our development models that prioritise economic expansion at the expense of other indices of holistic and inclusive growth.