“We believe in the power of education and information to bring about real change” Abdullah A Rehman — Clean Air Crusader

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Air pollution, one of the leading causes of worldwide mortality is increasingly becoming a global concern. As mentioned in a report by WHO, 30 percent of all premature deaths in India are taking place annually in India due to air pollution. One of the biggest challenges that developing countries face today is to render equal focus on economic progress while reducing carbon footprint, including curbing air pollution. Bengaluru, the Silicon Valley of India, is a city with high concentrations of IT companies, electronics, biotech industries, etc.

Abdullah A Rehman

Climate Leader, Smruti Sweta Samantray interacted with Abdullah A Rehman, Founder & CEO of Anti Pollution Drive Foundation, and member of District Urban Development Cell Government of Karnataka to understand the air pollution scenario in Bangalore.

What is the situation of urban Karnataka in terms of air pollution level?

According to the latest data collected by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) from 19 urban habitations in the state, the PM10 level (particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter) for most of them was found to be beyond the natural permissible limit of 60 micrograms per cubic meter. Some of the readings at air quality monitoring stations showed violations of up to 190%!

Residents of Bengaluru, Tumakuru and Davangere have emerged as the most affected victims of air pollution in the state. Although other cities such as Hassan, Mangaluru, Mysuru, Mandya and Chitradurga are reputed to be less polluted when APD conducted an independent air quality assessment project called ‘Shuddha Gaali’, in Mangaluru we discovered that their levels are just at the borderline.

What is the main cause of air pollution in Bengaluru? To what extent vehicular pollution is responsible for this?

Vehicle emission is the largest contributor to pollution in Karnataka followed closely by the industrial emissions, road dust, and garbage burning. I would say that 50–60% of the air pollution that we are exposed to comes from vehicles, especially, the category of smoke emitting vehicles. Also, with a rapidly growing city and expanding infrastructure, too many trees are being cut, reducing the oxygen supply and affecting the climate.

What initiatives are being taken APD Foundation to tackle air pollution in Karnataka?

The state government requires vehicles to carry PUC (Pollution Under Control) after getting their smoke density and carbon monoxide levels checked at emission centers. However, there are no centralized and concentrated efforts being taken by the authorities to ensure enforcement. At a national level, we have the Bharat stage (BS) emission standards intended to regulate the output of air pollutants through vehicle manufacturers. Unfortunately, even these are not percolating down to all the states and cities.

There are even fraudulent centers that help drivers beat the system by providing false certificates. Without stringent implementation through fines and confiscation (provided under Section 190 of Motor Vehicles Act and Rule 115 & 116 of Central Motor Vehicles Rule) and setting deadlines for emission goals, there can be no real war against unchecked vehicle pollution.

APD is a non-profit organization working on fighting pollution head-on by drawing a strong link between public health and the environment. Our strategy is to attack pollution from all angles- ignorance, apathy, bureaucratic hurdles, lack of sufficient data.

In the 4 years since its inception, APD has reached out to over 120 Schools, 20,000 students in 6 states, launched 32 projects. We have also launched successful research programs to assess the health impact of air pollution on outdoor workers. Last year we received the Excellence Award KSPCB from the Government of Karnataka for our contribution on environmental awareness.

We have initiated data research projects like Shudda Gaali (a Clean Air Initiative), PFT (Pulmonary Function Test) to assess the health impact of air pollution on outdoor workers and Carbon Footprint: An assessment of polluting vehicles in educational institutes to understand and weigh the impact of polluting vehicles.

Several advocacy projects like StopSmokyVehicles, were also launched to garner large-scale public support against the evil of smoke emitting vehicles. As part of this quite a few awareness and behavioral change projects too were initiated amongst the public and government officials to emphasize the issue of smoke emitting and polluting.

We run holistic campaigns to influence change in citizen attitude and to enable community participation. On a long-term scale, we work with government officials on policies, laws and rights & research to collate information that will help decision-makers.

APD has been successful in building a strong emotional connect with the cause; thus, pulling young citizens to proactively participate in conservation efforts. We believe in the power of education and information to bring about real change and our work reflects this commitment.

If you’re asked about any two or three changes to be made in the government’s policies that can bring in a positive impact regarding this problem, what would they be?

Policies can only be effective if they are implemented in full spirit and not as a box-ticking process. Measures the government can take to curb the problem of air pollution are:

- Constant reinforcement through media on the connection between pollution and health to enable public awakening.

- Devise incentives. (E.g. make a purchase of electric cars significantly cheaper.), provide efficient alternate modes of transport and discourage private transportation.

- Install more support systems for small businesses that are sustainable and be stricter with corporations who pollute.

Three things every vehicle owner or the driver should do to decrease pollution.

1. Use as much public transportation as possible. If using taxi services such as Ola or Uber, try to avail pool services after ensuring safety.

2. Explore the option of buying an electric car Or if purchasing a fuel-run car, buy an efficient petrol vehicle that consumes less. Diesel vehicles have more particulate matter.

3. Switch off your vehicle engine when stationary for a long time.

Abdullah has been honored with KSPCB Excellence Award 2017- Contribution towards Environmental Awareness in D. K. District’ and Young Social Innovator 2016 — by UN-HABITAT & NSF (India Youth Fund Award).

Climate Reality India

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The Climate Reality Project India, actively engages igniting the spark and spreading the message of #climatechange amongst educators and civil society.

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