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Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 17 : 32 PM [IST]

Choking Tourism, Chucking Business

anurag So the cat is out of the bag. As it is it was roaming around the house for long; now it is being noticed around the world more severely. Headlines blazoned across Europe dailies have screamed that 9 out of the world’s top 20 cities that are most polluted are in India. And this is preceded by the alarming images of Delhi’s precipitous gas chamber situation.

If it is almost 30 times the World Health Organization’s safe limits, it is understandable for tourists to want to avoid breathing the concentration of harmful PM 2.5 particles topping 700 micrograms per cubic metre, in the capital’s air.

The Indian attendees at WTM experienced the hand wringing in Britain’s capital. Since the highest reading in London is currently 69, and anything above 300 is considered “hazardous”, the city fathers there are worried about the pollution’s effect on tourism to the city. Contrast this with the sheer cavalier attitude back in Delhi where state governments are squabbling to snipe at each other to score political points.

In fact, the Taj Mahal, for long the iconic symbol for India, was in the news recently for wrong reasons. The world media is taking that story forward to rub in the bad air quality around the monument as well.

As a damage control measure, the Agra administration and the state government too has announced that they are working on a long-term action plan to curb emissions from nearby industries in Firozabad. They intend to do this by installing automatic air quality reporting systems in Agra and Firozabad, building another sewage treatment plant in the city and enforcing replacing of auto rickshaws older than 15 years with new CNG-based ones. This could be yet another well meaning gesture but devoid of a long term strategy such knee jerk reactions don’t cut much ice.

Others in the neighbourhood of India are doing their own thing. A Smog Free Tower built by a Dutch designer in China is being described as “the world’s largest smog vacuum cleaner”. The 20 odd feet tower is capable of cleaning 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour, with power consumption as low as 1,700 watts.

Word going around is that India might resort to such a gimmick to illustrate all is safe near the Taj with one such contraption near the Taj.

A major link missing in it all is any proactive public response to the issue other than the blame game. Perhaps the associations can step forward to press for stricter measures this time. Now it is a question of survival for all stakeholders, in more ways than one.

Anurag Yadav
Industry Expert

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.
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