Stuck in small pockets

  • 14/12/1993

Stuck in small pockets GREEN issues came to the fore in several colonies of Delhi. But, for inexplicable reasons, metropolis-wide environmental issues such as the rapidly increasing air pollution, were ignored.

Some of the city's otherwise articulate middle-class even accepted the problem of vehicular pollution as fait accompli. Says O P Sharda, president of the Greater Kailash I Residents' Association: "What can we do about pollution? Who will agree to take the polluting vehicles off the road?"

Though the local media routinely present data on atmospheric pollution -- even providing daily charts -- and the medical community keeps on decrying the rising incidences of asthma and other bronchial diseases, the people, especially the upper middle-class, lacked the political will to press for change.

Said Rajendra K Gupta, the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate for Malviya Nagar constituency: "Several people talked to me about dust pollution and wanted more green spaces." But he got away without anything concrete to offer.

The demand for a better quality of life was loud and sharp in the lower middle-class colonies. Problems of sanitation and drinking water that afflict poorer colonies and slums provoked residents to confront their candidates. In Savitri Nagar, where contaminated water had recently claimed many lives, residents are still gasping for some fresh air and greenery. "The space allotted for a park has been built over," says printing press owner R K Sharma, and encroachments are widespread. Pollution from vehicles and from polish- and thinner-making units also bothers the residents.

Shortage of green space has brought Savitri Nagar residents into conflict with Malviya Nagar residents. Said housewife Radha Sharma: "The residents of DDA flats in Malviya Nagar chase our children out of their parks." Savitri Nagar residents were particularly incensed when they had to seek police permission to celebrate Dussehra in one of the parks. They brought this issue to the notice of the party candidates with gusto.

In many slums, the right to defecate became an issue. For example, in Sawan Park slum near Ashok Vihar, the Congress lost substantial support because of its failure to deal with the problem. The people there have been fighting for the right to defecate in the adjacent open space, in the absence of sanitary facilities. This was opposed by the residents of the neighbouring, affluent Satyavati colony.

The recent construction of a wall and a police picket to stop defecation angered the slum residents and they blamed it on the local Congress candidate, Deepchand Bandhu. According to Shivcharan Seel, secretary, Sawan Park Jhuggi Jhompri Congress(I) Committee, "This has cost us more than 30 per cent of the vote." Support shifted in favour of the Janata Dal candidate, who has asked the authorities to build a block of latrines.

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