India’s ₹12000-crore fund to fight air pollution is going up in smoke: Scroll

(Ishan Kukreti is an environmental journalist. The column was first published in The Scroll on November 3, 2021)

 

  • The cassia tree blooms in October, with an explosion of small yellow flowers over a canopy of light green. But you wouldn’t notice its extravagant beauty on the road between Anpara and Shakti Nagar, in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra district. On this 20-km stretch, the yellow and green of these trees is covered with a foggy grey monochrome. Touch a leaf, and your fingers return with a film of fine black coal fly-ash. Take a deep breath, and instead of the sweet scent of the flowers, your lungs fill with sulphuric fumes. Yet, Sonbhadra rarely features in the discussion of India’s toxic air crisis. In popular perception, the crisis is limited to the winter smog over the national capital, New Delhi, and is caused solely by errant farmers burning crop stubble in Punjab and Haryana. Nothing could be further from the truth. Travelling 2,000 km in mid-October from Punjab to Bihar, with a low-cost air quality monitor, well before winter had set in, I found consistently high readings of air pollution across the Indo-Gangetic plains…

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