In the wake of alarming levels of air pollution in the national capital, over 1,000 schoolchildren from Delhi-NCR on Wednesday joined a national movement for clean air and pledged to conserve the environment.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who could not attend the 'Good Air Summit' at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here due to ill health, sent a video message to the students and encouraged them to plant more trees to secure their lifetime of oxygen needs.
The students joined the 'Good Air Movement' that aims to cover the entire country by 2025.
"Plant more trees wherever you can. If one person plants seven trees, you have arranged for lifetime of oxygen for yourself. We are a part of the environment and it is a very important part of our lives. Save water and conserve energy. We should make every effort to save our environment," Javadekar said.
The summit, which was organised by the Integrated Health and Wellbeing Council (IHWC), seeks to make air pollution a prominent public health issue.
Justice Swatanter Kumar, former chairperson of the National Green Tribunal, and Ajay Mathur, Director General, the Energy and Resources Institute, were among those who attended the event.
Clean air is the right of every citizen under the Constitution, Kumar said while addressing the students.
"There are at least 10 sources of air pollution that affect both outdoor and indoor air quality, starting from widespread construction activities, to burning of waste and crops, and vehicular pollution," he said.
"But is clean air not a right of a citizen? Is not essential to exercise the right to life as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution?" Kumar asked, adding "we are flouting what Gandhiji asked us to do that we should give the earth to our next generation at least in the condition in which we got it."
The former Supreme Court judge also condemned burning of plastic waste and traffic jams in the city.
"We need to think about why there are no solutions to the waste disposal other than burning them. Burning of plastic is carcinogenic and is the cause for most of the cancers. Almost 70 per cent of Delhi is bumper to bumper due to cars - why can't we have destination buses or incentives for people who do away with the old vehicles? My message to all of you is, please rise to the occasion," Kumar said in his address.
About 1500 students of 17 educational institutions, including schools, colleges, universities, and research institutions, attended the event with 10 students of Delhi schools being awarded the title of 'Young Ambassadors of Good Air'.
The 'Good Air Movement' is a nationwide drive that aims to cover Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Ahmedabad to Aizawl by 2025 to create mass awareness and mobilise public action towards good air goals as well as engage and educate 50 crore people, a statement from the IHWC said.
The Indian Council of Medical Research estimates that air pollution caused one in eight deaths in India last year, besides lowering the average life expectancy by 1.7 years. As per reports, air pollution causes approximately seven million deaths every year globally.
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