Reducing P.A.A.P. – People Apathy Towards Air Pollution
Every health-related suffering draw ‘sympathy’. We brush aside the fact that over 1.7 million people die in India due to air pollution each year. We read and ignore with ‘apathy’ as the figure does not affect us or anyone around us.
“Stop sharing the information relating to air pollution in the WhatsApp group. No body likes it or wants to read about it.” A snub from a friend made me wonder and ponder. Maybe, I was too entrenched in the data, sufferings and stories of air pollution affecting our lives around, that it accidentally protruded the social spaces of others. I stopped sharing. My intent was to wake up people who were sleeping with oblivion to the major danger of air pollution around them. I lacked the skills to wake up people who were pretending to sleep.
Every health-related suffering draw ‘sympathy’. We brush aside the fact that over 1.7 million people die in India due to air pollution each year. We read and ignore with ‘apathy’ as the figure does not affect us or anyone around us. We, sometimes, do get affected with cough, nasal discomforts, COPD, Asthma, or other breathing issues. So do tens of millions in India. They hardly care. We hardly care irrespective of the disruption in our routine life due to the impact of rising air pollution. Our apathy continues.
Imagine a situation. A person needs a critical surgery that can extend the probability of life by another 5 years. The operation is expensive. Families and friends will go out of their way to find and fund resources to treat the patient in India. This is the strength of emotional bonding in our society. Apply the same logic window to most of us losing 4 to 13 years of our probable life, based on the cities of India we live in, as per AQLI research. We shrug it aside with indifference, lack of interest or total apathy. Why? A study by Lung Care Foundation about the school children in New Delhi facing a higher risk of Asthma is overlooked too. None of the parents would ignore a few drops of blood oozing out of their child and yet they choose to be apathetically ignorant about the poison getting into every breath of their children and themselves each day. Time to keep asking the WHYs.
Why are we apathetic in terms of not questioning our elected representatives and bureaucrats about their active, positive and immediate role to mitigate air pollution?
Why are we apathetic in terms of not asking to include clean air as part of every political party’s election manifesto?
Why are we apathetic in terms of not demanding to get the health aspect of people included in the low ambitious and slow-moving targets of National Clean Air Plan [NCAP]? Even when we accomplish the target of 20-30% reduction in air pollution, by 2024, we may still be 40 times more polluted by WHO standards if we achieve an annual average of 200.
Why do we show apathy in terms of sorting our waste properly and then blame the government, with our nose covered, for the mountains of waste around our cities?
Why do we let our vehicles run unnecessarily or stop for long with our engines on and then complaint about the rising air pollution on the roads?
Why do we start talking about air pollution, with apathetic disdain in social gatherings and drawing room discussions, during the peak winter months while the trouble surrounds us throughout the year?
These Whys can go on and on. The P.A.A.P. continues.
What’s the way forward?
Blaming governments cannot absolve people from their own responsibilities. Each one of us needs to take a positive individual and collective action while demanding the governments to play their faster and effective roles. We can, at least, take these seven actions in our normal routine life.
- Emit less from our vehicles and homes by using more energy efficient ways
- Make a habit of waste segregation to reduce the pressure on municipal resources and contribute to plastic recycling
- Plant more trees. Getting into the habit of even planting oxygen generating plants and medicinal plants around our dwellings will help. If we have space constraints, adopting a nearby section of the park or growing trees around you can do your trick. Don’t worry about the impact of your individual effort. When people like you take up the cudgel, miracles can happen.
- Avoid wastage. Switch-off that light or fan when you are not in the room. Reduce personal consumption to what is needed. Look for alternatives that are more eco-friendly.
- Talk with people. You can ignite their thoughts about indoor air pollution, the dust and the smoke. Peer pressure is not only about others affecting you. Use it in the reverse order.
- Hold your health as a number one priority. If this gets affected, you will lose your interest in anything else. Air pollution is attacking every part of human body. Save yourself and your loved ones.
- You and others pool together. There is fun in togetherness during the short and long journeys.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must become the change you wish to see.” Play your role in your life well. Apathy to self and others is of no use. Try EMPATHY. That’s what each action with the starting alphabets E.M.P.A.T.H.Y. is trying.
Rajiv Khurana is Founder – Trustee, Lung Care Foundation