Bengaluru: Poor air quality has become an endemic problem in most Indian cities. But the problem of pollution is such that people only notice it when it is explicitly visible.
This is the reason why most protests against pollution are in winter months when its ravaging effects on the environment are more visible to the naked eye.
However, a Bengaluru based NGO is trying to change that by making daily pollution visible.
In February, Jhatkaa.org crafted a simulation of a pair of human lungs and placed it on the side of a busy street in Bengaluru.
“We wanted to show people what our lungs have to endure on a daily basis,” Divya Narayanan said in a video posted on the organization’s Facebook page.
The lungs were fitted with an Air Quality Index meter which would read air quality in real time. The lungs were also fitted with a HEPA filter, which absorbs pollution. It is the same material used in anti-pollution masks.
After a few weeks of the filter hanging on the road, the white colour of the lungs started to change to an ash grey.
The installation was taken down in June. After four months of being out in the street, the lungs had grown tarry and the filter inside had turned to the colour of charcoal. Pieces of the filter paper have been cut up and packed into neat little ‘evidence packages’.
“We have designed these packets for everyone to see. We cut up pieces of the blackened filter to show people what our lungs go through everyday when we commute to work, or even just step out.” Shikha Kumar, senior campaign manager at Jhatkaa, told News18.
But making people aware is not the organisation’s only objectives. In the coming weeks, Jhatkaa plans to send these evidence packages to the Ministry of Environment, State and Central Pollution Control Boards and other decision makers so that they can themselves see the havoc pollution wreaks on human lungs.
“We want the government to be aware that not only cities like Delhi, but even cities like Bangalore which are generally considered ‘green’ have a pollution problem. To tackle pollution, one must first acknowledge it,” Shikha said.
Addressing a seminar held on Tuesday in Bengaluru by C-40 Global air Quality Forum in collaboration with Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Karnataka’s Deputy chief Minister G Parameshwara reiterated the same, calling for stricter laws to control pollution in Karnataka.
In 2015, the Centre for Science and Environment released pollution data that revealed that levels of particulate matter had grown by 57 percent in 2010-14. In 2018, Bengaluru was the fourth most polluted city in Karnataka, with a PM10 level of 78 micrograms per cubic metre, Times of India reported. 60 mg per cubic metre is the accepted level of PM 10 in a given environment.
On July 27 Delhi, which is currently experience a burst of fresh air thanks to monsoon showers, had a PM10 level of 43, restoring Delhi’s otherwise toxic AQI to ‘good’ after ages. On June 15, the PM10 levels were recorded at 801.
Keeping this in mind, the Bengaluru based Jhatkaa which has a network of about 75,000 supporters across India now plans to expand the campaign to other cities like Delhi. The organisation has previously been involved in several environmental campaigns such as efforts to save trees in Mumbai's Arrey colony from felling. More recently, the organisation initiated a 'missed call campaign' to collect support for a petition against the proposed felling of 17,000 trees in Delhi as part of e redevelopment project. The controversial project has since been scrapped.