With winter season at its peak the air pollution levels across north India have risen to alarming levels. In Capital city of Delhi even the courts have failed to get the authorities to check the menace of air pollution and the condition has hardly improved since the past many years now.
Like Delhi and other north Indian regions, the summer capital Srinagar too has been ignoring the air pollution levels and even the mechanisms to prevent it. Air pollution levels in Jammu and Kashmir have always been a point of debate. While there has been no mechanism put in place to check the air pollution levels in the twin cities of Jammu and Srinagar, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had listed Srinagar as one of the ten most polluted cities of the world in 2018.
In absence of real-time air quality data, there is ambiguity about the levels of pollutants in the air in Srinagar and Jammu. Though the Pollution Control Board (PCB) dismissed the WHO claim, the fact remains that air pollution is a serious issue in JK.
Though this year the lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic led to improvement in air quality but soon after the lockdown was eased and public transport put off the roads for almost seven months, the use of private transport increased manifold which again increased the air pollution levels.
Jammu and Kashmir has over the past two decades failed to take strict measures for protecting the environment by preventing and controlling pollution by effective law enforcement and best environmental management practices.
Though the PCB under Ease of Doing Business has switched over to Online Consent Management & Monitoring System (OCMMS) since August 2017 for transparency and speedy disposal of consent cases but the fact remains that no mechanism has been put in place to check air quality levels in the UT.
Though the PCB had announced that it would install a high-end air quality monitoring system in Jammu and Srinagar to provide real-time assessment of ambient air quality in the twin capital cities. But, no such measure is being followed.
The proposed Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System (CAAQMS), estimated to cost around Rs 3.54 crore for one station, can provide round-the-clock data on presence of pollutants in the air.
Ironically, a report published in Lancet, a leading medical journal, puts J&K among top four Indian states in terms of respiratory diseases, attributing it majorly to air pollution and smoking.
As winter is already at its peak chest ailments are witnessing a rise as patients with respiratory diseases have been getting uncomfortable. While doctors suspect deteriorating air quality in Kashmir as a major cause, lack of real-time ambient air quality monitoring leaves little choice for the researchers to call for some short and long term measures to bring in some relief on the pollution front.