Crusaders throng Lake; seek right to clean air

KOLKATA: On a day when Kolkata?s touched 428, when the safe limit is 50, various citizens? groups ? pollution masks firmly in place ? congregated at Rabindra Sarobar?s Safari Park demanding their . At 7pm on Sunday, PM10 became the most prominent pollutant and its count per cubic metre was 500.

Organized by Kolkata , people from all walks of life ? including doctors, lawyers, students, NGO heads, businessmen and sportspersons ? joined the campaign to say that citizens can?t stay safe under the current conditions. The campaigners also got morning walkers to pledge following a low-carbon-footprint lifestyle.

?Kolkata?s air quality has reached a dangerous level with PM10 and PM2.5 counts reaching the 500 mark in the last two days, according to the Rabindra Bharati University monitoring station installed by WBPCB. In November 2018, we had 21 days of ?poor? or ?very poor? air,? said Ajay Mittal of Kolkata Clean Air.

Rajdeep P Guha, surgical oncologist, ENT specialist, head-and-neck surgeon and Vikash Agarwal, senior surgical oncologist, spoke about the importance of wearing N95 masks. ?Wearing simple cloth masks or covering the face with a handkerchief makes hardly any sense as particulate matter 2.5 is so small it can penetrate our lungs and enter our blood streams,? Guha said.

Gynaecologist Sumona Sur encouraged people to shift their workout routines to late afternoons and avoid early mornings or nights when the pollution levels are very high.

Advocate Vinay Shraff said, ?The right to breathe is part of our constitutional right to life, which casts an obligation upon the state to preserve the life of every person.?

Pauline Laravoire from YEast, who is from Paris but now lives in Kolkata, compared her two homes. ?Paris?s AQI is 50 when Kolkata?s is

400. It is time to take collective action. The World Health Organisation estimates that 4.2 million premature deaths globally are linked to ambient air pollution ? and the maximum of those deaths occur in India mainly from heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections in children,? she said.

The event organizers said they wanted to draw attention to how practising a conscious, healthy and sustainable life can make a difference both on the personal and global scales. ?All participants agreed that we citizens need to be aware of the detrimental effect of our action on our local and global environment. We were unanimous that sweeping lifestyle changes and bold policy changes were required to breathe and exercise in a healthy environment,? one of them said.

Vinay Jaju from Switch ON, an NGO partner of Kolkata Clean Air, said, ?A University of Chicago report names particulate air pollution the single greatest threat to human health globally. I was absolutely shocked to read that in India last year, one in eight deaths happened due to air pollution. We also know from the Lancet commission report that air pollution is responsible for three times more deaths than from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined and 15 times more deaths than from all wars and other forms of violence. We have no other choice but to act urgently to curb air pollution in our city.?

?Exposure to such toxic air is extremely dangerous for the citizens and can amount to a serious public health crisis,? said another campaigner at .
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