Air pollution workshop: Humanising data makes it meaningful to citizens

How citizens and communities can contribute towards reducing air pollution in Bengaluru, was one of the pertinent questions that was raised and discussed in the workshop.

Panel discussion on garbage, landfill and air pollution - Dharmesh Shah, Leo Saldanha and others

The one-day workshop, “Bengaluru’s Airpocalypse: Air pollution problems and solutions” was organised by Co Media Lab (a joint initiative of Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz and Citizen Matters initiative) in association with Society for Community Health Awareness, Research and Action (SOCHARA) and Breathe Bengaluru at KSPCB office on Saturday. It was supported by ELCIA.

Speaking from the governance angle of planning and policies that affect pollution levels, Pawan Mulukutla, Sustainable Transport Manager at EMBARQ India said there is a need to change the discourse on air pollution from plain data to humanising the data. “Air pollution discourse is happening around the data which is good, but not much has been talked about what this data mean to citizens. To engage stakeholders in the process of finding solution to the issue, the policy discourse on air pollution has to emphasise on aspects that citizens can connect,” he said.

Sharing the same concern, Leo Saldanha from Environment Support Group said there was a need to change the narrative. “There is an effort to mistify things about air pollution by throwing numbers. Narratives of air pollution stories should be different,” he pointed.

In a panel discussion on garbage, landfill and air pollution, Dharmesh Shah, an environmental policy advisor at the Centre for Technology and Policy (CTaP) at IIT Madras highlighted the impact of garbage incineration. In Bengaluru, the BBMP has installed a demo incineration plant in Peenya recently which has gathered criticism from public.

Panel discussion on garbage, landfill and air pollution – Dharmesh Shah, Leo Saldanha and others

Shah said, technically garbage burning and incineration are no different. “What doesn’t go into the air goes into ash and that ash has to be dumped somewhere. For every 3 tons of garbage burnt, you get 1 ton of ash. All incinerator outputs have potential to cause health issues. They are high with toxins and heavy metals which will cause health hazard for humans who are exposed to it.” He referred to studies on incineration causing deformities in children.

Panel discussion: Role of media in reporting on air pollution – Shree DN, Navya P K, Mohit Rao (left to right)

The workshop also had sessions on impact of air pollution to health, media’s role in environment reporting and time for action-what citizens can do.

BTM Project Summary – what citizens can do