Learning to act on air pollution

Air Quality (AQ) is a huge concern for all of us living in India but not many know about it. It is a silent killer which is lurking and affecting everyone. We need to take charge of this before it affects all of us badly.

In Bengaluru, my specific concern is around the health of kids since they are exposed to it all the time (particularly when they are on their school buses and in the play ground). I want to be able to leave a better country to my children and this is one aspect of that.

Towards this goal, I was looking to do something but was not sure where to start. The workshop on air pollution, organised by Co Media Lab, was just the right catalyst. It had almost all the players – KSPCB, concerned citizens like me, media, organisations into research and policy.

I liked the format of the event – we had presentations laying the groundwork on current situation – AQ levels measured by KSPCB, comparison with Delhi, policy interventions and how they are working etc. Then we had a presentation from KSPCB itself where they talked about how they operate. I learnt from this presentation that PILs seem to be the most effective part to get government to take action!

Then we had some organisations talk about AQ and how it relates to garbage handling. I had not known that garbage handling is related to AQ and this was a big learning for me.

The other thing I learnt was that transport is the largest contributor to bad AQ in Bangalore. It seems obvious but it was good to see it documented via studies. So in order to affect long term improvements to AQ in Bangalore, we need to fix the traffic jams and improve public transport. Unless that happens, we are only improving at the edges.

We also had media representatives talking about how media reports AQ and when. I was surprised to hear that they had not seen any studies linking health issues to bad AQ. There is enough and more if one looks in foreign literature but it is indeed true that specific Indian studies are lacking. The other learning was that we should write to the newspapers, media etc to express our concern on AQ if we want them to cover it.

The Breathe Bengaluru project where they are studying the AQ in BTM layout gave me many ideas on how we monitor AQ by ourselves. I hope to put some of these ideas in motion soon.

All in all, I was very impressed with the event. Thank you for organizing it.The best part was meeting fellow AQ enthusiasts with whom we have created a WhatsApp group to chalk out next steps. Some interesting ideas are coming up. I hope more people will join and we can improve the quality of our air in Bangalore and then for all of India. Do mail me if you want to get involved.

Article by:
Gangadhar Sulkunte