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Jan
01

Care for Air Workshop at FIIB

Care for air

With an aim to create awareness and educate our community of students, faculty and staff about the ill-effects of air-pollution, an interactive workshop was held by the progressive NGO Care for Air at FIIB Campus on Saturday, December 8, 2018.

The day-long workshop commenced with the expectations, concerns and queries from the audience for the session followed by a Q&A interaction.

Some of the questions posed by the audience are as follows:

  • What kind of health issues are we prone to due to the high exposure to air-pollution?
  • How can we prevent ourselves and especially infants from being affected by the worsened air quality atmosphere?
  • How do we make our efforts and initiatives sustainable and act as positive contributors to bring the change?
  • What are the solutions and initiatives one can take with respect to care for environment?
  • Are there any best practices like artificial rainfall to bring down the rising pollution levels?
  • What are the reasons for the inactions on part of the government to this severe health disaster?
  • What immediate steps one can take as an individual?

The insightful workshop primarily aimed at informing and creating awareness amongst the participants through presentation of hard-hitting facts, data and statistics pertaining to air-pollution and health issues. The real objective was to encourage each individual to take urgent and immediate steps towards care for the declining state of air quality.

The workshop was conducted by three experts from the NGO Care for Air. The speakers at the workshop included prominent individuals with expertise in environmental issues. Some of the visiting experts from the NGO were Jyoti Pandey Lavakare, Director, Care for Air & Financial Journalist; Barun Aggarwal, Entrepreneur & Founding Member of Indoor Air Quality Association, USA, India Chapter; and Manjali Hoon-Khosla, Entrepreneur & Managing Director, Self Storage India., amongst others.  

Water vs Air

STRIKING FACTS

Beginning with his introductory remarks, Barun Aggarwal spoke about the collective responsibility to care for the environment and atmosphere.

Conveying about the importance of breathing clean air, he stated that the functionality of brain is dependant on the quality of air and oxygen. An individual breathes up to 13,000 litres of air per day and can survive without consumption of filtered water for days and weeks, if required, but not without the air.

This is like smoking cigarattes

The inhalation of polluted air impacts the human body in the worst possible manner as the particulate matters present in the air enters the bloodstream and ultimately damages vital organs including brain, heart, lungs, lever as well as the nervous system. The 5 things that impacts the human body in a significant way are air, water, food, light and sound.

While explaining the facts, Aggarwal suggested attendees a book by Ramachandra Guha, How much should A Person Consume: Thinking Through The Environment.

3 Broad Buckets Air Pollution

For better understanding, Aggarwal categorised the air pollution into 3 broad buckets – Particulate pollution that affects health in long term, Gaseous pollution (ozone, VOC’s, Nox, SOx) posing long and short term health risks, and Microbiological pollution (bacteria, virus, mould) affecting the immunity.

Informing about the negative effects of PM 2.5, Aggarwal stated that exposure to 125 mcg/m3 of PM 2.5 poses highest risk of 60 percent for heart and lung disorders, whereas 25 mcg/m3 and 10 mcg/m3 poses 40 to 30 percent of health risks, respectively. However, presently the air pollution in Delhi consists of PM 2.5 over 143 mcg/m3, which is not even low but marginal in terms of health risks and poses serious threat to life, especially of infants.

What is Clean Air

WHAT IS CLEAN AIR?

Differentiating between the clean air and polluted air, Aggarwal stated that polluted air consists of destructive particulate matters and harmful gases with elements such as Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Hydrogen Sulphide, Chlorine, and Lead etc., that endangers human health. The PM 2.5 denotes the number of particles in the air.

Pollution Myths

MYTHS ABOUT AIR-POLLUTION

Discussing the myths related to air-pollution he clarified that pollution is not an urban problem but a problem engulfing the entire country.

According to him, the myth that air pollution enhances tolerance and makes lungs stronger by building the immunity is untrue as the more air pollutants pass through the respiratory system into the lungs, the more one is at risk of diseases.

Discussing the serious harm caused to health by air-pollution, he said that a person is habitual of breathing unhealthy air and fails to sense the smell of the polluted air due to daily inhalation.

Drawing attention towards another myth during his presentation, he clarified that it is wrong to believe if one doesn’t fall sick, they are not affected due to non-realisation of the impact until 70 percent of lungs are damaged.

Dismissing the myths about air purification outdoors through mechanised equipments, he said that deployment of advanced machinery for cleaning the air is not an evidence-based solution, instead the problem should be dealt at source.

Source of PM2.5

SOURCES OF AIR POLLUTION

Highlighting the major factors responsible for causing air-pollution, Aggarwal said that the automobile Industry is responsible for causing considerable damage to the environment through production of diesel-engine vehicles in India. Drawing meaningful facts from his research, he conveyed that people tend to prefer and buy diesel-engine vehicles due to the economical advantage but diesel is 8 to 10 times more polluting than petrol.

