Punjab civil society bodies demand advisories on bad AQI days

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Chandigarh: Punjab civil society bodies demand advisories on bad AQI days.  In a first-of-its-kind campaign, citizens and civil society organizations across Punjab on Tuesday demanded that urban local bodies mandatorily issue timely health advisories publicly, to alert citizens on “bad air” days, which will help save vulnerable groups from severe health impact of air pollution.

The joint call to action comes from non-attainment cities like Ludhiana, Amritsar, Khanna, Patiala and others reeling under poor air quality, and not just during winters.

“Bad air” days are when the air quality index (AQI) rises beyond the safe limit for any location falling either under the poor, very poor or hazardous AQI levels.

The online campaign has been initiated on the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies. In its second year since its inception, the theme for 2021 is ‘Healthy Air, Healthy Planet’, which emphasises the health aspects of air pollution, especially considering the Covid-19 pandemic.

Punjab has a total of 9 non-attainment and million-plus cities under the National Clean Air Action Plan (NCAP). A non-attainment city is one that does not meet the prescribed air quality standards set by the Union Environment Ministry.

Punjab civil society bodies demand advisories on bad AQI days. Supreet Kaur, President of EcoSikh India and member of Punjab Clean Air Collective — a collaborative network of citizens organizations, and institutions working towards the common objective of clean air, said this is a pan-India citizen-led online campaign.

“Breathing in pollution-free air is a fundamental right for all. Through this campaign, we want to intensify the need to breathe clean air. We want the citizens to be well informed so as to take necessary actions to safeguard the lives of all. We urge everyone be it, children, youth or elders to support this cause,” she said.

She added as part of this campaign, citizen groups across all non-attainment cities in Punjab will also plan and meet their respective Municipal Commissioners and submit a letter demanding a health advisory when air quality deteriorates.

The online petition is also being shared widely on social media and WhatsApp groups across Punjab and many have actively supported this campaign.

Ludhiana-based senior scientist Prabhjot Kaur, who is the head of the Climate Change Department of Punjab Agricultural University, said: “Punjab with nearly 83 percent area under crops is predominantly a green state.

“Despite this fact, the AQI of Punjab in May 2021, ranged from 68-220, which indicates that the air quality ranged in the poor to very poor category. This continued even during the lockdown period despite reduced vehicular and industrial pollution, which highlights that we need to explore the possible reasons for the poor AQI in Punjab.”

K.S. Pannu, the former Advisor with the NHAI, Punjab, said: “Ludhiana is home to 30 lakh people who unfortunately have to constantly suffer from pollution in the air. One of the measures that were decided by the Centre and the state was to introduce cleaner fuel of CNG which Ludhiana missed due to some nagging litigation with the supplier company.

“The state government should take proactive steps to bring in CNG at the earliest. State, society and NGOs should work in tandem to encourage electric three-wheelers in the city. Moreover, the issue of burning paddy straw in the winter months must be solved to ensure cleaner air for citizens.”

Divya Narayanan, Campaigns Director for Jhatkaa.org, which has created the portal for the citizens’ campaign, said the pandemic had forced all to seek out as much information as possible to safeguard the health against the virus.

–IANS

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