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Where India Stands In Combating Pollution, Protecting Earth, Saving Lives

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

If we cannot sustain the environment, we cannot sustain ourselves.” – Wangari Maathai, renowned social, environmental and political activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize

India among 5 worst nations in curbing environmental pollution ...
Image Source: Indian Link

One Of The Biggest Challenges Today

Environmental pollution is the greatest global crisis created by man. It is one of the most serious problems faced by humanity and other life forms on Earth in the present times. Millions of people that live in eight different nations are at serious risk of developing ailments like respiratory diseases and cancer. The reason? Because they reside in the globe’s 10 most polluted places.

According to a report in 2019 by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), pollution is the largest environmental cause of premature death on the planet, leading to about 15% of all deaths. India leads the world in pollution-linked deaths with about 2.3 million fatalities, followed by China (1.8 million) and Nigeria.

Some Efforts By India

The Government of India has taken some serious steps and measures in the past few years to address the grave issues of air and water pollution, and improper waste disposal. Some of these include assessment of ambient air quality, introducing cleaner/alternate fuels, incentivizing hybrid/electric vehicles, comprehensive amendments to various Waste Management Rules, banning the burning of leaves and municipal solid waste, biomass, and promoting e-rickshaws, carpooling, lane discipline and vehicle maintenance.

Others consist of formulating new standards for prevention and control of pollution from industries, preparing action-plans for sewage management and restoration of water quality, implementing National River Conservation Plan, setting up sewage treatment plants, building low-cost sanitation facilities, spreading education, encouraging community participation, and so on.

National Green Corps Karnataka - Home | Facebook
Image Source: Facebook

National Green Corps: Young Generation To The Rescue

Promoting awareness among the public and mobilizing their participation for the conservation of the environment through tasks such as recycling, saving water and electricity, and growing trees are very necessary strategies in our quest to limit pollution. What better way than to start with the younger generation of the nation?

Under the National Green Corps (NGC) initiative, started in 2001–02 by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), about 1,00,000 schools have been identified as Eco-Clubs, with 30,00,000 students actively participating in different environmental protection, conservation, and pollution prevention activities.

The program has a cascading effect in sensitizing the society with its diverse activities viz., organizing rallies and street theater at public places to spread information on environmental issues, tree plantation, cleanliness drives, constructing water-harvesting structures, practicing paper recycling, promoting proper garbage disposal, propagating personal hygiene habits, encouraging eco-friendly practices (e.g. non-chemical pest management), stall-feeding of animals to protect overgrazing of pasture land, and spreading awareness on the use of renewable energy for meeting local needs, in the long list of many others.

Swachh Shakti Saptah to be launched from Gurugram
Image Source: eGov Magazine

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission): Improving Solid Waste Management

With the slogan “One Step Towards Cleanliness”, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, launched this mission on October 2, 2014. The aim was to accelerate the efforts  towards having universal sanitation coverage and achieve a Clean India by 2019 as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.

With its two sub-missions, Gramin (village) and Urban, this Abhiyan focused on improving the general quality of life in rural areas (by promoting hygiene and eliminating open defecation), motivating communities to adopt sustainable sanitation practices, encouraging cost-effective and appropriate technologies for ecologically safe and sustainable sanitation, creating a positive impact on gender and promoting social inclusion by improving sanitation (especially in marginalized communities).

Based on the PM’s call that cleanliness has to be everyone’s business and not only that of the sanitation departments, this effort was designed to have maximum collaborations between the Central Government, State Governments, local institutions, semi-government and private agencies, corporates, NGOs, faith organizations, media and the rest of the stakeholders. As of October 2, 2019, the country has progressed from 38.7% to 100% proper sanitation stage, depicting a significant influence of this 5-year program.

Organiser - All on-going Namami Gange projects will be completed ...
Image Source: Organiser

Namami Gange Initiative: Rejuvenating River Ganga

Started by the Government in June 2014, the objectives of this program include effective reduction of pollution, conservation, protection, and rejuvenation of the national river, the Ganga in a comprehensive manner.

The entire work process has been divided into: Entry-Level activities (for immediate impact); Medium-Term activities (within 5 years); and Long-Term activities (within 10 years of time frame). Some of the pillars of this plan consist of creating sewage treatment capacity, river-front development, river-surface cleaning, biodiversity conservation, afforestation, industrial effluent monitoring, and public awareness.

Moreover, under the Ganga Gram category, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MoDWS) has identified 1,674 Gram Panchayats situated on the banks of this river in five states. It has given funds for the construction of toilets in these villages so that the inhabitants do not pollute the Ganges. A consortium of seven IITs is engaged in the preparation of the Ganga River Basin Plan and 65 villages have been adopted by 13 of these institutes to be developed as model villages.

Cleanliness programmes in railway stations across India are ...
Image Source: The Hindu

Safai Sena: The Cleanliness Army of Railways

An article published in The Hindu in 2018 talks about a yellow team of masked and gloved waste-pickers who empty the bins, remove uneaten food and separate wet and dry wastes on the Delhi railway station when the trains come to a stop there. As trains pull away, a group of green uniformed cleaners with brooms in hand, descend on the littered tracks to sweep them clean.