Talking about the refinery in Jamnagar producing the best fuel (Euro VI) he said, the best quality fuel is exported to other countries due to the involvement of lobbies. He stated that the economics won over the care for lungs as the lobbies are giving it a push back to fetch larger profits. According to him, the lobbies are unwilling to accept the change as upgradation to good quality fuel technology would result in training of technicians and greater utilization of resources.  

Another factor that restrains lobbies from accepting the change is the increase in cost that would adversely impact the sales by lowering the demand. He pointed out that vehicle manufacturing companies do produce such vehicles with superior technology but only for exportation to the other countries.

Apart from that, he informed that burning of hawan samagri, lighting of Agarbattis and diyas also contributes towards air pollution. The production of leather too causes huge amount of pollution. The cremation performed using wooden blocks and other material damages the quality of air by emitting toxic and hazardous smoke.

Considering failure on part of the government in the implementation of the environmental laws as a deep-rooted systemic problem, Aggarwal stated that in India environmental laws are appropriately stringent but the failure in implementation and enforcement of such laws at the ground-level further worsens the situation.

According to him, burning of plastic, trash and wet waste is one of the prime factors that causes major damage to the air quality.

Considering dust from construction sites as also one of the factors leading to critical respiratory disorders, he said that the ultrafine marble dust going into the lungs causes irreparable damage.  

The stubble burning by farmers is another factor that causes air pollution. Naming Punjab and Haryana as two regions where stubble burning happens on a large-scale during the month of October, which goes unnoticed and unchecked, Aggarwal expressed that both regions are known for the cultivation of important and essential crops. The mechanical methods of crop cutting ultimately leads to burning of crops.

Besides that, the use of non-degradable plastic pollutes our environment significantly as it goes into the landfills and remains undissolved. The improper methods of destroying waste contributes to air pollution the most as well.

Counting diesel generators as one of the major sources of air pollution, he suggested that solar power grids are reliable in powering the house and cars.

To summarize, he said that the sources of pollution differs and keeps changing with seasons therefore there is an urgent need to have a focused approach for tackling the crisis.  

What is Clean Air

HOW SERIOUS IS THE PROBLEM?

Drawing attention towards the recent study conducted by WHO on 4000 cities across 108 countries, Barun Aggarwal specified that, WHO guidelines states that the PM 2.5 levels should be less than 15 mcg/m3 on average for 24-hours and less than 10 mcg/m3 on average, annually. He stated that days before the festival of Deepawali, the pollution levels in Delhi continues to cross the alarming mark of 1000, and during winters it usually crosses over 300 to 400 mark on average and is even more than 143 mcg/m3 on average for the entire year. He informed that WHO ranked Delhi 3rd amongst the most polluted cities in the world. According to the report, 14 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, itself.

Discussing the seriousness of the problem, Aggarwal said that people need to be more cautious and careful as air pollution causes life endangering diseases such as acute Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

To explain better, he conveyed that according to Dr. Arvind Kumar, a leading Indian surgeon formerly with AIIMS for over 35 years, and is currently associated with Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, capacity of human lungs is 70 percent more than what is needed to live a normal sedentary lifestyle but breathing of polluted air reduced the life expectancy, considerably. According to the surgeon, most of the people do not even realise the impact of air pollution on their lungs until it’s too late when 70 percent of lungs are damaged and the matter of life and death arises.


INITIATIVES BY INDIVIDUALS AND AUTHORITIES?

Concluding his remarks with the need for urgent actions to curtail air-pollution, he said that understanding, focussing and resolving one issue would not help in addressing the problem.

Prompting to take initiatives for curtailing air pollution, Aggarwal urged the attendees of the workshop to make themselves more aware, educate others and understand the problem to find immediate effective solutions.

Asking the participants to make possible efforts and attempts to avoid causing air pollution, he identified the situation as a national emergency. He motivated the participants to demand change and actions against any harm to the environment by any individual or entity. He also said that the onus lies on the government to frame policies and laws, which deals with the perpetrators sternly.

Notifying about the lack of sincerity on part of municipal authorities, he said that the workers transport waste from one city to another for dumping at a convenient location as they earn depending upon the distance waste is carried but not for disposal through proper methods of waste management. Using innovative and advanced methods of waste management is one of the key solutions to the problem.

Segregation of dry and wet waste and disposing of the same through proper ways helps reducing air pollution. He believes, there is an urgent need for using composite plastic that gets decomposed naturally in the soil.

Also insisting the attendees to do their bit, he urged all to avoid travel through personal vehicles and using public conveyance in order to reduce pollution.

Expecting preventive measures, he said that the government should regulate the movement of heavy vehicles including trucks and buses and impose fines and penalties for any violations such as overloading and illegal entry during non-permissible hours.

