Campaign seeks healthy air even after lockdown ends

A 12-year-old climate activist’s campaign seeking healthy air after the lockdown will use the World Environment Day platform on Friday to amplify its demand that the government ensure that particulate matter (PM) 2.5 levels in cities remain at 60 micrograms per cubic metre.

PM 2.5 particles are fine pollutants that invade the smallest of airways. The safe limit of PM 2.5 is 0-60.

The campaign, #SaalBhar60, unveiled by Haridwar-based Ridhima Pandey, will have celebrities, activists and citizens holding placards demanding ‘Clean Air for All’ and sharing images on social media by tagging various people in government and other agencies who can bring about this change.

The campaign demands that the government put in place measures to ensure that the PM 2.5 levels in cities is 60 micrograms per cubic metre, which is the safe limit for 24 hours as prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). This will ensure a safe and healthy environment as well as boost the fight against COVID-19, after the lockdown.

Mumbai is listed as one of the 122 non-attainment cities (that do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards) under the CPCB’s National Clean Air Programme and has been asked to reduce air pollution by 20-30%.

While Mumbai witnessed clean air and blue skies in the lockdown period, it was ironic that it came at the cost of a pandemic, and that citizens couldn’t actually be outdoors to enjoy or breathe freely, said Shikha Kumar, campaigns manager,, which unveiled #SaalBhar60, a pan-India digital campaign, in association with multiple organisations. “The idea for it was to culminate on June 5, celebrated as World Environment Day,” she said.

Ms. Kumar said the images received from people across India will be compiled on their website and a poster collage will be created. “This collage will be sent to Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan as well as the environment ministers of all States,” she said.

According to data by Urban Emissions (India), an independent research group on air pollution, Mumbai witnessed a major dip in PM 2.5, nitrogen dioxide as well as PM 10 levels during the lockdown period. “On May 20, Mumbai recorded its AQI as 28, which is the cleanest air the city saw so far this year. Once everything is back to normal, it is not possible to simply abandon cars and shut industries to achieve clean air. However, good and healthy air quality can be achieved with stricter policies and its stringent implementation, which is what Mumbai needs,” said Bhagwan Kesbhat, founder of Waatavaran Foundation, which is supporting this campaign.

Sarath Guttikunda, director of Urban Emissions, #SaalBhar60 is achievable. “It is hard work but very much possible. We need to clean every source of transport, industry, waste, cooking, heating, lighting and roads,” he said.

Sumaira Abdulali, convenor of Awaaz Foundation and member of the Maharashtra Clean Air Collective, which is a part of the campaign, said the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Mumbai has left the city in gloom and despair. “It is only the clean air and reduced noise that has brought some respite. We need a strong public movement and collectively demand that Mumbai needs to set its priorities in terms of reducing emissions and paving the way for cleaner and greener transport,” Ms. Abdulali said.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 10:06:06 PM |

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