India’s biggest cyber and MNC hub has pollution to offer, thanks to the diesel gensets. If the people there are to stay healthy, something needs to change.
A recently released report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed that the use of diesel gensets (DG sets) in residential societies across Gurugram was responsible for increasing the air pollution in the city by as much as 30 per cent. The CSE report further stated that PM2.5 and PM10 levels significantly rose due to the use of diesel gensets and lasted up to one hour after they were switched off. It also found that when gensets were used for several hours, the rise in PM10 was 50 per cent to 100 per cent higher than what was registered before these were switched on. Pollutants also reportedly remained in the air far longer.
Sustained use of gensets for eight hours or more in a day led to a situation wherein PM2.5 levels breached the 300-mark while PM10 levels were at 1,900. Thanks to erratic power supply by the State Government and the unfortunate choice of DG sets by residents desperate to bridge the demand supply gap, everybody is doomed as pollution levels have spiked up by nearly 15 times of the safe levels during peak demand period. Ironically, the users of these DG sets, especially in housing societies and multi-storeyed complexes, are also the first one to suffer due to pollution emitted by these DG sets making the children and elderly vulnerable. Those with respiratory problems become risk-prone as well.
Dubbed as the millennium city, Gurugram has always been the example cited for extreme commercial progress in the backdrop of severe infrastructure failure. The residents of the satellite city to Delhi are always on tenterhooks for power and water as the absence of one is usually followed by the disappearance of the other.
A surprising aspect is the attitude of successive State Governments which, in spite of earning good tax revenues, have been unable to channelise anything towards its infrastructure planning and development. All ambitious policies remain confined to paper. As a result the citizens are left to their devices, leading to short-term and quick-fix solutions such as DG sets which are nothing short of an environmental disaster.
For instance, Haryana’s Renewable Energy Department (HAREDA), in 2016, asked large industrial and commercial establishments to install solar panels on their roofs so that they can use the power generated from solar energy instead of diesel sets. However, this order was not applicable to residential buildings. This omission is now costing dearly to the fragile ecology of the region.
Additionally, to make matters worse, the CSE report found that big commercial buildings are not fully compliant with the HAREDA order as only five per cent of commercial establishments followed the directive while the rest 95 per cent are yet to do so.
This means that, in addition to the scores of residential highrises teeming with people that are dotting Gurugram, the balance 95 per cent of commercial buildings are now relying on DG sets to satisfy their power needs.
It is worrisome that there is no foolproof audit mechanism in place for solar power buildings as well. This means that quality and efficiency parameters for solar power set-ups may not be up to the mark, making them just a formality to satisfy the Government regulation and possibly to derive solar power sops and benefits pertaining to property tax filing and so on.
The authorities in Haryana have long taken the benefits of the city that is so well placed geographically with the airport within half an hour reach, making the city a favorite for business houses and multi-national corporations to quickly set up their offices. But this long-term inability of the Government to provide basic power and water to its residents and even motorable roads in some areas is embarrassing for India compared to the international business community.
Attracting foreign investment through jazzy Press events, swish e-portals and apps is not the only thing to do for the authorities. The Government must focus on the experience of the investor as he steps on the ground level.
How well the people live and prosper and how well the environment is taken care of shows the Government’s sensitivity towards the environment and its own people. Even after decades of development, nearly 70 per cent of the people in Gurugram depend on ground water in absence of piped water supply. Add to this the sewage situation is also in dire straits.
These facts prove one thing about India: That it is a country interested in profits and not in the welfare of its people or its environment. This image has to change fast and no one else can do it better than the present Government which has both the resolve and the mandate to undo the damage of decades and turn Gurugram around.
(The writer is an environmental journalist)
Writer: Kota Sriraj
Courtesy: The Pioneer