Climate Resilient Maharashtra (Sustainable Maharashtra in terms of climate) organized through the Town Hall program aims to create a movement among various stakeholders including ordinary citizens, government units, NGOs and researchers.
All these stakeholders led inclusive and meaningful discussions on the aspects that have the greatest impact on the environment at this virtual event held on Tuesday 2 March 2021. It also aims to further strengthen climate change by preparing a sustainable action plan through focused recommendations.
The town hall is organized by Climate Voices, a group of Purpose, Aser and Climate trends. The aim is to bring people together to discuss air quality and find solutions. It is also accompanied by Majhi Vasundhara (My Earth Campaign), an initiative of Maharashtra’s Department of Environment and Climate Change. ‘A Town Hall on Air Pollution’ is an informal public meeting covering such topics of interest that serve as an important medium for informing citizens about emerging issues. This discussion helped us to get an idea of where our community stands on certain subjects. Also, this exercise provided a platform to identify and suggest solutions to be implemented on major issues.
In this online gathering, experts and citizens of various disciplines participated in the conservation of rich biodiversity in the urban and rural areas of Maharashtra, solutions to the effects of climate change, creation of pollution free economy, conservation of valuable ecological resources, natural environment for the present and future generations. Discussions were also taken about the steps to be taken by the government and common citizens on safeguarding etc.
Through this exercise, clear recommendations for the state government’s climate-related plan to improve air quality and present a clear roadmap of important information were presented. At the same time, through this, efforts were also made to better spread its message among the general public, to provide news media coverage and to ground the efforts of advocacy at the local level by both government and citizens.
Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, introduced the organizers, giving a presentation about the simultaneous roles of the Maharashtra government and the National Clean Air program. He said that Maharashtra’s air pollution crisis is a statewide problem. In the year 2019, Maharashtra was second in terms of deaths due to air pollution. Small, medium and heavy industries are the major sources of PM 2.5 in Greater Mumbai. Excessive dependence on coal is a major reason for this. 63% of industrial units in Nagpur district are sources of poisonous pollution. The transport sector is also a major source of pollution throughout the state.
He suggested to reduce air pollution and said that for high pollution big cities separate pollution control plans should be made. The problem of pollution should be identified and their problem solved and communication between government and industry should be established in the areas of agriculture, tourism and hospitality. Technology should be resorted to for landfill management and participation of common citizens should be ensured at the level of planning and implementation of the National Clean Air Program.
Manisha Mhaiskar, Principal Secretary, Department of Environment and Climate Change, Maharashtra, said about what this means in terms of Town Hall and State’s Climate Action Plan, the state government is very serious about climate change, climate resilience and climate action. If we go in 2020, we formed the Majhi Vasundhara campaign amid the Corona epidemic. We all believe that this decade started from 2020 is the last decade to take some concrete steps to curb climate change. It will be too late after that. Voices from all over the world are saying that this epidemic was the result of climate change. Covid-19 virus is a zoonotic virus that has been transmitted from animals to humans. This happened because we occupied the habitats of wild animals.
He said, “As far as air pollution is concerned, I would say that it has taken a dangerous form in the 21st century. Covid-19, Zika, Ebola are all zoonotic viruses and have passed from animals to humans but we did not take these signals seriously. At Majhi Vasundhara, we believe that everyone has to be a partner in climate action. Many people want to play their part. Taking the first step under Majhi Vasundhara, we have taken together almost 700 big cities to small towns and villages. Under the second initiative, 18 lakh people have got e-pledge, because every person can make a difference. We can contribute to the protection of the environment by changing our small habits in our everyday life as well. Manjhi Vasundhara’s team is working on the process of fulfilling their pledge by bringing all the people who have taken the e-pledge together.”
Highlighting the state’s action plan to tackle air pollution in the state, Chairman of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board said that every scientist says that you cannot know what you cannot measure. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board network is expanding. Regulatory analyzers are very expensive. We need sensors built at a stable level, but there is some problem with their reliability. We are trying to solve this. We are all focusing on the source apportionment, but there is also a need to pay attention to receptor level pollution. When we look at the source apportionment, we find that pollution is increasing, especially due to the power plant. We all know what are the sources of pollution. As far as the smoke emanating from the trains is concerned, we believe that a lot of progress has been made in this direction. We are in touch with the Transport Department on this issue. We have constituted a committee to deliberate towards reducing pollution caused by vehicles.
Shrivastabhav’s associate doctor VM Motghare said that 18 districts of Maharashtra are included in non-attenuation cities. Maharashtra is very serious about the National Clean Air Program. The Central Pollution Control Board suggested 42 steps to reduce air pollution. They are being worked on. The e-vehicle policy formulation for Maharashtra is in the final stages. Monitoring network is being strengthened in Mumbai. The problem of dust blowing from the roads is being solved. In addition, the amount of sulfur in the fuel is being reduced. The hotel industry is working on the use of natural gas, controlling the smoke emanating from the vehicles, and a provision has been made to throw waste and biomass at the wrong place and to burn.
Neeri Director, Rakesh Kumar, while discussing the facts of air pollution studies in major cities of Maharashtra and the source of apportionment studies, said that we should not think that nothing can happen to us now. India is a very densely populated country. The figures of deaths are quite complex. If we see, Mumbai was considered as a gas chamber in the 80s and 90s, but the situation has improved a lot during the last few decades. Power plants located in Mumbai are counted among the most efficient plants. Talking about Chandrapur, the power plant remained closed for 4 months due to lack of water, but still there was no significant improvement in the air quality. There should be a discussion on where the pollution is coming from. We cannot solve pollution by staying within administrative boundaries. If we want to succeed, then small steps have to be taken. We have to classify in an area of two-and-a-half kilometers or 5-5 kilometers and see where the source of pollution is. If this work is done then the people of the concerned areas will gain confidence and they will be more serious towards the problem.
Dr. Sandeep Salvi, Director, Palamocare Research and Education Foundation, while referring to the impact of air pollution on the health of the people of Maharashtra, said that air pollution has started to be noticed during the last few years. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 felt very strongly about how air pollution affects our health. Some diseases are deeply associated with air pollution. Lung infection and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are the result of air pollution. For the first time, there was an understanding of what is the relationship between air pollution and various diseases. Health related infrastructure will have to be cured to deal with diseases arising due to air pollution.
He said that 50% of patients suffering from respiratory disease, from one day of childbearing to 60 years of age, go to the doctor daily. Indoor air pollution is an equally big problem in India. Straws, dung cakes, and burning of wood in various areas of India strengthen the women who cook daily to take smoke equivalent to 25 cigarettes in their lungs. Similarly, mosquito incense sticks emit PM 2.5 equivalent to 100 cigarettes. In addition, incense sticks emit smoke equivalent to 500 cigarettes. Fireworks also contribute a lot in increasing the level of pollution. Opening of windows and doors is of great importance to remove indoor air pollution.
According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019, the economic loss due to untimely deaths related to air pollution is Rs 280000 crores per year, while in Maharashtra it is Rs 33000 crores per year.