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Delhi’s Own Winter Action Plan To Combat Air Pollution Is Here

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Autumn is around the corner. Autumn, the month of festivals, lights and colours. But for Delhi, the months of October and November are more than just festivals, lights and colours.

With the starting of the festive season, Delhi witnesses a spike in air pollution and with each passing day, the city becomes a gas chamber. While the city pollution sources continue to burn the lungs of people, polluted air due to crop burning from the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan also hit the city.

Despite the usual bad news of pollution, the citizens this year got some unexpected good news too. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said last week that pollution levels in Delhi, primarily the concentration of particulate matter, has reduced by 25% over a period of four years. It is undoubtedly true, that the credit for the reduction in pollution, goes to every stakeholder of Delhi and mostly the citizens of Delhi, who realised the dangerous effects of air pollution and came forward to fight against it.

With this good news about pollution reduction, Delhi has made two important developments. From this year (2019), Delhi will have its own Winter Action Plan to combat air pollution, as announced by Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal.  With this announcement, air pollution has also become a part of the political narrative. Both developments are significant in terms of governance and politics.

Many years ago, taking cognizance of Delhi’s air pollution, the Supreme Court of India constituted a pollution watchdog, known as EPCA or Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority. The EPCA came up with an action plan to combat air pollution known as Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). The GRAP comes into play from November and stays active until March. GRAP has various categories of action based on the air quality of the city. As per the order of the Apex Court, all the stakeholders of Delhi followed the GRAP. But, until now, Delhi never had its own action plan to combat pollution.

The Delhi government on Friday announced a seven-point action plan to check growing pollution in the national capital.

The plan involves the following steps:

1. Odd-Even

2. Pollution Masks

3. Community Diwali Laser Show

4. Environment Marshals

5. Hotspot Control

6. Dust Control

7. Tree Challenge

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the N-95 masks will be distributed free of cost by October. The Delhi Government also announced that the Odd-Even scheme will come into play from November 4 till November 15.

Political reactions and responses from common people poured in minutes after the announcement by the Chief Minister. A section of the critics slammed the decision of the Delhi government, noting that last time the government introduced the scheme,  the implementation was poor. Another section observed that the Delhi government did little in terms of improving the public transport system, because, during its governance, the number of buses in Delhi went down, but the government did not acquire new buses. However, the government bought 1000 new buses and 25 of them have already hit the roads.

Keeping everything aside, it is high time to accept that every step to curb pollution is experimental and every agency has done the same. As the main stakeholder of the city, the elected Government of Delhi cannot stay on the back foot to fight pollution. A Government’s work is not restricted to governance; giving the people confidence is an important part of the work. The question of implementation must be checked but the intent of the Delhi government to bring its own action plan should not be questioned.

In India, every political party is democratically chosen and they come to power by fighting an election, therefore, it’s beyond any reasonable doubt, that the decisions of the government are political. For an important city like Delhi, won’t air pollution become a part of the political narrative? The pollution condition of the city is alarming and it’s a health emergency for the residents of Delhi. If the citizens want to elect their next government on the basis of the commitment of the political party towards combating air pollution, then it must be welcomed.

There is also a question raised by a section of society about the lack of data in support of the CM’s statement regarding the reduction of Delhi’s pollution. However, the statement of the Center for Science and Environment noted that “The analysis of annual air quality data submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to the Parliament shows that the three-year average of PM2.5 levels during 2016-2018 is 25 per cent lower than the 2011-2014 baseline (three-year average).”

The CSE analysis further noted, “Between 2011 and 2018-19, days with severe-plus PM2.5 levels have lessened after 2015; pattern, duration and frequency of smog episodes are changing, and more days with lower air pollution levels are recorded during 2016 to 2018-19.”

Lastly, I think that the residents of Delhi have proved that they stand by the fight against air pollution and at the end of the day, that is what matters to the city. Every experiment by the stakeholders will not attain any success without the co-operation of the people and air pollution is a fight which every citizen must fight. The residents of Delhi will continue to cooperate because they understand that pollution can’t be fought individually, but together we can fight pollution.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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.

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