Don’t go by the picture! These kids are the luckiest as they live on the bank of the river in the middle of green vegetable patches and breathe good clean air, or at least the best available in our capital city.
For the others the invisible bars of polluted air are slowly appearing and will soon incarcerate us all for the months to come.
You guessed right! Air pollution is on its way. WHO has just confirmed that Delhi’s air is the worst of all megacities. Fine particulate matter is already four times more than what is acceptable.
That the situation is critical is obvious but to put matter in perspective here is a fact: India’s capital was the only megacity to record a PM10 level above 200 µg/m³, exceeding the WHO air quality standard of 20 µg/m³ by more than 900 per cent.
The monsoons have gone and with it blue sky and breathable air. For the past few days a grey lid covers the city and no, its is not rain clouds. In some areas farmers have begun to set harvested fields on fire, construction sites are thriving and in a few days festive celebrations will begin and firecrackers will burst with impunity. And then as winter comes small fires will be lit to keep warm, more fields will be set on fire, cars will rev in the traffic and the smoke of industrial chimneys will add to the toxic cocktail. And we will be breathing this air as we have no choice.
Or do we?
We all know that the air is polluted, that water is scarce and so on but how many of us take any remedial measures. The rich will buy air purifiers and soon the poor will too as prices are coming done. Market forces!
Is it not time to stop looking for bad aid solutions and do something for mother Nature.
Easier said than done as the fight is somewhat skewed. Talk of firecrackers and it is all brought down to mores and tradition, and what about the fire to warm yourself. When you live on the street then that is the only way you can beat the biting cold. For farmers it is easier to set fire on the land than painstakingly pullout old roots.
Air pollution has dangerous effects on humans, animals and plants. It leads to heart and lung disease, global warming, acid rain and more. Children are the most affected. Children from urban slums suffer the most as they rarely take a break and get to breathe clean air.
The problem with the solutions are that they require life style changes that many are not willing to adopt: take the bus or the metro instead of your car, switch off lights and appliances you are not using.
Some measures are impossible because of no availability of safe infrastructure. One would love to walk but where are the pedestrian walks, one could cycle to work but where are the cycle tracks. It is said that if water is sprayed regularly on roads and construction sites there would be a change in the air quality, but this again is Catch 22 itself as water is scarce and precious.
Most of these solutions are not in our hand as they involve government and administration.
At Project Why we believe that the first thing is to make children aware of the critical situation that exists and then inform them about the ways to curb air pollution so that even if they cannot do things they can become Warriors of Air.
Some of the steps they can participate in are: segregation of garbage. asking their families not to take motorbikes for short distance errands, learn to recycle and reuse, convert garbage into compost, switch off lights, etc.
Let us not forget that it is children who suffer the most. 4.4 million children in Delhi already have irreversible lung damage. So if not for us we have to think of the children and their tomorrow.
It is only when we ALL accept to become Warriors of Air that things will change.