Air pollution concern cuts across party lines

The air pollution in Mumbai doesn’t seem to be going anytime soon. It is only getting aggravated with time. And we humans have caused irreparable damage to our ecosystem

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, June 06, 2019, 11:00 PM IST
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Mumbai: The air pollution in Mumbai doesn’t seem to be going anytime soon. It is only getting aggravated with time. And we humans have caused irreparable damage to our ecosystem, the way we treat our surroundings is pathetic. Over the last few years, Mumbai has lost a huge chunk of forest land to encroachers and our beaches are littered with a lot of trash and detritus. Air quality in Mumbai is deteriorating owing to the increasing level of PM10 which is caused by dust pollution. Tracking this, ‘Let Me Breathe (LMB)’, a platform that documents and narrates stories of living and surviving air pollution in India, recently hosted its fourth session with Twitter India in Mumbai on May 3.

The panel was moderated by Neeta Kolhatkar, City Editor of The Free Press Journal, the members are from across the political spectrum -– Aditya Thackeray (President, Yuva Sena), Milind Deora (President, INC Mumbai), Ashish Shelar (President, BJP Mumbai) and Kishore Mandhyan (Co-convener, AAP Maharashtra). The panellists also discussed upcoming schemes of the government to tackle air pollution.

Kolhatkar started the discussion highlighting the statistics of air pollution. “According to WHO, the air we breathe in, is growing dangerously polluted with nine out of ten breathing polluted air. It is actually taking a toll on seven million people who die every year. One-third who die of stroke, lung cancer, and other heart diseases due to pollution and of course, smoking contributes to it. But this pollution also impacts drinking water, economy, real estate, recreational activities, and tourism.”

INC Mumbai President, Milind Deora, said the environment and quality of life is far more important than development. “The discussion of environment versus development is beyond a specific locality or Mumbai, as its a global issue. This includes ways to develop cities, to create jobs, to bring in industries and at the same time steps to ensure the environment is protected. A sub-part of the environment is quality of life and the important sub-part of quality of life is the air you breathe in and access to water. Because what is the use of providing people jobs when people are dying of poor air quality and don’t have access to affordable healthcare,” said Deora.

Thackeray said in the next decade Mumbai will have a lot of electric vehicles. "We need to create an eco-system which is clean and not dependent on polluting fuel like coal. Else the entire effort fails. We have to make use of solar and wind energy to charge these vehicles."

BJP Mumbai, President Ashish Shelar, revealed he has been working on creating a solar park in Bandra, where they will generate 18kw of solar energy. "The park will be equipped with charging points for electric vehicles," said Shelar.

The focus on global warming and climate change has now become mainstream on international agenda as well as Indian politics. In these Lok Sabha elections, the BJP and Congress had mentioned it in their manifesto. However, air pollution needs to be given more emphasis with policy change, said Mandhyan.

“If you look at the international picture, normally we juxtapose air pollution with global climate change. The cost to fight air pollution in all its form until 2030 is $54 trillion. While the cost to fight global climate change until 2030 is about $24 trillion. Air pollution is the silent killer,” said Mandhyan.

All the participants agreed that macro policies entail zoning, especially for residential, industries and more importantly the green zone. They said it was time to to create green covers on terraces of high rise buildings and create a green belt around cities.

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