Why we need to highlight clean air as a poll concern - Hindustan Times
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Why we need to highlight clean air as a poll concern

Apr 20, 2024 01:05 AM IST

As mothers and parents, our advocacy for clean air gains more resonance when we consider the impact on the well-being of our children and the next generation.

With the 2024 elections now underway, we find ourselves at a juncture where political choices intersect with the realities of our environment — the need for decisive action is more urgent than ever.

The fight against India’s toxic air is not just an environmental concern but a matter of public health and survival. (Vijay Bate/HT Photo) PREMIUM
The fight against India’s toxic air is not just an environmental concern but a matter of public health and survival. (Vijay Bate/HT Photo)

The United Nations (UN) has declared access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a universal human right. Organisations like Friends of the Earth in the UK and the National Environmental Scorecard in the US are urging political leaders to prioritise climate and nature action. However, in the vast democratic landscape of India, a dichotomy persists. While Indians express support for climate action, the issue fails to garner attention as compared to other concerns like inflation and employment. Climate Trends polls revealed that only a small percentage of citizens view the climate crisis as a major issue. Even though the climate crisis found its way into the election manifestos of major parties in 2019, the ground reality reveals a gap between promises and perception. According to the 2023 World Air Quality Report by IQAir, India is the third most polluted country in the world. Not only has Delhi been the world’s most polluted capital city for four years in a row but 83 of the world’s 100 most polluted cities are in India.

The 2019 poll manifestos acknowledged the need to combat toxic air, unlike the silence on the issue in the 2014 elections. The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in India aims to achieve a 40% reduction in PM10 and PM2.5 by 2026, as revised from the initial target of 20–30% by 2024. Amidst these electoral dynamics, the role of citizens, particularly mothers, becomes crucial. With nearly half of India’s population being female and a significant number of female voters, there is a collective voice that can shape the electoral narrative. Citizens must demand clean air as a fundamental electoral issue. We need a new pledge from our politicians, transcending mere promises to tangible second-generation measures. The success of past initiatives should embolden leaders to make hard decisions in the interest of public health, demonstrating that effective city governance can prevail without external pressures.

The fight against India’s toxic air is not just an environmental concern but a matter of public health and survival. As citizens, this is our chance to advocate for #SwachhHawaChunav and #CleanAirElections.

As mothers and parents, our advocacy for clean air gains more resonance when we consider the profound impact on the well-being of our children and the next generation. A recent study conducted by the Potential Energy Coalition and Yale Program on Climate Change Communication revealed a compelling message that resonates globally. The study underscores that the most influential message transcends economic factors or policy considerations — it is the profound love for our children and the desire to protect the planet for the next generation that moves the world to take action on climate. This unifying sentiment, identified as 12 times more popular than creating jobs, serves as a galvanising force for individuals and communities worldwide. In alignment with this message, parent movement organisations like Our Kids’ Climate, Warrior Moms and Parents For Future Global supported by parents in over 40 countries, play a pivotal role. The data affirms the message these mothers bring loud and clear into a shared human aspiration — to hand down a safe, healthy planet to future generations.

As mothers and parents, our collective voice gains strength from this universal desire to safeguard the well-being of our children. This reaffirms that our message carries a unique power in the electoral agendas, emphasising the need for clean air not just as an environmental imperative but as a fundamental act of love and responsibility toward the generations that will inherit the Earth. Let’s not shy away from demanding it now. Later is too late!

Bhavreen Kandhari is an advocate for clean air and environmental justice. The views expressed are personal

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