Calling it strictly a people’s movement which has nothing to do with politics, a group of citizens from various walks of life came together on Wednesday to reiterate their demand for not just a “smoke-free, green Diwali” but also better air quality in the Capital.

As part of the campaign, #MyRightToBreathe, they urged the government and the public to take necessary steps to create a pollution-free environment and clean air for children, senior citizens and the next generation.

A number of pulmonologists, activists and well-known personalities participated in the initiative and spoke about the dangerous levels of pollution in cities today, especially around festivals, and the need for traditional, fun and safe ways to celebrate them.

‘Kids most vulnerable’

Supreme Court advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who is also the co-founder of Care For Air, an independent, volunteer organisation, spoke about the comprehensive 12-point petition filed in the apex court and the need for better fuel norms among other issues.

Key speakers at the event included Shumsher K. Sheriff, former Secretary General, Rajya Sabha, Dr. Anupam Sibal, senior paediatrician, Apollo Hospitals, Dr. Arvind Kumar, chief thoracic surgeon, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, among others.

“We owe it to our children to give them clean air. The number of children with respiratory problems increases after Diwali and continues in winter months as the air quality deteriorates. We should work together to not repeat what had happened last year when schools had to be closed because the air had become too dangerous to breathe,” Dr. Sibal said.

Dr. Arvind Kumar added that there has been a rapid rise in the incidence of lung cancer in India due to various causes, including smoking and pollution, and urged that pollution be declared a major health issue.

Smoker’s lungs

“When I had started 25 years ago, most of the lungs of the non-smokers were pink, while smokers had black lungs. Today when I operate, I find lot of non-smokers, including some teenagers, having black lungs,’’ he said.

The speakers urged the public to revive traditional practices such as planting saplings, lighting earthen lamps, making rangolis with eco-friendly colours, using traditional oil diyas and wax candles instead of electrical lighting this Diwali as a first step towards combating the dangerous levels of air pollution in Delhi.

#MyRightToBreathe is a citizen’s group in Delhi working for residents’ participation and awareness for a “Pollution Ka Solution”.

“As concerned citizens, we urge the public to make the first move to help Delhi get back clean air. When air pollution reached critical levels last year in Delhi and citizens, especially children, were left breathless, our group took to the streets to raise awareness and demand emergency measures from our government. The solutions lie in responsible civil actions from employers, administrators, corporations, medical community and the larger public. We seek support from all those who can make a difference and make Delhi stand proud again as the capital of our great country,’’ noted a release issued by the group.

Source: October 12, 2017, The Hindu