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Nafisulla Mulla

Year-Prize: The 12th Eco-generation Environmental Essay Competition     Item: Beat Air Pollution

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Baby Step to Beat Air Pollution

Nafisulla Mulla (India)
Honorable Mentions


The smoke rising from the fires visible on the either side of the road and the fine dust particles kicked up by the public bus made my lungs hurt with each breath. I was on the way to nearby village to undertake field activity on the occasion of World Environment Day. I was engaged as National Youth Volunteer1.
To expand my programme to grassroots and to gather the villagers I randomly visited few houses. In most of the houses, I found that cow dung patties piled up beside the houses which were poorly ventilated, allowing black soot to settle on the roof. It was not difficult for me understand that Dung patties were used as fuel for household purposes. I called Sharda who was busy in cooking rubbing her eyes as cough escapes her throat for the awareness programme. I observed she was uncomfortable.
Significant association is found between road dust, smoke and its adverse health effects. The microscopic particles in smoke and dust can get into the eyes and respiratory system which leads to burning eyes, running nose and illness such as bronchitis and asthma. Stubble burning2 create environmental havoc by emitting tons of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, oxides of sulphur and particulate matter causing irritation, wheezing and respiratory problems for farmers, residents and nearby cities where the smog has blocked the breathe of city.
After the awareness programme with the villagers, gram panchayat3 officers and village level workers, briefing them about LPGs4, access to metalled road, seeders5 and basic sustainable life, I headed towards railway station to explore my next site (an urban area). Not surprisingly train rolled over blowing a mammoth black cloud and I was lost in thoughts of my next part of assignment.
It is not out of the place to mention that pollution has been entrenched in the luxurious lifestyle of urban dwellers. Their dependence towards appliances and consumer products emitting VOCs6 will increase the carbon footprint on globe. Their fantasy to own a motorcycle or car pushing the vehicular density to peak level which I turn causes dense smog. Smog contributes in undergrowth of infants, retarding the growth rate of children.
I reached Bangalore and collaborated with the local volunteer club to held education and awareness programmes at the various venues of the city. To commute with zero carbon throughout our campaign we hired the bicycles and promoted the innovative system of Public Bicycle Sharing mushrooming around the globe. Bus Stand was on top of our list and the theme was ‘Quit Smoking’. Smoking degrades the quality of the air we breathe around us. Acetaldehyde7 emitted from smoking is hazardous air pollutant. It’s not a mystery; everyone knows smoking can cause damage to every body part. Nevertheless the number of the people who still smoke is alarming. Pipes, Cigars, Bidis, Hookahs and Bongs implement smoking for recreational purposes and spiritual enlightment. We demonstrated a play to quit smoke stressing on the impacts of smoking on environment as well as health and be a part of India’s vision to end TB by 2025, 5 years ahead of SDG8 2030.
Our next spot was a busy part of metropolitan city where most of the Hotels and Restaurants were located. A recent news article regarding air pollution caused by hotels across India dragged my attention. Fly ash generated from hotels with inefficient stoves and clogged fireplaces are the direct pollutants of air. Open kitchen exposed to polluted air doesn’t provide favorable premises for dining and also produces heat. Poor methods of Waste disposals release air pollutants, Greenhouse gases and foul smell which increase the health risks for nearby residents majorly in the slum area. Methane is most common pollutant generated through the restaurant waste pushing risk of global warming. Our objective was to assist them in curbing the pollution caused by them. We collectively approached to the doorstep of the hotels and distributed pamphlets promoting clean cooking energy and information on proper methods of waste disposals under Swachh Bharat Initiative9. After the successful drive we headed towards a dense residential locality to show up our art skills.
India is known for its diverse religious rituals, Festivals. But consciously or unconsciously people exercise their tremendous potential to harm our Lifeline in the name of tradition. Our houses lit up with incense sticks post sunset to smell everything like divine. But we are unaware of mutagenic and carcinogenic nature of incense smoke, the composition of aromatic chemicals leads to certain types of allergies and degrade our indoor air quality. On Holi we can see the blend of vibrant colours, but we neglect the fate of Air, wounded by the synthetic colors which infects our eyes and responsible for skin related ailments. Holika Dehan10 directly deteriorates air we breathe. The lion’s share is claimed by firecrackers busted during Diwali, Dusshera, New Year and Political victories choking the lungs of the major cities in India.
I surveyed the locality regarding the use of incense and gathered them for presentation by my fellow friends. We wanted to realize them about firecrackers and their ill effects on public as well as environment through artworks and posters, pledging for our collective wellbeing on this earth.
It is well said that “The people who make biggest difference are the one who do the little things consistently”. I winded up the assignment, but I was inspired to stay in movement to identify and tackle the sources of air pollution and to fight the invisible killer to have the greatest improvements in air quality and public health. Air pollution knows no boundary. Every person rich or poor is at risk of losing their lives. But, it is also worth to mention that Right to life and Breathe is the fundamental right and I am determined in making a difference in the push to beat air pollution.


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