#SaalBhar60: Delhi join hands to seek healthy air to breathe post lockdown

New Delhi: 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 Friday, June 5 joined hands seeking clean and healthy air, in one of the largest digital campaign for air quality- #SaalBhar60.

The campaign demands that the Government put in place 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, which is known for being one of the most polluted cities 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 will be sharing 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.,” says 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 that 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.

Sarath Guttikunda, Director of Urban Emissions (India) an independent research group on air pollution voiced, “We know the air pollution sources and now, we have to take that extra step to make these sources clean. Achieving #SaalBhar60 is very much in our hands, it’s hardwork but very much possible,’ he said adding that we need to clean every source- transport, industry, waste, cooking, heating, lighting, and roads.

“’The rise in air pollution following the lifting of the lockdown is a critical concern; the rise in emissions may make the present situation worse. However good air quality can be achieved through more stringent policies and stricter implementation that moves towards lower emission sources and clean air, which is what Delhi needs,” said Delhi based environmentalist Bhavreen Kandhari.