What is it like to wake up in the morning and still feel tired? How does it feel to be a kid who is forbidden from playing outside as it might choke him up? What is the price you have to pay to breathe unpolluted air, which we had always taken for granted? These are questions that dangle like Damocles’ sword above the head of someone who lives in a polluted city like New Delhi or Ghaziabad.
AIR POLLUTION THAT PLAGUES US
Air pollution is undoubtedly one of the most serious environmental threats to human beings, just like climate change. Air pollution is ranked fourth in the global ranking of risk factors to health, surpassed only by blood pressure, tobacco use and poor nutrition. Studies show that it contributes to 30 per cent of lower- respiratory infections and 20 per cent of infant mortality.
According to an analysis by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, PM2.5 air pollution caused almost 54000 premature deaths in New Delhi alone in 2020. Isn’t that a shocking number when we consider the number of deaths caused by a global pandemic like Covid19?
While most states in India are at a moderately hazardous level of air pollution with an AQI of 51 to 100, states like Goa and Kerala are setting an example by keeping their AQI below 50.
Famously known as God’s own country and mostly living up to the name, the achievement of Kerala in containing the air pollution is truly commendable. One reason is undoubtedly the greenery we see in the state. As we know, the greater the number of trees, the higher the air quality will be. In 2020, the government of Kerala initiated a plan to plant 1.09 crore saplings across the state. The campaign’s title was ‘one crore tree umbrellas for Earth’ and was readied by the forest and the local self-government departments. The plan is farsighted as it ensures a cleaner environment for our future generations which can be emulated by other states as well.
Apart from the government, there are efforts on the part of local bodies to fight the problem of air pollution. For example, the Kodungallur Municipality in Kerala has passed a resolution which that makes it mandatory for newly constructed buildings and houses to plant at least two fruit-bearing trees. Not only do the trees provide oxygen, but they also reduce our exposure to pollutants. Small steps like these will hopefully make a lot of difference in the future.
The Goan government, in 2017, took a major step towards reducing air pollution by encouraging people to opt for bicycles as a mode of transportation. The plan was to tie up with a private company for operating bicycles fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS). As the major air pollutants come from the smoke of vehicles, using a bicycle is indeed a smart band economical way to tackle pollution. Also, banning mining activities in Goa’s iron ore belts in 2018 had significantly brought down the air pollution levels in the area which was not the case before.
SOME OUT OF THE BOX THINKING
Angad Daryani, a Mumbai born inventor, who had always been concerned with his city’s poor air quality, of his city decided to invent a device that would purify dirty air. He is one of those entrepreneurs who hope to clean our air. While studying he had already designed an outdoor purifier that would remove the particulate matter and other pollutants from the air by sucking them into a container leaving clean air in its place. In 2017, he launched the start-up Praan with the aim to create an affordable outdoor air purifier. His plan is to collect the pollutants and, instead of throwing them away the carbon thus collected is handed over to a tile manufacturing company that uses them to create beautiful handcrafted tiles. He recently completed its first investment round and hopes to kick it off soon.
WHAT TINY BIT WE CAN DO?
Remember how the lockdown during the first Covid 19 onslaught helped improve air quality and remove the smog? It was as if nature was healing taking her own time. This shows that human actions cause the most amount of damage to nature. There are many things we, as citizens can do, to reduce air pollution and improve air quality. Using public transport, carpooling, using bicycles and using fuel-efficient cars can reduce vehicular pollution. But most importantly, roads must be maintained effectively. Burning of plastic and old tyres in the open must be strictly avoided.
As they say, little drops make the mighty ocean; small efforts on the part of each individual will eventually make a huge change. We all need to be responsible enough for ourselves and for future generations. As Gandhiji said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Let us all breathe without any masks on.
Contributor: Sheema Shireen
About our Writing Program Student
Hailing from God’s own country, I am a teacher by profession. Apart from reading and gardening, I try a hand at writing poetry when inspired. I believe that an independent woman is a happy and content one, and I am on my route to achieve that.
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