The dry waste is segregated into over 12 categories for recycling. The wet waste is composted with the help of an organic waste composter and an aerobic pit compost processor. Untreatable waste is taken to the landfill. Also, various audio-visual clips, posters, and slogans are circulated to motivate the passengers to keep the railways clean.
Image Source: Nature World News

National Clean Air Program: The Five Year Plan

According to the World Health Organization, more than half of the cities with the worst air pollution are in India. As an effort to combat this situation, the Government in 2019 released a five-year plan to prevent and mitigate air pollution in the 102 worst-affected cities of the country by 20–30%. This plan outlines several actions and their timelines (applicable at the central, state, city, and village levels) seeking to curb industrial, vehicular, and thermal power emissions and reduce the pollution generated from burning firewood and crop residue, brick-production, construction, and other related activities by 2024.

One of the objectives of this plan asks the city authorities to establish early alarm systems to identify the traffic congestion zones. This would help in allowing commuters to seek alternative routes. Other crucial points include enforcing bans on open burning of biomass and vehicle-tires, retrofitting the diesel vehicles with particulate filters, and implementing the new Bharat-VI emission norms for vehicles (from April 2020) and thermal power plants (by December 2022). Moreover, the air pollution monitoring network will expand countrywide from 703 to 1,500 stations by 2024. Along the roads and highways, mechanized sweeping and plant vegetation filters will be introduced.

Climate and calamity are linked to culture: Modi - The Hindu ...
Image Source: Business Line

Narendra Modi, The United Nations, And The Earth Award

The United Nations (Environment) recognized Narendra Modi for his bold environmental leadership at the global level and presented him as the Champion of the Earth Award 2018.

Encouraged by Modi, the country has pledged to eliminate all single-use plastics by 2022. He understands that climate change poses a grave existential threat to the world and emphasizes that the green economy is what is needed in the present and will flourish in the future. Under his leadership, India has installed 300 million LED light bulbs, 40 million clean-burning cookstoves in its homes (hence, addressing the problem of indoor air pollution), and became the world’s fourth-largest producer of solar power and the fifth largest producer of renewable energy.

During the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York, Modi highlighted the crucial points which are a part of India’s robust action plan to stringently address the problem of climate change and participate in saving the Earth. The different activities, plans, and programs, introduced in the past few years by the Government of India, are starting to show significant results and hopefully, will have a strong impact in relation to global environmental action.

Image Source: IIT Gandhinagar

IIT Gandhinagar: Eco-Friendly Green Campus

The 400-acre campus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, has been designed to preserve the environment. Apart from effective waste management, the institute has undertaken several other initiatives, such as maximum rainwater harvesting, low-energy sewage treatment plants, solar panels, water heaters, organic farm, self-shading buildings, passive cooling systems, onsite use of eco-friendly materials, limited vehicular movement, pedestrian-friendly pathways, etc. The campus development is based on low resource consumption and maintenance costs, and sustainability is a core feature of its masterplan.

IIT Gandhinagar is the first in the country to receive a 5-star rating from the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment for Large Developments (GRIHALD). Recently, it was also ranked 4th in the ‘Residential University – All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE)’ category at the third edition of the Swachhata Ranking Awards 2019.

As an active supporter and participant of the Prime Minister’s campaign to eliminate the use of single-use plastics from India, the institute has strongly discouraged the purchase of items in plastic bags. Customized paper and cloth bags have been made available to its community members for shopping. It also launched the Green Bottle Campaign, which promotes reusable bottles for serving water and other beverages.

The future plan includes an efficient tackling of the low-grade non-recyclable wastes viz., wrappers of eatery packets, and tetra-packs. The institute is also focused on educating the visitors, internship-students, project assistants, and staff to promote the idea of a zero-waste community. Through these initiatives, IITGN is doing its bit and believes that many such national and global contributions together will eventually lead to a more positive impact in combating pollution and protecting the Earth.

Photos: Polluted cities see clean air amid coronavirus shutdown
Image Source: The Mercury News

Hopes for a Brighter Future

The problem of pollution has been deeply rooted within our country (and the world) for a very long period. There are slight improvements but it will require a considerable amount of effort and time for this issue to be properly resolved.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown us a glimpse of clean and green India. The pollution levels have seen a massive dip owing to the countrywide lockdown imposed because of the novel coronavirus disease. The nation has seen a significant drop in vehicular movement and industrial activity, which has led to a surge of fresh air everywhere, a phenomenon not observed in decades. The million-dollar question is: do we need one crisis to rescue us from the horrors of another?

Can we not be vigilant and responsible enough to tackle the problem efficiently ourselves?

Our country has a long way to go in its fight against pollution and saving the Earth. But, we all can do it together. After all, it is about saving lives.

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact the plans to protect man.”Stewart Udall, politician, and federal government official

You must be to comment.
  1. Ankita Srivastava

    Well done sistaaa👍👍👍👍

    1. Apeksha

      Thanks a lot! It is a small attempt from my side to spread awareness about some anti-pollution initiatives by the Government of India. It is our responsibility, as individuals and as a country, to participate in the fight against pollution if we want a better future.

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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.

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.

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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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