Speakers discuss steps to prevent apocalyptic future due to air pollution
Air pollution is the biggest threat hanging over every living organism of this planet and recognising this problem would be the first step towards finding a sustainable solution. So observed speakers at a webinar organised by the Switchon Foundation on September 7.
The webinar titled ‘United Nations International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies’ discussed the many sides of air pollution and its global impact, including climate change.
On the panel were Nirmal Kanti Chakrabarti, vice-chancellor of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS); Ashirbad Raha, communications director of Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago (EPIC); Raghu Tata of XLRI Jamshedpur; Ranjan Mitter of IIM Calcutta; Pritha Bhattacharjee of Calcutta University; Himadri Sinha of Xavier Institute of Social Service, Ranchi; and Saroj Kumar Mohapatro of KIIT School of Management Bhubaneswar.
Citing the importance of clean air, Chakrabarti said, “The Delhi government has recently installed the first smoke tower to purify the air within a 1-km radius. All our cities, especially the metros, need air purifiers. The lack of clean air is quite real, even though we can’t see or feel the danger of not having it yet.”
He highlighted the need for a collective approach to put a brake on climate change around the globe. “Health, economy and the environment were deeply interconnected sectors. We’ll be able to fight off the impending climate emergency only by putting our efforts together,” he explained.
Terming air pollution as a national crisis, Raha said the youth of India should empower themselves with data-driven knowledge to resolve the present state of air pollution. “We, at EPIC, have developed the Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) to know more about the quality of air and its effects on living conditions through statistical data on air-borne particles,” he added.
In his elaboration on how billions of dollars are being wasted because of the impact of air pollution, Tata said every global resident should introspect as to how the problem could be resolved. “We need to make more informed choices when it comes to our consumption pattern. Indiscriminate consumption is the root source of most pollutants in the air,” he said.
Tracing the history of global problems, Mitter said though acquisitiveness was the driving force behind modern management, it could have serious consequences. “It’s heartening to see solar power and other renewable sources of energy are being discussed now,” he added.
Speaking about India’s air pollution, Bhattacharjee said, “We often overlook the deaths happening because of air pollution. A recent study conducted by the University of Birmingham showed Kanpur was the world’s most polluted city in 2018 and that cities in the UK were showing rates of decline in air pollution. The reason behind such contrast lies in policymaking.”
Sinha emphasised how the responsible behaviour of young people could signal a new horizon in checking air pollution. “My students taught me about veganism and it was astonishing to see how they are willing to sacrifice something for a greater cause. All of us must act responsibly and that can’t happen without institutional support,” he said.
In his speech, Mohapatro identified the need to concentrate on specific areas. “For instance, our steel plants have no pollution benchmark despite having very high pollution levels! Our youth must focus on what can be done voluntarily to control our own consumption before asking for big legislative changes,” he said.
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