Mumbai seeks healthy air to breathe post-lockdown

This Environment Day, Mumbai joins hand to seek healthy air to breathe post-lockdown

 While studies from Harvard and Italy have been showing a significantly higher number of COVID-19 cases and mortality in areas with high air pollution, Mumbaikars have joined hands this World Environment Day seeking clean and healthy air, in one of the largest digital campaign for clean air- #SaalBhar60.

The campaign demands that the Government put in place measures to ensure that the PM 2.5 levels in cities is 60 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3), which is the safe limit (for 24 hours) as prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). This will ensure a safe and healthy environment as well as boost the fight against COVID-19 post lockdown.

Mumbai is listed as one of the 122 non-attainment cities (that don't meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards) under the National Clean Air Programme by the CPCB and has been asked to reduce air pollution by 20 to 30%.

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Citizens, including celebrities and activists, will be joining the campaign on June 5 by sharing their images holding placards demanding ‘Clean Air for All’ and #SaalBhar60 on social media including Twitter and even tagging MOEF&CC as well as State Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray.    

According to Shikha Kumar, Campaigns Manager, Jhatkaa.org, while Mumbai witnessed clean air and blue skies in the lockdown period, it’s ironic that it came at the cost of a pandemic, and that citizens couldn’t actually be outdoors to enjoy or breathe freely. “With this in mind, #SaalBhar60 - a pan-India digital campaign was launched by Haridwar-based climate activist Ridhima Pandey, 12, in association with multiple organisations working across India on the issue of clean air. The idea for it was to culminate on June 5, celebrated as World Environment Day,” she said.

Kumar added that the images received from people across India will be compiled on Jhatkaa.org’s website and a poster collage will be created to be sent to Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan as well as the environment ministers of all the states.

As per the data by Urban Emissions Mumbai witnessed a major dip in PM 2.5, Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) as well as PM10 levels during the lockdown period.
“On May 20, Mumbai recorded its AQI as 28, which is the cleanest air the city saw so far this year. It’s not possible once everything is back to normal that we simply abandon cars and shut industries to achieve clean air. However, good and healthy air quality can be achieved with stricter policies and its stringent implementation, which is what Mumbai needs,” said Bhagwan Kesbhat, Founder of Waatavaran Foundation is supporting this campaign.

Sarath Guttikunda, director of Urban Emissions (India) an independent research group on air pollution voiced, “We know the air pollution sources and now, we have to take that extra step to make these sources clean. Achieving #SaalBhar60 is very much in our hands, it’s hard work but very much possible,'' he said adding that we need to clean every source- transport, industry, waste, cooking, heating, lighting, and roads.

Coronavirus India update: State-wise total number of confirmed cases, deaths on June 5

“The rising number of COVID-19 cases in Mumbai has left the city in gloom and despair, it's only the clean air and reduced noise that has brought some respite. We need a strong public movement and collectively demand that Mumbai needs to set its priorities in terms of reducing emissions and paving way for cleaner and greener transport,” said Sumaira Abdulali, Convenor of Awaaz Foundation and member of Maharashtra Clean Air Collective.