New Delhi: Delhi and the national capital regions have turned into gas chambers as the air quality has reached critical levels putting citizens through respiratory problems, burning of eyes and other health issues. Year after year Delhi-NCR and most of the Northern Gangetic region experiences the menace of hazardous air. Facing consequences of the critical pollution levels, a citizens’ group reached out to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and delivered a letter to Mr Satyndra Kumar, Deputy Secretary, MoEF&CC, demanding their Right to Breath and faster implementation of time-bound National Clean Air Program with time-bound targeted pollution reduction plans.
— HelpDelhiBreathe (@DelhiBreathe) November 6, 2018
On November 1, a Delhi based citizen’s movement to fight air pollution and improve public health, ‘My Right To Breathe’ had put in a request to Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) for implementing 10 additional measures to curb air pollution, as Delhi got enveloped in thick blanket of haze ahead of Diwali and the air quality has been continuously deteriorating.
While the MoEF&CC has accepted their letter, the group has not received any response from EPCA so far, informs Ravina Raj Kohli, the founder of My Right To Breathe Campaign.
Environment Ministry @moefcc representative Satyendra Kumar met with us and accepted our letter with citizens demands for clean air #myrighttobreathe #NoSaansNoVote @ravinarajkohli pic.twitter.com/3KIjXYua2i
— HelpDelhiBreathe (@DelhiBreathe) November 6, 2018
In a statement, the group said that it has sent a letter to the Supreme Court-appointed EPCA and MoEF&CC, urging it take additional steps for curbing pollution level in the city. “Emission levels from all industries in Delhi-NCR should be put on websites and in the public domain for people to see who is polluting the air. The forecasting model should be transparent and publicly available,” reads the letter.
The citizens’ group which includes doctors, educationists, environmental scientists, activists, media professionals, entrepreneurs, and home-makers, has demanded measures like putting in public domain emission levels from all industries in Delhi-NCR, taking actions against polluting entities in a time-bound manner, strictly following the Graded Response Action Plan and urging employers to encourage office-goers to allow work from home till November 10.
“Citizens want to know where our tax money has gone? What are policymakers doing with this pool of money collected through various Environmental cess and fines, etc. and why has it not been used to provide real and far-reaching solutions for the sake of saving lives? The people most vulnerable to this toxic outdoor air like sanitation workers, auto rickshaw drivers, and traffic police and street children are most affected,” said Ms. Kohli.
‘My Right To Breathe’ pointed out that there are no guidelines for children or schools in the instructions, despite they being the most vulnerable community. The group further added,
Schools must be given clear guidelines about the minimal steps they must take which include no outdoor activities, no private cars to come to school, ensure parents do not let children play outdoor games even with a mask, breathing kits in every school to combat any respiratory distress, make parents aware of dangers posed by air pollution and encourage them to consider insulating doors and windows of homes using low-cost rags and tape to reduce dust.
“For my children to have the lungs of a smoker by their teens, through no fault of their own, is absolutely unacceptable. As a mother I am absolutely appalled and ask our government what are they doing to keep my children and millions of other children from developing lifelong diseases by just living in India?” said Bhavreen M. Kandhari, a mother who has petitioned the AAP government on the issue.
The citizens also suggested that the ‘Odd-Even’ scheme for private vehicle regulation should be brought back with immediate effect till AQI levels reach below 250. It demanded that construction and demolition waste, which lies around in the open and adds to the pollution when blown by the wind, should be considered as “severe danger” and must be picked up on an emergency basis.
While talking to NDTV, Ms. Kohli said,
It became very critical for us to write to the authorities because we find major gaps in what they perceive to be the problem and what is the reality of the problem. In our letter, we have made suggestions that are very practical and need to be looked into urgently. We have asked the government and the authorities to look into the air pollution problem more inclusively for the benefit of the common man.
She further said, “We demand a bipartisan approach to air pollution. Central and State, both governments are responsible for this mess. It’s time to rise above politics and save lives. This is a Health Emergency and pollution doesn’t differentiate between party lines!”
“It’s been long that neither the Central Government nor Delhi Government have come out with concrete pollution reduction targets, i.e., 35% pollution reduction in next three years and are shying away from taking clear accountability and responsibility. We need to come out with time bound and sectoral pollution reduction targets with fixed accountabilities as soon as possible without any further delay”, said Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner Greenpeace India.
The group has also suggested to the authorities to encourage employers to allow the employees “work from home till November 10” to the extent possible. It has also asked authorities to deploy at least 5000 trained local air-pollution volunteers, so every ward (Delhi has 272 wards) can have at least 20 additional hands to enable implementation of anti-pollution directives and create awareness.
Reecha Upadhyay from Help Delhi Breathe said,
If we are to implement long-lasting solutions to air pollution – we need to penalize polluters and demand that policymakers implement commitments like the 10,000 electric buses in Delhi and the solarisation of all public buildings so that we address sources of pollution and move towards sustainable growth.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) first-ever global conference on air pollution held recently in Geneva, brings out the urgency to act on curbing air pollution, the group said. WHO estimates that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in the polluted air that penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, causing diseases including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia. The report titled “Air pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-based solutions” was launched during this conference that revealed about four billion people, which is 92 per cent of Asia and Pacific’s population, are exposed to alarming levels of air pollution that pose a significant risk to their health.
The citizens’ group along with doctors of Ganga Ram Hospital installed lungs fitted with white Hepa Filters in the hospital compound, as part of awareness building programme on November 3, which due to exposure to Delhi air have turned black only in three days, demonstrating the impact of air pollution on healthy lungs, a statement issued by Sir Ganga Ram hospital said.
— HelpDelhiBreathe (@DelhiBreathe) November 5, 2018
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies