I chanced upon the above snap of my daughter while viewing old photographs. It was taken at about 8 pm on February 13, 2002 from the fourteenth floor balcony of my apartment in Kaushambi, Ghaziabad. The stars in the night sky caught my attention. I had forgotten that, in the good old days, stars were routinely visible at night. Contrast this with the photographs below, taken from the same balcony at about the same time fourteen years later on November 14, 2016. Notice the difference? Not a single star can be seen. And it takes a bit of imagination to recognise the moon.
Of course the air quality has taken a hit in the past fourteen years. The recent post-Diwali pollution did not help either, although it has bounded back to ‘very poor’ from ‘immeasurable’ and ‘severe’ till a few days ago. It is expected to improve further in the coming days. But is it ever going to be as good as it was fourteen years ago? And it was bad enough then. Yet, on a clear day, the Lotus Temple in Okhla, South Delhi could be clearly seen. Today, more often than not, we are unable to see even the huge garbage dump less than a kilometer away. Sometimes we can smell it though. Look at the following photograph taken around midday 0n November 5, 2016.
The smog was so thick its smell was invading our apartment.
Kaushambi is said to be a premier township of Ghaziabad in the National Capital Region, with many high rise apartment buildings. The apartments are well planned, well ventilated and well lighted. They don’t build apartments like these anymore. But the state of cleanliness has to be seen to be believed. Storm water drains, where they still exist, are choked. A slightly heavy shower floods the roads making them impassable. Even parking lots are flooded and we have to decide whether t0 wade through or stay imprisoned. Cleanliness at approach points to Kaushambi has to be seen to be believed. See the following photographs. The first was taken in August 2016 and published in my blog titled ‘Swachh Bharat’. The remaining photographs of the same spot were taken two days back on November 16, 2016.
To the credit of the municipality, the spot is not as filthy as it was three months ago and lime has been scattered liberally. But ‘swachh’ it is not. This only a few days after the National Green Tribunal asked the authorities to file ‘action taken report’ on pollution in Kaushambi. Our visitors tell us that we live in a slum. They are not far wrong.
Close proximity of village Bhowapur does not help either. The shops the villagers opened many years ago in shacks are now pucca structures and encroach on the road. Drains are chock-a-block with polythene discarded by fruit and vegetable sellers and others. They hog the footpaths forcing pedestrians to walk on the road, contribute more than their share of filth and cause health problems.
Take a look at the following photographs taken from the same balcony at daybreak today.
The haze you see is not the winter fog. It is smog. We do not get fog in November.
The media, electronic as well as print, keep telling us that the air we are breathing is nothing short of poison. But is anyone listening? Or bothered?
We had a green belt across the road, full of eucalyptus trees. It served as a lung of sorts for Kaushambi. But a few years ago the trees were cut. We lost our lung and gained an ill planned ‘Jaipuria Enclave’, with small cramped flats, no proper parking, thereby causing already narrow roads to be more congested . In addition, mushrooming malls in and around Kaushambi increased vehicular traffic manifold. This and the neighbouring industrial area add to pollution in Kaushambi.
As for potable water, The Nagar Nigam does supply Ganga water. But the supply is erratic, except during Dussehra-Diwali festive season when the supply is stopped altogether because of cleaning operations of the canal. Then we have to depend on the brackish ground water with a Total Dissolved Salts count in excess of 2000 which cannot be consumed unless it passes through reverse osmosis filters. Not everyone can afford to buy these filters and has to depend on bottled water which is neither cheap nor safe to drink.
We, the residents of Kaushambi area are responsible for some of our own woes and we, the residents, have to get together and work to clean Kaushambi.