In a first-of-its-kind campaign, concerned citizens and civil society organisations across Maharashtra have demanded that urban local bodies mandatorily issue timely health advisories publicly to alert citizens on ‘bad air’ days, which will help save vulnerable groups from the severe health impact of air pollution.
With Pune taking a lead, the joint call to action also comes from non-attainment cities such as Mumbai Nagpur, Chandrapur and others reeling under poor air quality. Bad air days are when the air quality index (AQI) rises beyond the safe limit for any location, falling either under the poor, very poor or hazardous AQI levels. A non-attainment city is one that does not meet the prescribed air quality standards set by the Union Environment Ministry. Maharashtra has a total of 19 non-attainment/ million-plus cities under the National Clean Air Action Plan, the highest for any state in the country.
The online campaign (https://blueskies.jhatkaa.org/) started on Tuesday, September 7 — the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies. In the second year since its inception, the theme for 2021 is ‘Healthy Air, Healthy Planet’, which emphasises the health impact of air pollution, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bhagwan Kesbhat, founder of the Mumbai-based Waatavaran Foundation and member of Maharashtra Clean Air Collective, a collaborative network of citizens’ organisations and institutions working towards the common objective of clean air, said that this is a pan-India citizen-led online campaign.
“Using this online petition, citizens will be demanding that timely health advisories be issued widely in the mainstream public domain so that we all can not only protect ourselves but also our loved ones when the air quality in the city deteriorates. The campaign also demands proper implementation of the Clean Air Action Plan across all 18 non-attainment cities,” stated Kesbhat.
He added as part of this campaign, citizen groups across all non-attainment cities in Maharashtra will also meet their respective municipal commissioners and submit a letter stating the demand for a public health advisory when air quality deteriorates. The online petition is also being shared widely on social media and WhatsApp groups and already, over 15 organisations across Maharashtra have actively supported this campaign.
The recent Air Quality Life Index released by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago for 2019 revealed that the average reduction in lifespan due to PM 2.5, a pollutant, was four years in Maharashtra. City wise PM 2.5 exposure was reducing life expectancy by 4.2 years in Pune and 3.7 years in Mumbai respectively, while for several polluted districts in Vidarbha, it was found to be five years.