Have you ever imagined that a country like India has to incur a loss of about Rs 3.6 Trillion, as estimated by Lancet and the air pollution, the main cause behind it. More so, the same slow poison called air pollution is also responsible for 1.7 million untimely deaths annually in India. Therefore the news, that the Finance Minister of India has promised Rs 2,217 crore budgetary allocation to tackle air pollution, convinced me to remain optimistic. In the metros and particularly the NCR ( National Capital region, Delhi ) has topped the Lancet ranking in highest concentration of particulate matter PM 2.5, oxides of sulphur and nitrogen. Pune, Kolkata and Mumbai are not far behind . The majority, about 70% of it is locally generated and it’s plainly evident that the ever increasing urban sprawl is aiding and abetting it.
Regarding this, I want to tell you about Sridhar Vembu, the billionaire founder of a software development firm, Joho. The surprising element is that he is working from a remote village near Tenkasi in Tamil Nadu and was recently honoured with Padma Shri. He says, “We just can not keep on bringing more people into these already crowded cities. The corporate social responsibility now means how we are going to avoid this.” True to his words, his software firm has been moving aggressively locating jobs out of Chennai to Tenkasi. Mr Vembu calls the moving back of talent as top soil restoration and prevention of further top soil erosion.Friends, we are direly in need of many more corporates with such refreshing thoughts and agenda to contain the prevailing, one way traffic towards the urban centers.
Now, about a pan India solution, to mitigate the air pollution at the source, two things can be done,
1. Moving away from fossil fuel to electric and renewable energy mobility in public transport.
2. Trapping air pollutants emitted by the industries, power plants and transport.
The government is targeting to provide 7,000 electric buses to 100 cities with a 40 % capital cost.If the scheme is achieved, it has the potential to transform public transport for the better.
Private sectors must follow the public leads. The city administration can partner with private sector to develop innovative business models, amenable to cleaner air.
Citizens should be encouraged to switch to electric operated cars by setting up charging facilities at their convenience and giving them adequate tax sops at the time of purchase, in comparison to petrol or diesel operated one.
Time is thus ripe for a new urban Go-Green movement protecting polluters from themselves. The prevailing situation needs immediate, concrete and collective action. All we need to do is to change our mindset and perspective to accommodate and embrace fresh ideas to save us from ourselves.