A coalition of like-minded environment groups held an inaugural function in Bengaluru on Friday, making it the first Indian city to participate in the global BreatheLife campaign. An initiative by the World Health Organisation, UN Environment, Climate and Clean Air Coalition, BreatheLife campaign aims to mobilise citizens to bring air pollution to safe levels by 2030, and has a network of 55 cities, regions and countries worldwide.
Kicking off the campaign in Bengaluru, D Randeep, BBMP's Additional Commissioner for Public Health, along with the 'Healthy Air Coalition' of European non-profit Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL), and Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), announced the setting up of 40 air quality monitoring units at different places in the city. Of these, 15 are already functional.
“We are happy to support initiatives that improve air quality and enhance the quality of life in the city. Bengaluru is the first major Indian city to join the global BreatheLife Campaign, in collaboration with the WHO. We are committed to improve the air quality in the city. Access to data is key in understanding air quality and the availability of data on a centralised platform that is open to the public is the need of the hour. We have extended our support to the initiative and are keen to understand the necessary interventions possible at the local level for improving the health of the public,” said D Randeep at the event held at St John's Research Institute.
The network of 15 monitors already in place was set up by HEAL, in collaboration with St John’s Research Institute at Brigade Road, Mathikere, MS Ramaiah City, St John's Research Institute, BBMP Head Office, Bannerghatta Road, Indiranagar, Sarjapur, Ulsoor, Doddanekundi, Banashankari, Springfield Society, JC Road, Basavangudi and Srirampura Referral Hospital.
"Air pollution planning and mitigation in the country has been largely limited to improving, monitoring and data collection with very little emphasis on the associated health impacts,” said Aishwarya Sudhir, Air Quality Program Lead, HEAL. “If the data needs to translate into action, the health sector needs to step in as an important stakeholder in addressing the issue of air pollution in the city and we believe that, through this initiative, we will be able to prioritise public health and place it at the centre of air quality planning and mitigation in the city.”
Live air quality readings from each location which has a monitoring device are available at healthyaircoalition.org.
The devices have been installed at a time vehicular population on Bengaluru roads is increasing. A 2012 study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) stated that there were 68 lakh vehicles on the city's roads. However, recent estimates suggest that the number of vehicles in Bengaluru has crossed 80 lakh. The Karnataka government's proposed elevated corridor project has also come under criticism from environmentalists and residents who say it facilitates personal vehicles over public transport.