They have had enough with the unclean air, and insist that it is high time that efforts be made on a war footing to tackle air pollution. Realising that change is possible only through individual and collective will of the people at large, it was in last July that five ladies — Sherebanu Frosh (Gurugram), Anuja Bali (Pune), Nina Subramaniam (Chennai), Midhili Ravikumar (Kochi) and Bhavreen Kandhari (Delhi) began giving shape to the ‘Warrior Moms’ collective in July, and made their presence official on September 7, 2020.
“Since then we have been busy with campaigns like #DhoomDhamakaWithoutPatakha advocating a Smoke free Diwali and sharing details on social media of how to complain about bursting crackers. There were other campaigns on indoor air pollution with a series of creative inputs, for our social media handles,” Bhavreen Kandhari, one of the core team members tells IANS.
Starting with five core team members and about 30 mothers, they now have over 1000 members pan India, and increasing each day. ‘Warrior Moms’, with the rallying war cry ‘Enough is Enough’ has also collaborated with parents for future global and supporting their campaigns, and are now connecting with mothers from outside India too for the cause of clean air.
“We shared understandable updates of the court order on the London air pollution victim Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah and are working on the awareness about the inefficacy of Smog Towers. We are soon going to share studies and reports from Delhi,” says Kandhari.
Besides the ongoing campaign on ‘Chulha’, and working towards helping fellow women who are subjected to indoor pollution, Kandhari says that they are also active on issues including implementation of thermal power plants norms, safe cycling for all, clean cooking for all, solutions for vehicular emissions and construction dust, implementation of waste management by laws, all of which are being planned from advocacy to direct action to legal course if not implemented.
With numerous doctors, scientists, researchers and experts as members, Kandhari from ‘Warrior Moms’ that works closely with Lung Care Foundation & Doctors For Clean Air, says that clean air is their goal- an AQI of 60 and below is what they are working towards.
“Several excellent laws are in place. Unfortunately, implementation is the problem. We are learning and then sharing these laws.Thereafter, making complaints to the relevant authorities in order for them to take action. So this year will be a year of strong advocacy and empowering moms.”
Smiling that if our democracy was running flawlessly, and if citizens’ health was a top priority, there would be no need for action groups like theirs, she says, “With the support of media and other action groups, we have been able to scratch the surface of a deep rooted problem. However, the authorities have taken a rather lax stance toward this pressing issue. For example, the number of cases of children who now need nebuliser to breathe properly has increased manifold in Delhi and nearby areas.
The air commission that was formed, dissolved and formed again has not been relevant to the serious situation we are in. It is therefore paramount to have more voices and initiatives to pressure the authorities to do the right thing- to spare our lungs, and the health of our children.”
As the conversation shifts towards the pandemic, she points out that though during the lockdowns, the air pollution decreases significantly, but the situation becomes worse as soon as the unlocking happens.
“While during the pandemic, it became difficult to work on the ground level, like everybody else, we shifted to a digital medium. Through Zoom and other platforms, we have been able to meet a huge number of people — of course one misses the magic of physical contact.”
Stressing that it is high time that the powers start taking a long term approach towards the environment, Kandhari feels that unless children are sensitised on issues of environment early on, the battle cannot be won.
“Schools are doing a great job, but the point is when kids grow into adults and take over bigger roles, unfortunately the environment takes a back seat for most. That is what needs to change,” she says.
In fact India’s Sesame Workshop interviewed nearly 9,500 children across 28 localities in 9 districts in Delhi, on their views on the city’s environment in 2021. They found that 37 per cent of children wanted access to potable water within 500 meters of their homes, 25 per cent promoted the use of bicycles, and 19 per cent demanded bans on fireworks.
Also working with New-Delhi based Khoj International Artists Association on an ongoing art project, the core team member feels that social media has been of instrumental in their journey to inform people of the status of air pollution, and things they can do, as well as pushing the authorities to take stringent action.
“Whether it is connecting with each other or complaining to the authorities, it has been possible only because of social media especially in these bleak times of the pandemic.”