How citizens can help clean the air of Gurugram
“While government action is necessary, citizens cannot shy away from their role as equal stakeholders in this crisis,” said Manas Fuloria, a city-based environment activist.Updated: Jun 05, 2019, 07:57 IST
Though they show concern for the rising air pollution, many city residents continue to adopt lifestyles and perpetuate practices that make things worse. Experts and activists said this was evident from the number of private cars on city streets, and from city’s mounting waste management problem that leads to the unhealthy practice of garbage and biomass burning.
“While government action is necessary, citizens cannot shy away from their role as equal stakeholders in this crisis,” said Manas Fuloria, a city-based environment activist.
The first step to reducing air pollution, he said, would be to start cycling to work, and to reduce dependance on private vehicles. “One cannot say, it is too hot to cycle, or too inconvenient. It simply must be done. If we want to see the change, we need to stimulate it. By using public transport in its developmental stages, such as Gurugram’s bus service, we are setting a favourable precedent for its growth and ability to impact pollution levels,” he said.
Other actions, which citizens can easily implement, include better waste management practices that can, in turn, help prevent illegal burning of waste, reduce dependence on products containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as deodorants and other personal care products.
Fuloria also said that citizens tend to ignore polluting activities, which are prevalent all around them.
“Waste burning, unauthorised construction during winters generate dust ... we tend to ignore these instead of doing our bit and alerting the authorities,” he said, pointing out that individual actions can influence government responsiveness and policy to a greater degree than ordinary citizens might think.
Guneet Singh, founder of a city-based non-profit working in the field of air quality, pointed out that there are several myths associated with air quality, which must be dismantled in order to prod citizens in the right direction.
A common one is that China’s air quality is worse than India’s.
“This isn’t true. Chinese cities like Beijing, have shown remarkable improvements in air quality through industrial restructuring, revamping transport policies and strict vigilance on emission norms. It proves that the same can be done here as well,” he said.
Various other myths abound as well. “It is commonly believed that air pollution is only as bad as one can see. But dust pollution is not just visible particles. In fact, the more harmful particles and gases are completely invisible, such as PM2.5 and now even PM1 particles,” said D Saha, former head of the CPCB‘s air quality lab in Delhi.
Saha said that people should be made aware of the relationship between power consumption and air pollution. “One uses air conditioners and air purifiers to deal with increasing temperatures and pollution levels, without realising that the electricity used to run these appliances is generated primarily through the burning of coal, which is in itself a major source of pollution,” Saha said.
While one cannot physically ‘clean’ the air in the same way as one can clean up a park, beach or any other public space, an individual’s capacity to reduce air pollution can be maximised by adopting more energy and transport conscious lifestyles. “This is equally important as the government trying to find more macro solutions,” Saha explained