Delhi feels choked even as the odd-even scheme kicks in. This has almost become a ritual where as winter comes, the same talks, debates and write-ups and memes about Delhi’s air quality does the rounds. What is shameful is that we have made it to the front page of international papers.
A few years ago, Beijing made the same international headlines but after another successive year of the same, there is no news now. In fact Beijing will soon move out of the poor air quality index, which lists the top 200 worst cities across the world. 15 of the top 20 worst air quality cities come from India. The list is topped by Bangladesh, followed by Pakistan and then India.
Lets not get into the machinations of how Beijing did it but what really, really helped was their app - Blue Map. People got the app on their smartphones and on the spot, could check the environmental polluters at fault and call them out on social media. It’s one of the many ways that online opinion has brought a revolution to China’s stance on prioritising the environment over development.
With over three million downloads, the app has brought power to the people. It helps make the climate crisis comprehensible and directs attention to the source. The app presents data on air and water pollution, across 31 provinces and 338 cities alongside the real-time emissions from some 13,000 companies—thousands of which are in violation at any given moment. It helps people understand the daily hazards they face and suggests what protective breathing gear to wear that day before leaving home.
In the first five months alone, 203 companies across China had responded to inquiries from environmental protection bureaus that were triggered by citizen complaints on the app; 74 of these took corrective action and two production lines of a steel factory were forced to close.
Controlling pollution is a combination of government incentives, corporate mitigation and public participation that can make the difference. But the question is – will the Govt, like Beijing prioritize environment over development?