International Day Of Clean Air: How Can Bhubaneswar Get Better?
It’s International Day of Clean Air for blue skies today. Commemorated every year on September 7, the aim is to raise awareness and mobilise global action to address air pollution, which was recently referred to as a ‘global emergency’ by United Nations secretary general António Guterres.
Bhubaneswar air quality is hopefully not toxic to the level of global warming emergency, but it’s certainly not as clean as one would like it to be.
Authorities in Bhubaneswar today offered free rides in public electric vehicles to mark the day and make people aware about the significance of clean air. But is clean air a public debatable issue in Bhubaneswar? Certainly not.
Some major junctions in the city do have signages displaying air quality index (AQI), but it’s beyond understanding for most people.
Almost everyone breathes polluted air, but we are not all breathing the same air. Differences in air pollution levels often match other inequalities. Exposure at any level can have health implications that impair quality of life and come with costs for the individual, our society and the economy.
Just as reducing air pollution is crucial in improving human health, it is also the key to tackling the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, as well as helping us achieve several sustainable development goals.
While air pollution can be the result of natural sources, even population is impacted by human-caused air pollution. Major human sources of air pollution include power generation, transportation, industry, airconditioning devices and cooking, agriculture, waste-burning. Many of these are also sources of greenhouse gas emission, while some pollutants are double agents, causing air pollution and near-term warming.
Air pollution is generally a huge concern for public health, particularly the impact of PM2.5. These are invisible to the human eye and 40 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Due to their size, these tiny particles can penetrate deep into our lungs, where they cause inflammation, and can also pass into our bloodstream and damage the heart and brain.
Pollution has long-term impacts, such as heart disease, cancer and stroke, as well as short-term impacts including irritation of eyes, nose and throat, shortness of breath, coughs and asthma attacks.
There is data on pollution in Bhubaneswar, but no impact analysis though everyone living in this city is affected. Air pollution impacts all age-groups, but those with higher vulnerability suffer the most. It may even affect the development of the unborn.
Given the trans-boundary nature of air pollution, it is important that there is collaboration between governments, development organisations, private sector, civil society and academics to reduce pollution and improve air quality. Increasing available scientific evidence, monitoring air quality, enabling action across key sectors, and facilitating local, national and global partnerships are necessary to tackle the problem and protect health and livelihoods.
We need to work together, we need collaboration between each other, we need to listen to each other, we need to talk to each other regularly, we must believe and understand that we are part of the solution and we represent the common mission of igniting innovation to benefit society.
Bhubaneswar must move beyond just free rides and disclose more scientific-based evidence on air pollution to its public.
Clean Air Day raises awareness of the serious impacts of air pollution and brings together researchers, businesses, governments and individuals to address these issues.