Delhi’s air pollution crisis

Air pollution is rapidly becoming the biggest environmental concern around the world. India’s capital, Delhi is amongst the 10 most polluted cities in the world. With rapid urbanisation that has created varied economic avenues for people, Delhi has also became the Asthma Capital of India. It is obvious to expect the terrible health impacts due to deteriorating air quality in the city. As per a report by Greenpeace, about 1.2 million people across India die every year due to air pollution,causing a loss of 3% to the GDP of the country. But the truth remains that most of us barely acknowledge it as a severe problem.

IMG_1464Over the last six months, CEED has been leading the Help Delhi Breathe campaign. We have been working with young volunteers to raise awareness on the air quality in Delhi and how citizens can contribute towards improving it. Through several workshops and community open-house discussions, we have come across a variety of experiences and opinions of people.

Mohammad Qasim, a resident of Ghazipur village who lives within close proximity to the landfill site told us about the helpless conditions they have to live in due to frequent smokes caused due to waste burning at the site. He shared that the open burning of waste has hazardous health impacts on children and they have decreased immunity.  I also happened to interact with a student volunteer of CEED, Alokika who is just 12 years old but is aware of the increasing pollution levels in her city. Being a part of the Help Delhi Breathe campaign, Alokika took an initiative to encourage her friends and family members to have a cracker free Diwali, and has also been creating general awareness about the consequences of increased pollutant levels in the air.

Several student volunteers along with CEED representatives have been working tirelessly towards the cause. With over 1,00,000 signed petitions and an online reach of over 1,50,000. Our campaign demands include the Delhi Government issuing a health advisory on air pollution for the capital’s residents. A health advisory will highlight how good or bad is the air quality of the city is on a particular day along with respective precautionary measures that must be taken by citizens. An advisory like this will not only inform the citizens but also encourage them to proactively take steps that can reduce the pollution levels in their vicinity.

16730341_1352138008183917_2003274484119749506_nCEED along with our volunteers met the Health Minister of Delhi, Shri Satyendra Kumar Jain, at his residence on 16th February, 2017. Since our student volunteers have been actively involved throughout the campaign they were curious as to what has the Government of Delhi been up to regarding reducing the pollution levels of the city and get updates regarding the health advisory installation.

The Minister greeted us warmly and appreciated the work of our team. He mentioned that “It has been due to the work of CEED and the involvement of young volunteers that 25 new air pollution monitoring systems will be installed within the next 2 months”. It marks a great step towards improving the air quality, as monitoring is the first step towards cleaning the air.

Moreover, there is a need of a right mix of government action, targeted plan and people’s initiatives to combat the growing air pollution. Lots of things contribute to the current crisis, but there’s one obvious place to start accepting gaps and making changes in our choices. Government alone cannot bring change, our support and actions are mandatory to uproot air pollution.

Dimpy is a Programme Officer on Clean Air with CEED.