On the importance of planting of trees, he expressed that the green belt of trees brilliantly helps purifying air but the collection of heavy dirt particles on the leaves of trees blocks trees from releasing oxygen. Citing his obeservations, he said that trees in Delhi are covered with the thickest blanket of dirt and there is an urgent need to shower the trees in order to bring down the temperature by 1-2 degrees.

Most importantly, Aggarwal mentioned that it is a collective responsibility of every citizen to care for the environment.

For reference and greater knowledge about air pollution, Aggarwal recommended the book The Great Smog of India by Siddharth Singh.

Recommendations:

  • Individuals should educate themselves, take initiatives, and create more awareness to act against the factors responsible for degrading air quality.
  • Urgent need for understanding the problem to find effective solutions.
  • Individuals should share a collective responsibility to care for the environment and atmosphere.
  • People should know how to differentiate between the Clean and polluted air.
  • People should be aware of the factors responsible for causing air pollution.
  • Automobile industry should stop producing diesel-engine vehicle as diesel is 8 to 10 times more polluting than petrol.
  • The government should stop the sale and purchase of diesel-engine vehicles with immediate effect.
  • Nationwide upgradation of vehicles to Euro VI fuel technology should be introduced.
  • Government should regulate the movement of heavy vehicles including trucks and buses and impose fines and penalties for any violations such as overloading and illegal entry into the city during non-permissible hours.  
  • Fines and penalties to be levied strictly against the violators for stubble, trash or wet waste burning.
  • Prohibition against improper ways of waste management and disposal
  • The dry and wet waste to be segregated, contained and disposed separately.
  • Eco-friendly methods of cremation should be used as cremation using wooden blocks emits toxic and hazardous smoke into the atmosphere thereby polluting the air.
  • Government should frame more policies and laws to deal with the perpetrators.
  • The government should ensure actual implementation and enforcement of existing environmental laws at ground level.
  • An immense need for self-awareness about the disorders and diseases such as Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) caused due to high and long-term exposure to air-pollution.
  • Immediate banning of non-degradable plastic as it pollutes the landfills and remains undissolved.
  • Solar powered grids to be used instead of diesel generators for powering the house and cars.
  • Individuals should demand change and actions against any harm to the environment by any individual or entity.
  • Waste not only to be transported by Municipal workers from one place to another but also to be disposed off properly at a dedicated place within a confined area.
  • People should prefer travelling via public conveyance to reduce the number of private vehicles on road.
  • Need for plantations of more and more trees to increase the levels of oxygen.
  • Trees should be regularly showered for removal of dust clocked on the leaves blocking the release of oxygen.
  • Blanket ban on the sale and purchase of firecrackers for festivities.
  • Schools and institutions should impart necessary environmental knowledge amongst the students and practitioners.

Evaluation:

Was the session helpful in educating the audience about air pollution?

The session helped in identifying the factors responsible for causing air-pollution and health risks posed due to exposure to air-pollution. The Session also motivated the participants to take urgent steps with respect to the care for environment and atmosphere. The facts and information presented at the workshop highlighted the chemical imbalance caused due to the air-pollution in the atmosphere.

In what ways the workshop is useful for a B-school?

As a management institute, it is our core responsibility to contribute towards the development and the welfare of the society as well as caring for environment. Care for Air session would make the students more responsible prompting them to take initiatives as an individual towards improving the quality of air. We consider it as our fundamental duty to protect the environment and our loved ones from the harmful effects of air-pollution.

Which part of the presentation seemed most useful?

Striking facts, Sources of Air Pollution, and Initiatives by Individuals and Authorities were the most useful parts of the presentation that helped in understanding how an individual or a community can make big impact though small initiatives to bring a positive change. The emphasis should be more on the individualistic efforts, technological solutions and framing of effective environmental laws and policies by the government.

Did the session meet up to the expectations?

Yes, the session appropriately informed about the ill-effects due to air-pollution and helped in clearing of doubts and myths. The session suitably answered the concerns and queries while suggesting alternatives, which helps reducing air-pollution. The session taught us how technology can be useful in sustainable development.

Please comment on the meaningful insights shared by the experts at the workshop?  

The insights shared by the noted experts were extremely useful as it informed about the serious health disorders and diseases, which endangers life. The insights were striking enough to encourage the participants to do their bit and share a collective responsibility towards the care for environment.

What other recommendations were made for the sessions in future?  

Most of the participants had questions related to the use of advanced technology for improving the air quality. The sessions suggested a range of initiatives, solutions and alternatives that helps in reduction of toxic elements, hazardous smoke and particulate matters from being emitted into the atmosphere. The session also recommended immediate actions and framing of effective policies on part of the government.

Did the workshop cover all important aspects pertaining to causes and solutions for air-pollution?   

The attendees believe that the discussions and interactions held at the workshop covered all necessary aspects pertaining to sources and solutions for the air pollution. The session sufficiently educated about the major factors leading to the declining state of air-quality. The session successfully motivated the attendees to be more socially responsible and make all possible attempts and efforts to save our environment.