Book Review:The Great Smog of India by Siddhartha Singh



Genre: Non-Fiction

Publishers: Penguin Viking

Price: Rs. 499/- (I got the book for review from Vivek Tejuja)

Behind the Book

Air pollution kills over a million Indians every year, albeit silently. Families are thrown into a spiralling cycle of hospital visits, critically poor health and financial trouble impacting their productivity and ability to participate in the economy. Children born in regions of high air pollution are shown to have irreversibly reduced lung function and cognitive abilities that affects their incomes for years to come. They all suffer, silently.

The issue is exacerbated every winter, when the Great Smog of India descends and envelops much of northern India. In this period, the health impact from mere breathing is akin to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. The crisis is so grave that it warrants emergency health advisories forbidding people from stepping out. And yet, for most of us, life is business as usual.

It isn't that the scientific community and policymakers don't know what causes air pollution, or what it will take to tackle the problem. It is that the problem is social and political as much as it is technological, and human problems are often harder to overcome than scientific ones. Each sector of the economy that needs reform has its underlying political, economic and social dynamics that need to be addressed to make a credible impact on emissions.

With clarity and compelling arguments, and with a dash of irony, Siddharth Singh demystifies the issue: where we are, how we got here, and what we can do now. He discusses not only developments in sectors like transport, industry and energy production that silently contribute to air pollution, but also the 'agricultural shock' to air quality triggered by crop burning in northern India every winter. He places the air pollution crisis in the context of India's meteorological conditions and also climate change. Above all, and most alarmingly, he makes clear what the repercussions will be if we remain apathetic.

About the Author

Siddharth Singh is an energy, mobility and climate policy expert. He was selected to be a German Chancellor Fellow in 2016-17 under the guardianship of Chancellor Angela Merkel's office. In the past, he has worked at the Wuppertal Institute in Berlin, Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Oslo and TERI in New Delhi. He has a graduate degree in international studies and diplomacy from SOAS, University of London, and an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Delhi. The Great Smog of India is his first book.

This book can be easily called as the 'NEED OF THE HOUR'!

I spent a major part of my childhood in Delhi and it hurts my heart to see the state it has been reduced to off late. I refused a job offer in Delhi which could have been a dream job for me purely because my doctor felt it was unsafe for me to live in that city with my chronic ailment. Since last 4 years I have been trying to visit Delhi and unfortunately I can't because of reasons you must have guessed by now. For me, reading this book was trying to understand what exactly went wrong, where, how and why. I needed to know why clean air suddenly seemed so precious, akin to a rare luxury and why was it no longer a basic necessity.

Backed with brilliant research , this book was the perfect answer to all my questions. This is something we all need to read to understand the situation of our country better and to save it from further damage. Looking at the signs of it all, we seem to have chosen the path of no return.

I loved the over all tone of the book and the way author has presented his views and observations. His dedication reads:

To my parents
I may have provided reasons to be concerned,
but to you I say;
Don't panic

And if that is not enough to make you want to grab this book , his second chapter is called 'Love in the Time of Air Pollution' and yes it begins with a quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez from Love in the Time of Cholera!

He has a unique style which makes his writing come alive. A topic that could have been laden with statistics and data, looks like an engrossing read with various anecdotes and real life experiences strewn across the narrative.This book is like a rude wake up call, where he not only shows us what's wrong but highlights all the major areas of concern which need our immediate attention. Like it is always said, big revolutions always start with small changes and that is what this book encourages us to do. Make small, but significant changes in life style to salvage the situation before it is too late.  The language is lucid and easy to understand for a layman.

Strongly recommended, it is a much needed topic across all age groups!

Foodie Verdict

This book is like Kashmiri Channa - reminds you of the times gone by and leaves you craving for a time machine!

Source: Demands and delivery