Moms Ask Clean Air For Children, Demand Environment Minister To Ensure Power Plants Follow Norms
#NoExtensionsToPolluters, an online petition signed by 1000 women highlighting the impact that toxic pollutants can have on their children was handed over to officials from Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MOEF&CC)
A group of mothers belonging to different cities stood outside the office of Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav on Friday at 11am in a bid to draw his attention to the rising health impacts caused by air pollution from Thermal Power Plants (TPP) all across India.
The group of mothers who stood peacefully holding placards had initiated an online petition - #NoExtensionsToPolluters in August this year. The petition addressed to the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has so far been signed by over 1000 women including several celebrities as part of a campaign demanding that the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change (MOEF&CC) should strictly ensure all coal-powered TPPs adhere to the 2015 emission control norms. These norms have been mandated by the Ministry tightening emission norms but continue to be flouted.
The petition was later handed over to the staff of Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ashwini Kumar Choubey by the mothers.
“As mothers, we decided to gather here today to try and meet our Environment Minister who has recently taken charge.We want him to stand on the side of our children’s future. We hope that he can champion the cause and lead by example by ensuring that all TPP’s are made to adhere to the mandated norms and thus reduce air pollution, which will help the children across India to breathe easy,” said Sherebanu Frosh, mother of two who lives in Gurgaon and a member of a mothers network.
Speaking about howevery mother in the country was worried over the rising air pollution compromising the health of children, Frosh said that a report released by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) in March this year stated that pollution, once emitted from a power plant, travels across large distances and harmful emissions from these 12 power plants located in and around the Delhi NCR region resulted in 218 deaths annually in Delhi.
The same report mentions that operation of the power plants in Delhi-NCR under pollution control measures as per 2015, emission standard notification would have negated over 4,700 preterm births, about 7,700 asthma emergency room visits, and approximately 3,000 COPD cases in 2018.
The group of mothers also emphasised that one needs to understand that this is not just a North India problem alone but an issue across the country as Thermal Power Plants are flouting the rules meant to reduce air pollution. “Children are the most vulnerable to the toxic pollutants released by TPP’s in the air, which affects every child. The children hailing from the weaker economic section are the worst hit as their families end up being overburdened by the high cost of treatment and medicines needed for respiratory issues,” Frosh informed.
Delhi based mother Bhavreen Kandhari explained that several reports stated that it was in December 2015 that the MoEF&CC proposed to amend the Environment (Protection) Rules of 1986 by bringing in tighter emission norms for coal-based power plants. Under this notification, the TPP’s would commit to reducing pollutants like Particulate Matter (PM), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and mercury in the air.
She also highlighted that as the winter season sets in, air pollution will soon be at its peak and the most obvious solution for the Government would be to regulate the thermal power plant emissions as notified in 2015. “Time and again the power plant lobby has managed to show their might by getting extensions, dilutions and paltry penalties for the past four years and kept getting away with their pollution. It’s time to introduce them to the most powerful lobby, which is ‘Mothers’ who care for their children and hence as mothers all that we now demand is a priority to be given to our children's health by ensuring emissions norms are implemented without any further delay,” Kandhari said.
Leena Buddhe, a mother from Nagpur who reached Delhi to be part of this campaign sharing her concern, said that many households in cities like Nagpur and Chandrapur were forced to breathe toxic air due to the Thermal Power Plants. “Local doctors have been claiming that there has been a steady rise in the number of children suffering from respiratory issues who live in the vicinity of these plants. As a mother, we can't silently watch this and hence we want the Environment Minister to promise us that there will be action taken against those flouting norms and strict rules would be implemented across the TPP’s of India,” she stated.
Actor, Filmmaker Nandita Das said that as mothers, we are deeply concerned about the appalling Air Quality Index (AQI) and at times have to restrict our children from playing outdoors. “The push for TPP’s to reduce air pollution is the need of the hour, given studies conducted by scientists in India who found that areas with poor air quality and higher emissions of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 are more likely to have Covid-19 infections and related deaths,” she said adding that, in an attempt to bring back our economy on track we cannot ignore the cost of pollution on our health, and more so on children.