Before getting to the air, let’s take a look at the water. Lucknow made history this Tuesday when all its 350 Durga Puja idols were immersed in artificial ponds instead of the Gomti. It was a similar first in Delhi too, as 89 artificial ponds for idol immersion were built across the city, even as police were super diligent about keeping recalcitrant folks away from the Yamuna. Like efforts were also reported from Cuttack and Bhubaneswar.
Simultaneously, cutting back of fireworks and effigy burning, which in some part is a reflection of environmental concerns and in some part of economic slowdown, gave a breather in several places. Delhi recorded its lowest post-Dussehra pollution in five years. The weather also cooperated.
Now Diwali will be the big pan-India test. What are the lessons from Dussehra? It’s not about punitive measures alone. Government has to create enabling conditions for public behavioral change. When immersion ponds are conveniently located people do switch from the hoary tradition of drowning rivers and lakes in idols. When there is credible supply of green firecrackers those are what will be used during Diwali. Cheaper rentals of alternative farm machinery are proving a more effective deterrent to crop burning than fines. If there is an integrated and sincere effort to avoid a Diwali airpocalypse, we will succeed.