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The Battle Against Air Pollution Needs One Thing More Than Ever: Mass Participation.

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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!

Gone are the days when we were told to go for a morning walk. The air is not clean anymore. The oxygen is not oxygen anymore. It is oxygen plus carbon dioxide plus nitrogen oxides plus ozone plus particulate matter and what not. According to the WHO, India has 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM 2.5 concentrations.

The biggest problem with air pollution is that it has not left any area of human activity untouched. Imagine the life of a person who is affected by indoor air pollution at home, vehicular air pollution while going to his workplace and industrial pollution at his workplace. No need to mention that his mood or behavior is equally affected by the same.

Major causes of prevalent air pollution in Indian cities include widespread use of fossil fuels, tightly sealed buildings, volatile organic compounds, harmful industrial pollutants, emissions from agricultural fields and livestock farming, biological pollution, smoke, etc. Rampant industrialization and urbanization have made the situation worse for cities which are said to be the driver of economic growth in the future.

Air pollution has been a long-standing problem in India’s national capital region. Pictured here is a part of New Delhi, from the vantage point of the Jama Masjid. (Photo: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier/Flickr)


The more complicated and serious the disease is, the more is the need for the drug to be severe. Curbing air pollution requires efforts in every possible dimension from technological support to administrative action or policy support.

The Role Of Technology

Technology can assist in combating air pollution in terms of mitigation and prevention.

1) Transport: the use of rapid transit systems like pod taxis, Hyperloop, Stadler buses, Maglev trains, hybrid e-vehicles, energy efficient vehicles can reduce air pollution to a great extent. Recently bio-jet fuel made of jatropha was used for a flight instead of aviation turbine fuel. BS-VI compliant engines need to be promoted which can significantly reduce sulfur and hydrocarbon emissions.

2) Industries: the use of electrostatic precipitators, scrubbers, air ionizer, filters, etc. in machines. Use of supersonic oxygen injection in iron melting etc.

3) Agriculture: Rotavator machines can reduce stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana. Precision farming which involves space technology in farming helps in monitoring soil effectively.

4) Indoor air pollution: change in the pattern of fuel use, adoption of energy efficient appliances, etc

5) Innovative solutions: hydrogen-boost technology in which  hydrogen is added to air-fuel mix which allows complete combustion of the fuel, zero-emission hydrogen taxis, terraosave technology which recycles thermal energy from industrial emission, IoT sensors for air quality monitoring, plug and play design in existing vehicles to reduce emissions, Sion electric car which charges itself through solar panels, air purifier developed by IIT Madras students.

Policy Support

Technology alone can not change the fate of cities unless it is supported by the administrative mechanism and associated efforts. The government or the administrative authority at all the hierarchical levels need to design an effective framework in collaboration with NGOs, technology giants and solutions partners. Some of the actions include

1)  Comprehensive air quality monitoring plan which includes effective forecasting system, state-of-the-art technology, and responsive back-end mechanism.

2) Adopt best practices from developed countries.

3) Timely adoption of BS-VI engines which also include punitive actions in case of non-compliance.

4) Promote energy efficient appliances, hybrid vehicles, energy efficient buildings by providing incentives. The government also needs to create proper infrastructure. For instance, hybrid vehicles will require enough charging points.

5) Financially empower urban local governance bodies by allowing them to issue municipal bonds.

6) Sufficient budgetary allocation, collaboration with all the stakeholders, regulatory mechanism, legal enforcement, effective Environment Impact Assessment, etc.

Back To Basics

It is a noteworthy fact that those countries and societies have achieved the most success in combating air pollution where people participated in the process. Curbing air pollution requires mass participation. If people start participating in wholeheartedly, significant changes will be visible in a short span of time.

Some examples include carpooling, car sharing, using bicycles for shorter distances, using dehumidifiers, HEPA filters, telecommuting (work from home), using public transport, adopting permaculture and organic farming, using fly ash in construction activities, green roofs in home, air purifier plants, waste to compost model, use of biochar, bioplastics, biofertilizers, oxybiodegradable garbage bags and planting trees of course. We can learn from the Philippines, that started a new initiative where a graduation degree is given to students only if they plant 10 trees.

This post was awarded first place in the first ever Youth Ki Awaaz #BolDaal contest, #PollutionKeSolution. With 500+ views and 240+ upvotes, it was shortlisted in the top 10 entries received, and then selected by an expert panel as the clear winner. Congratulations, Aniruddh Shrivastava on championing the change with your Awaaz!

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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