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The Quest For Clean Air

Air pollution is costing lives. Too many of us are breathing dirty, toxic air and facing its direct consequences.

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The protests stressed upon the immediate need for curbing the issue of air pollution in a comprehensive, systematic and time bound manner, by incorporating strict measures towards checking the contribution of Fossil Fuels in aggravating the issue currently, through the Government’s yet to be made public – National Clean Air Program.

In Delhi, activists from different social backgrounds held a protest outside the Badarpur Coal Power Plant, which being a massive polluter, has been shut down multiple times and has become a symbol of the fight against air pollution for the National Capital. Simultaneously in Mumbai, seven clean air enthusiasts, showing exceptional grit, hung from the Vashi Bridge with a message of urging to “Mumbai Clean Air Now”. The protests were a mark of solidarity and means of uniting people in the momentum against air pollution.

On escalating the issue, leading the way and worth mentioning, have been the female volunteer activists of the Clean Air Movement, who are leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that the Clean Air discussion in the country stays far from forgotten until the next winter. It therefore becomes critical that we acknowledge their perseverance, in ensuring that their voices don’t go unnoticed.

Komal Daal from Rajasthan, who participated in the protest at the Badarpur Coal Power Plant in Delhi, mentions initially being nervous and equally determined on her decision, to make her voice count. A post graduate in Environment and Development, Komal has been an activist for various environmental issues since 2013. “Air Pollution is a national issue. The fact that it has very rapidly outgrown into a National concern, bothers me a lot. I’ve been a volunteer with the Clean Air Movement since 2014. In spite of the raging public outcry, the government has been working at a snail’s pace in taking due cognizance of the issue and initiating corrective measures. Monitoring of Air Quality and implementation of the Clean Air Plan are still in the planning phase. But that doesn’t deter my resolve. With consistency and patience we would be able to bring about the change we desire to see for our country’s future.”

Banupriya, an activist from Bengaluru, was one of the daring four (seen on the extreme left), who hung down from the Vashi Bridge who took up the challenge of unfurling a humongous banner that asked Mumbai to clean up its air, says,“ It was very emotional for me. The only thought running in my head was not to let our future go up in smoke. Air pollution is posing a threat to our very existence. There has to be a solution somewhere, I’m glad I was bearing witness and doing my bit, to trigger it.” Banupriya further adds that all her co-activists were highly concerned about the alarming pollution levels in the country and were determined to send out the message to our Governments (Center and States), being aware and prepared for any consequences their action may result in. On the role of activism in strengthening the movement further, she says,” The key to driving people powered change for issues concerning people at large, is through massive public participation. The issue of Air Pollution now concerns each one of us. We need to come out in large numbers and show solidarity and commitment towards the issue of Air Pollution. Having said that, it should not only be restricted to volunteering for the issue, but continue further into driving the desired change through self-accountability and individual actions in whatever form and capacity one may”

Shwetha (seen in the extreme right), another activist who was a part of the Vashi Bridge activity, has an interesting take on what motivates her and what made her participate in the activity. She says, “I am someone who believes in finding a way and for me activism is a way of making some change happen. I strongly feel change can only be brought about when each individual brings out the activist in him or her. Protecting the planet is everyone’s responsibility. We want to own worldly pleasures and experiences, but usually lose our sense of ownership when it comes to our planet. The Earth belongs to us all. It is painful to find our Nature getting polluted and destroyed by our own actions everytime one looks around. I always wanted to do something about it. And what I did in the recent activity, was my bit of making change.”

What’s common amongst the three of the activists is the deep sense of empathy they feel towards the environment and issues concerning it, while sounding determined in taking forward the concerns threatening the planet and its future.

The fearless resolve of the likes of Komal, Banupriya and Shwetha are key to instilling faith in People Power, not just in India, but democratic spaces throughout the world. Through their consistent efforts and endurance, a Clean Air Nation doesn’t seem a distant dream.

And as the saying goes – There’s nothing Stronger than the Heart of a Volunteer.