Delhi has been destroyed multiple times in 3000 years of its history. Every time a foreign raider entered its precincts, Delhi witnessed a bloodbath. Streets turned into open morgues as entire family trees got uprooted. Inspite of this recurring carnage, the city itself never broke. That the city outlasted its marauders is because the invaders either left after or stayed and assimilated into its ethos.
Over last two decades or so, a firm and claustrophobic choke again grips the city causing it to gasp for breath. Lovers and believers stand witness to the protruding blue veins in its neck, pulsate intermittently, begging for relief. This time though the malaise is lethal and the city itself is gradually dying from the invasion which is neither receding nor abating. Let me then talk you through how the end will finally descend upon this great city, which for long was called, Delhi.
Currently around 90 lac vehicles are registered in Delhi with 6 lac new ones hitting roads every year and approx 6 lac entering Delhi annually from outside. In last decade the average speed of Delhi traffic has slowed down from 20 km an hour to 5 km an hour. In next decade or so as the vehicle count moves to around 1.5 crore this average speed will dip further to 2 km/hr. These congestions apart from being inconvenient will contribute substantially to particulate emission or PE.
You see, PE is the way any city’s pollution gets clocked. There are two measures for it; PM 10 and the more pernicious PM 2.5. Both of these refer to particles size that continue to exist in air after their emission. Delhi currently being the most polluted city in the world, has these levels at around 300 and 165 respectively. London, to reference these, has its PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels at 22 and 16.
These micro pollutants are carcinogens that invade human bodies clogging lungs and causing cancer, gene mutations, immune deficiency along with various other diseases. 22 lac children are already afflicted with non curable lung diseases and in next decade, as additional vehicles bump up particulate levels in the air substantially, Delhi will set new benchmarks of air toxicity. As a result , 50-60 lac Delhi children will find their lungs, liver and heart chronically under performing and about 20-30 lac adults will find themselves dying when in effect they should have been living. By 2050, death in Delhi will hunt, not in examples but in exponentials.
Apart from pervasive disabilities and causalities, for overall life quality, unless air purifiers are installed at homes and offices, breathing Delhi air in a day would be equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes. Soon a stall of Himachal Fresh Air in Connaught Place will turn out to be a major blockbuster hit. With global warming throwing its seasonal punches and the top soil drying up, gourmet punjabi dish will soon be the one which does not have sand in it.
Water in the meanwhile will end its date with large part of the city and choose not to engage further. By 2050 as population tops 5 cr in the city which is already the second most populous in the world, water stress inspite of rain water harvesting will cause major outbreaks of class and communal tensions. The crime capital of India will also become ground zero of social struggles. Real estate prices will fall heavily as people, fed up of carrying water for daily chores will choose to shift away than bear the daily grind.
By 2050 then, as housing becomes claustrophobic, roads turn into blockades, air gets unbreathable and water acquires gold, the urban ghetto, will be script ready for an epidemic, an upheaval or a natural disaster. As that signature event for its implosion unfolds, it might be worth remembering that the set up to the event was long in the making. In their individual smartness amounting to collective stupidity, denizens of delhi did not form pressure groups to force a reversal in course, even when they could see their own future getting weaponized against them.
Finally, is the next destruction of Delhi by 2050 destined or can we prevent the approaching catastrophe from gaining a present?
This question has no easy answer, though if we ask this question often, debate it repeatedly and keep it in front and center of our awareness, who knows, the answer might actually be asking this question again and again.