By Robin Gomes
As Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights approaches panic grips the Indian capital and its surroundings, with thick smog hanging in the air.
Experts have warned that the air quality is expected to deteriorate drastically with the use of firecrackers in the run-up mark Diwali, which this year fell on Wednesday, Nov. 7.
In a move against the annual threat, 12 Catholic Schools in the national capital opted for a cracker-less and pollution-free Diwali this year. The Office for Education and Culture of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India showcased the initiative to thousands of Catholic schools across the country to opt for a similar decision in celebrating Diwali.
More than 20,000 students for clean air
“More than 20,000 students from the leading 12 Catholic schools in the national capital have courageously taken the initiative that they prefer to enjoy less this year by way of bursting crackers in order to save the children and the elderly from lung disorders and gift them a longer span of life,” observed Fr. Joseph Manipadam, the Secretary of Office for Education and Culture.
He said it is a small sacrifice to show love and compassion to the people of our own country. “The joy and satisfaction in sacrificing a short-lived and temporary enjoyment is far more rewarding when it is for the welfare and good health of the vulnerable section of our society,” he said.
The national capital on Monday witnessed the worst air quality of the season with people exposed to as much as 24 times the recommended limits for dangerous particles. Visibility was poor and the smog was expected to worsen in the coming days.
The Office for Education and Culture recommended that all the schools across the country follow the example of the children of Delhi schools. “This is true love for the country, this is true nationalism and patriotism at its best, as Mother Teresa said, ‘We must love until it hurts’”, Fr. Manipadam said.
Commending the students, teachers and the management of the Delhi schools for their bold initiative, Fr. Manipadam noted that when everyone seems to be helpless over the hopeless toxic air situation across north India, “these children give us hope and tell the rich, the affluent and the politicians that all is not lost”. “All of us,” he said, “can and must contribute our own share of good will and compassion and become a little more selfless and caring to improve things so that we can all save ourselves from choking to death or gasping for breath.”
India - worst air quality
According to the global air pollution database of the World Health Organization (WHO), released in May this year, the top 14 most polluted cities
Other Indian cities that registered very high levels of PM2.5 pollutants are Delhi, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur.
In terms of PM10 microns, New Delhi was found to be the most polluted among the world’s megacities with a population of more than 14 million inhabitants.