I generally claim to my friends that I stay in one of the highest apartments in Pune. And that is also true! I stay in Kondhwa which is itself amongst the highest areas of Pune above mean sea level and then my apartment is on the 11th floor. When I came to Pune, last monsoon, I would tell people that I get a breathtaking view of the entire city. I can see a long distance, upto the airport on one side and up to Sinhagadh on the other. Ticky tacky box-like buildings in the city and lush green hills on the other side made my heart sing. Come winter and all that was to go. The greenery faded away with the increasing atmospheric dryness. Decreasing temperatures meant that SPM (suspended particulate matter) would stay closer to humans longer. The visibility reduced drastically, from a few tens of kilometres, to a few hundreds of meters in the mornings. First I thought it was fog. Now the winter is over, and the fog just wont disappear. Every morning when I wake up, I see this dreary image. A real image. I feel terrible. I feel chocked and suffocated at the very sight of what I see. I wonder how I will breathe if I go down in the city…
Pollution levels in Pune are rising at an alarming level. In a city that gives shelter to almost 4 million people, there are almost 1 million vehicles that run the streets every day. A city, that was once known as a hill station, where people would run away to on weekends for relaxation, has now become just another dirty city of India.
Boom of software companies and the good number of good educational institutes in Pune has greatly increased the expat population in the city. This has led to an enormous increase in housing construction everywhere. This has also led to a massive increase in the number of vehicles on the streets. Add to that a pathetic public transport system that forces people to go and have their own vehicle. The mild cold climate of the city only helps the smog to stay suspended in the air for a longer period. It affects everyone. People do not realise this, but average lifespan will fall rapidly if things do not change soon.
Pollution levels in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad have fallen in the recent years. Mainly because of better town planning and public transport systems.
Here are two photographs, of the same part of the city that is very close to where I stay. One of the pics is taken in August, in the middle of monsoon. The other pic is taken in March, in the middle of spring.
This is suspended particulate matter, or simply smoke! That comes out of the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that ply all day on the streets of Pune. Especially those who use bad fuel, or have not got their catalytic converters corrected, or those that have a fake PUC certificate! Would you send your kid outside in this atmosphere? How many years will your kid survive healthy before his lungs fall prey to the blackness your car has emitted?
Here are just a few tips for the citizens and the corporation to make this place a better place to live… not just for you but for your child, and your child’s child…
- Rectify the catalytic converters in your vehicle, especially old vehicles.
- If your vehicle emits black or grey smoke, treat it as an alarm with utmost priority.
- Plant trees. Have plants in your home and society.
- Avoid the use of vehicles whenever possible.
- Avoid driving a car if the only person in the car is you.
- Start car pooling.
For the corporation / government:
- Carry out extensive landscaping in the city. Fill all dry and open spots with greenery: plants, trees or even grass.
- Drastically improve the quality of public transport.
- Introduce environment friendly public transport like metro rail, electric bus, monorail, etc.
- Implement stringent procedures to check Pollution Under Control certification of vehicles and impose heavy fines on vehicles emitting gases beyond safe levels.
- Restrict goods carriage vehicles like trucks and tempos from entering city limits.
These are just a few tips. At the end of the day, it will be your judgement and consciousness that will drive the change! I sincerely hope to see this place become a better city to live in. I hope… I sincerely do!
Note: None of the photographs are photoshopped.