While studies from Harvard and Italy have been showing a significantly higher number of Covid-19 cases and mortality in areas with high air pollution, Delhiites on June 5 joined hands seeking clean and healthy air, in one of the largest digital campaign for air quality- #SaalBhar60.
The campaign demanded the Government puts in place various measures to ensure that the PM 2.5 levels in cities are 60 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3), which is the safe limit (for 24 hours) prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). This will ensure a safe and healthy environment as well as also boost the fight against Covid-19 post the lockdown.
Delhi, known for being one of the most polluted cities in the world, has been listed among the 122 non-attainment cities across India (that don’t meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards) under the National Clean Air Programme by the CPCB and have been asked to reduce air pollution by 20-30%.
Throughout the day, people shared their images holding a placard demanding — Clean Air for All and #SaalBhar60 on social media including twitter by tagging MOEF&CC and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “We must aim for clean air for all. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that we too can have clean air and also how bad air can affect our health, increasing our vulnerability to diseases. High levels of air pollution across Indian cities pose a major threat to the wellbeing of our children,” shared Dr Arvind Kumar, lung surgeon at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, and Founder & Managing Trustee, Lung Care Foundation.
“The lockdown has shown that Delhi can achieve blue skies but clean air should not come at the cost of a pandemic! We have the technology and the policies in Delhi to make sustained blue skies a reality- we need action and political will to accelerate their implementation on the ground. #SaalBhar60 movement manifests the greater appreciation that people have for their environment now,” said Navdha Malhotra, Campaigns Director, Help Delhi Breathe.
Malhotra added people from across the country are sharing the message for clean air. The images received from people across India will be compiled and sent to the Environment Minister, Prakash Javdekar, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan as well as the Environment ministers of all the states.
There has been a worry that once the lockdown opens, air pollution levels across Delhi will see a surge. As per the data by Urban Emissions, during the lockdown the city witnessed a dip in levels of major pollutants like Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), PM10 and even PM 2.5, which is considered as one of the most dangerous pollutant due to its small size and the health impact as it’s known to easily enter lungs and trigger respiratory illnesses.
#SaalBhar campaign was launched through a video released by Jhatkaa.org, featuring Haridwar based 12-year-old climate activist Ridhima Pandey on the 60th day (May 23) of the lockdown. The video called on citizens to participate in a nationwide movement on June 5, World Environment Day, by sharing photos from their city demanding ‘Clean Air for All’ and seeking clean and healthy air throughout the year.