If there is one thing that bothers actor and United Nations Environment Goodwill Ambassador Dia Mirza, it’s the lack of “publicly acknowledging the problems” of increasing air pollution, climate change and the threat to biodiversity.
“India is moving towards becoming an urbanised society, such that construction has increased, and electricity is generated through thermal power plants. These are known as the leading causes of air pollution in many parts of the world, where it has been recognised and combated by implementing solutions. The problem with us in India, however, has been that we have refused to publicly acknowledge the problem. We have refused to implement air monitoring systems as robustly as we need to. We have refused to put in place the committees, the boards, the resource rooms that need to understand, investigate and evaluate solutions,” 37-year-old Mirza told indianexpress.com.
Mirza, who was recently in the national capital, which is currently seeing poor levels of pollution, spoke about children and the environment at an interactive session with students from environmental groups Cuckoo about Nature and #FridaysforFuture. She said: “I have been hearing people say that climate activists, and activists in general, are misusing children for politics. I am sorry about my language, but that is absolute bull***t because children are rising on their own. They know the truth and they speak the truth. They speak plainly, they ask simple questions, they only want to know what we are doing to fix these problems. And the great part about this is that they are not only asking us the right questions, but they are also saying that they want to work with us to fix these problems that pose a threat to us.”
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Children across the country are staking claim on their fundamental #RightToLife and an equal, just, balanced world.They have access to the science and refuse to be silenced. Because children DON’T wear MASKS. Let’s support our children 🙏🏻🙌🏼🌏❤️ #CleanAir #BeatPollution #BeatAirPollution #India #GlobalGoals #SDGs #ChildrensDayIndia @birds_of_india_ @asheer.k03 @aseeskandhari @fridaysforfutureindia_ @exrinctionrebellion_india @vimlendu @bhavreenmalhotra @adityadubey2003
She noted that green measures have not been implemented, despite the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority’s (EPCA) stress on the need to cut emissions from coal-based power plants in its November 2017 status report hearing in the Supreme Court (SC) regarding pollution in the Delhi-NCR region. Mirza remarked, “When we see garbage burning, we need to stop people and tell them that it harms the air quality and the soil. When we see thermal plants not implementing the green policies, we need to call them out and say ‘fix this’. Despite the order in 2017, the measures have not been implemented. Who is accountable and who is responsible?”
She mentioned that the “biggest contributors to the problem” have not been held accountable yet. “Sustainable living is happening, but not at the rate that we expect it to happen. So, we definitely and absolutely need to make the construction industry responsible for the damage that they contribute to the environment. We have to make the energy industry responsible by incentivising them to do better (in terms of green measures). The government needs to form policies. We need a carbon charter, a newly updated law that is robust that puts health at the centre of everything,” she told indianexpress.com.
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On whether enough solutions are in the fold, she said, “If you seek the answers, you will find them. I have found companies and organisations that are converting air pollution into ink. They are trapping the smog and making it into a saleable commodity that can be used for production, which is sustainably positive. I know companies that have set up waste management systems and are converting plastic into fuel and wet waste into energy. It’s all happening.”
Mirza further spoke about why effective solutions can’t be sought without public-private partnerships. “The point is that nothing is achievable if there is no public, private partnership. Private doesn’t end at the industry. It begins with industry, government, with policy, with lawmakers, inter-state, inter-governmental and also civil society. What can I do at the individual level? These questions need to be asked.”
She added that instead of one-dimensional solutions including “stop-gap ones like Delhi’s Odd-Even scheme”, solutions have to be “multi-dimensional”. “People need to make better choices in their daily life in terms of the way we live. Manage waste better. Segregate dry and wet waste. That is the basic we can do. Reduce consumption so that we can produce less waste. Celebrate events, birthday parties with zero-waste or do sustainable celebrations so that we don’t consume wastefully,” she said.
The Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein actor has been an ardent supporter of biodiversity. To express her love for nature, she is often seen sharing Instagram posts.
On love for nature, she shared, “I am surrounded by biodiversity. I have brought nature home. So, we have sparrows, parakeets, butterflies, bees, everything. I use my craft, my voice and the medium of cinema and communication to spread the message of caring for the environment.”
And from that stems the call for protecting biodiversity. “First and foremost, there is a need to encourage and foster an environment of love and understanding of how we are all connected to nature and are not separate from it. So, what we are doing to nature is what we are doing to ourselves. So, if we are cutting down trees, destroying biodiversity, it’s like sitting on a branch and axing it,” she said.