This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Ranjeet Menon. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

#BolDal Air Pollution Is Not An Isolated Problem And Can Be Solved Only By Govt Initiatives

More from Ranjeet Menon

Editor's note:This post is a part of #PollutionKeSolution, a contest launched by Youth Ki Awaaz on World Environment Day to find innovative and unique solutions to curb air pollution. 10 entries for the contest were shortlisted basis the number of views and upvotes they received, and 3 winners were selected by an expert panel! Check out the entries here!

Environmental pollution has been the biggest fallout of industrial revolution. 20th century was when it peaked and hit the roof. In the mad rush after new industries, globalization and wealth, what we have managed to truly achieve is to poison two of the fundamental elements required for our survival and for the existence of all life on the planet. Air and water.

I am a native of Kerala, the southernmost state of India where air pollution is still minuscule when compared to cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. I have experienced the effects of pollution and the gradual degradation of the environment of Bangalore from 1997 when I first visited the city to 2018. In 1997 it was still a pristine green city with plenty of lakes. As its stature grew as the Silicon Valley of the East, people from all over the country started flocking into the city. Along with the migrating IT professionals came business ecosystems from every state. This is how Bangalore has grown to become the massive cosmopolitan city it is today. So how was the exponentially increasing population accommodated? At the cost of trees and lakes. Many of Bangalore’s lakes have been filled up and buildings constructed on top of them. Bangalore used to be a hill station and honeymoon destination till the early 1990s. Compare this to the sheer number of trees that have been axed to make roads and the city’s metro rail system now and then— what has been done to the city is nothing less than horrifying.

Polluted air contains more carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and other gases harmful to our health. But this in itself does not create health issues. Where do we get oxygen to breath from? Primarily through the photosynthesis process in plants and trees. They ingest carbon dioxide and release oxygen. In cities like Delhi and Bangalore, air pollution is increasing because of two reasons. As more people move into these cities, oxygen consumption is increasing but oxygen creation is decreasing because of dwindling vegetation while the carbon dioxide we exhale is increasing along with other harmful gases. So people in these cities are essentially breathing increasingly contaminated air. There is one more reason why pollution is adversely affecting our health. Increase in air pollution has been exponential and explosive rather than linear and gradual. Our body hasn’t got enough time to adjust and evolve into breathing air with less oxygen and more harmful gases. I truly understood the effects of air pollution only after I went on a work assignment to Netherlands and returned to Bangalore after 6 months. My entire body including my face was itching for no apparent reason and it took a few days for me to adapt to our polluted environment again.

Air pollution is being caused mainly by the combination of:

  1. Industrial pollution
  2. Destruction of nature
  3. Migration of people.

Each one of these need to be attacked with different strategies to curb the effects of pollution. Let me exemplify this with the cases of Delhi and Bangalore. Both cities have been subjected to wanton destruction of its vegetation and water bodies. While human migration to Bangalore is mostly for white-collar jobs which has in turn created opportunities for other jobs, Delhi is being subject to massive influx of unskilled people from neighboring states such as UP. The NCR region has experienced a massive boom in real estate business in recent years because people have sold off their lands and moved to Delhi in search of formal education and corporate jobs. Nature has been adversely affected in both Delhi and NCR region because of this mass human migration.

How Can Air Pollution Be Tackled?

There is no one strategy to manage the problem. Though it is appreciable that the Delhi government is undertaking sapling plantation drives as part of the initiative to reduce air pollution, tree plantation is nature’s job and not ours. Nature knows which trees and plants will thrive in which soil and what climatic conditions. Cutting down the trees nature has provided us and trying to compensate for our wanton destruction by planting trees is senseless. The logic of prevention is better than cure is what applies here.

If it is about the influx of people into Delhi, they need opportunities for education and employment from where they are coming. Agricultural sector has been seeing unprecedented neglect from governments in many Indian states resulting in increasing farmer suicides. Farmers have lost interest in farming and are looking for other means to make their living by moving to cities like Delhi. The result has been the steady loss of agricultural land to real estate development and loss of vegetation and water bodies. Central and state governments have to work together to tackle agrarian distress, get agriculture back on track and do better civil administration of rural areas by providing basic amenities such as electricity, transport and schools. I have heard of a government policy in China wherein a certain amount of agricultural land is allotted for urban development every year. But at the same time, a certain amount of unused urban land is also allotted to be converted back to agricultural land. In the US, cases of corporate employees quitting high profile jobs and moving to community based life away from cities are on the rise.

The solution to the crisis in Bangalore is very different compared to that of Delhi even though the problem it faces is also because of mass human migration. The youth of the country have all been enamored by the comparatively high salaries in the IT industry and the cosmopolitan life in Bangalore away from the watchful eyes of their families. I have heard of some IT MNCs enticing these young professionals in cities like Delhi with the promise of assigning them to work in Bangalore. On the flip side is the strict rule in the US that employees should be hired preferably from the same city as that of the company or from the same state itself, and the same MNCs adhere to the rule there. It is high time the major IT companies spread themselves out all over India and discourage mass migration of IT professionals outside their states and especially to Bangalore. I have heard of how Siemens operates even out of small towns in Germany and at least one member of each family in the town would be working in the company’s office. There was a time in India when Infosys used to enjoy such a cult status that a job with the company was a benchmark for marriage alliances. Then why didn’t Infosys try to become the Siemens of India? 

But in India, everything is and can be taken for granted primarily because of corruption at the grass root level of our society. Policies for pollution control on industries are never enforced; real estate business has evolved into land mafia. One reason that has contributed to rising air pollution in Delhi is the stubble burning in the neighboring states of Haryana and Rajasthan, which the respective state governments have ignored in spite of repeated pleas from the Delhi government. Many of the buildings in Bangalore are built over lakes and even drainage. The same corporate that controls the industries and the real estate are also the biggest donors to political party funds which has been legitimized by the introduction of electoral bonds.

I do not believe that air pollution can be solved as an isolated problem. The roots of pollution goes right into the heart of the country’s governance and civil administration. Corruption is so rampant in the government and bureaucracy from the Panchayat level to the central government level that any number of violations will be ignored depending on what the politicians and bureaucrats get in return. Governments are elected to provide good governance by framing and implementing effective policies for meeting the needs of people along with conservation of nature. Till such a paradigm shift happens, we cannot expect any significant improvement in the handling of the pollution menace.

Pollution has grown to such a massive scale that the intent to make the environment better has to come from the government. Shanghai was an extremely polluted city with air pollution at extremely dangerous levels just 10-12 years back. Now the city is full of parks of all sizes and some of them are so big that sounds of vehicles on the streets outside are not audible inside those parks. The intent has to come from the government which is why we have an electoral process. But as long as the allegiance of our representatives are with the election funding corporate and not with their voters, environmental deterioration will continue unabated.

Youth Ki Awaaz is an open platform where anybody can publish. This post does not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions.

You must be to comment.

More from Ranjeet Menon

Similar Posts

By Sonam Singh

By Goutham

By Ajay Kumar

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below