Mumbai's 'lungs' go black from chalk white in 14 days

Mumbai's 'lungs' go black from chalk white in just 14 days

A similar lung installed in Delhi in November 2018 took just six days to go black, while another one put up in Bengaluru in January 2018 took 25 days to go black. (DH Photo)

Two weeks, was all it took for the giant HEPA-filter lungs installed at Bandra (West) earlier this month, as part of an air pollution awareness campaign to change its colour- from chalk white to black.

While health experts claim this to be a warning bell, air pollution campaigners, on the other hand, have urged the state government to initiate steps in the right direction to ensure clean air for Mumbaikars.

A similar lung installed in Delhi in November 2018 took just six days to go black, while another one put up in Bengaluru in January 2018 took 25 days to go black.

Installed outside R D National College junction and titled- ‘The Billboard that breathes’, this is a first-of-its-kind initiative in Maharashtra, where an interactive art installation has been used to demonstrate the lethal impact of polluted air on human health. These faux lungs were installed on January 14, 2020, and it began rapidly changing its colour since the second day itself.

The initiative of setting up these lungs was taken by Jhatkaa.org, a digital advocacy organisation, in collaboration with Waatavaran Foundation, an environmental organisation, both who are a part of the Clean Air Collective in Maharashtra, which is a coalition of organisations/citizen groups working on air pollution.

"In a span of two weeks, the lungs have become black. High levels of particulate matter in the air, caused in large part due to vehicular emissions and dust were all trapped in the HEPA filters. This has proven to be one of the simplest yet visually effective ways of showcasing what the deteriorating air quality in the city is doing to our lungs," said Shikha Kumar, Campaigns Manager, Jhatkaa.org.

Kumar added that as per studies carried out by air pollution research group, Urbanemissions.info, vehicular emissions and industries itself contributes 31 percent to the total PM 2.5 concentration in Mumbai.

"When I saw these faux lungs, I told the campaigners that these are like my lungs, which have been put up on a billboard. I will now get to see what is happening to my lungs, as well as that of other Mumbaikars. This is the best possible way to demonstrate to people what is happening inside their body when they inhale polluted air," said Dr Sanjeev Mehta, Chief Pulmonologist, Lilavati hospital.

Mehta added that people will forget, Air Quality Index (AQI) or Particulate Matter levels but will never forget the sight of these black lungs at the traffic junction. "I feel it's important that more such 'Billboard that breathes' should be placed across the city to create a strong public opinion," he added.