Clean Air is a Fundamental Right
[September 7 has been designated the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies by the United Nations. We take a look at why we should all be concerned about air pollution, what some of our Solve Ninjas are doing, and the consistent action each of us can take.]
Clean air is a fundamental human right. However, according to a Greenpeace report that investigated air pollution in seven countries, over 99% of the population in those countries were breathing air that exceeds WHO guidelines with respect to particulate matter (PM).
In India, a large proportion of people are exposed to PM concentrations over than 5 times the WHO guidelines. Further, more than 70% of the population were not covered by an air quality station within a 25 kms radius.
What are the common sources of air pollution?
The most common sources of air pollution are motor vehicles, factories, refineries, coal plants, burning of household and industrial waste, stubble burning, forest fires and burning of fuels for the purpose of cooking.
While most of these can only be addressed at the institutional level, as individuals, we can still do our bit to reduce air pollution. Switching to public transport and consuming local produce to reduce emissions, and segregating garbage to reduce the waste that gets burnt at landfills are three actions that we can take consistently.
Additionally, there is one simple way to mitigate the effect of pollution. There is, in George Monbiot’s words, ‘a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air builds itself up and costs very little’. This magic machine is called a tree. Planting trees and protecting existing trees from felling are two ways we can increase carbon sequestering.
What are our Solve Ninjas doing to combat air pollution?
Manav Sony, Guru Harshita, Vishali Sharma, Shilpi Rani and Anjona Majhi are working in Kolkata, Hyderabad, Punjab, Ranchi and Assam respectively, on issues relating to reducing usage of single use plastics and sustainable disposal of garbage.
Sanskriti Sharma, through her social enterprise, Sustainably Messy, is upcycling fabric and other waste which might eventually end up at landfills.
Premjeet Singh is working on retaining and increasing the green cover in his native Punjab.
Kaushik Ravi is working on mapping the trees in his community, so when one tree is cut he can demand that ten be planted in its place.
Many Solve Ninjas, like Rajshekhar from Bangalore, have taken a pledge to walk if their destination is less than 4 kms, and take public transport for distances greater than 4 kms.
What consistent actions can we take to combat air pollution?
1. We can take a pledge to reduce the usage of private vehicles, and to take public transport at least once a week.
2. We can segregate our waste, compost the wet waste, reduce the use of single use plastics and ensure that what can be recycled is sent for recycling.
3. We can pledge to ensure that the trees in our locality are not cut down, and plant trees wherever possible.
We could also set up air quality monitors in our neighbourhood to track AQI, and to use the data from them to test different solutions to improve air quality. To learn how to set up cheap and effective air quality monitors, do contact us.