Mothers from across India, which dominates the list of world's most polluted cities, launched an anti-air pollution campaign today - on the second edition of the UN International Day for Clean Air and Blue Skies - by appealing for a change in government policies to pave the way for a healthier tomorrow.
The campaign has been initiated by members of the group Warrior Mothers amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has accentuated the need for healthier lungs as scientists say the virus "may never go away", and weeks ahead of the winter months when air quality in north India is particularly dangerous, as per the World Health Organisation data.
"I am especially dreading the winter this year because of Covid; my son has breathing issues. Children's immunity system needs to be strong, but toxic level of air pollution makes that difficult," Sangeeta Chauhan, a Delhi-based parent and a member of Warrior Moms, said.
Talking to NDTV, members of the group said they plan to spread awareness about the ill-effects of air pollution through sessions on how it impacts children's health.
According to the WHO data released earlier, children, especially those below five years of age and even in-vitrio, are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution than anyone else. The data shows that air pollution can lead to many impairments, including neural and motor development, childhood cancers, chronic lung infections, asthma and even obesity.
"The air our children breathe could be equal to smoking 20 cigarettes a day. For my children to have the lungs of a smoker by their teens, through no fault of their own, is unacceptable. This is a national health emergency and has to be tackled promptly with critical thinking. We, the mothers, have taken it upon ourselves to make this happen," Sherebanu Frosh from Gurugram said.
Talking about the need for good government policies to drive a sustained change, Bhavreen Kandhari, a Delhi-based parent and spokesperson for Warrior Moms, said, "The COVID-19 pandemic is a chance for us to reflect on our lifestyle choices and question the government's decisions that had made the air unbreathable prior to the lockdown."
Pune's Anuja Bali Karthikeyan gave the example of centre's inclination to pass the draft EIA notification 2020, which "dilutes environmental laws in favour of industries and can make air pollution mitigation a huge challenge" to make her point about why government policies were key to change.
"To make matters worse, government officials say the National Clean Air Programme has hit a road bump because of the pandemic. This means they have made virtually no progress in making industries and thermal power plants reduce their emissions," Nina Subramaniam, a mother from Chennai said.