It’s hard to miss the giant pair of black lungs staring down at you on Old Madras Road in Bengaluru.
Installed at Sampurna Montfort College, when they were first installed, these giant lungs were white in colour. Now, they are black.
And they could be representative about hat your own lungs are being subjected to, thanks to the air pollution in the city.
An initiative by Jhatkaa, a campaigning organisation, this structure was installed on January 29, 2018.
Day 1 (before installation)
The lungs are made out of HEPA filters, which is also the material used in face masks, Avijit Michael, Managing Trustee of Jhatkaa, tells TNM. They also have exhaust fans inside them to pull the air in from outside.
“By day 3, the lungs were grey. And now, it’s been a little over three weeks; they’ve turned black. In a couple of days, they will be opaque and black,” he says.
Increasing air pollution, little awareness
Bengaluru is grappling with an air pollution problem. As TNM had reported earlier:
“According to an IANS report, between 8.30 am and 10.30 am, the particulate pollution levels between Banashankari to Marathahalli varied from 70-800 micrograms per cubic meter, an alarming high number.”
A recent independent study called ‘Bengaluru's Rising Air Quality Crisis: The Need for Sustained Reportage and Action’ also found that during peak traffic hours in the city, the particulate matter in the air is toxic.
Avijit says that Jhatkaa also spoke to doctors and found that the incidence of lung and heart disease was on a rise due to the deteriorating air quality in the city.
“We realised that while there is awareness, it is theoretical. People don’t really understand the real health hazards that affect them. So we decided to set up a visual representation of what pollution can do to them,” Avijit explains.
That’s how the faux lungs were born.
The bigger picture
Avijit realises that creating awareness is not actually going to reduce air pollution.
“We have been working with the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, convincing them to remove older buses which cause more pollution and replacing them with new ones. The tender has been given, but it’s taking time,” he says, “Another issue is garbage burning. We got Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike Joint Commissioner Sarfaraz Khan to be on board to prevent it as well.”
He admits, however, that due to a combination of factors, such as a lack of political will and red tape, these efforts have not paid off as well as they would have hoped.
Once the installation has turned completely black, the Jhatkaa team intends to take it down and use it to spread awareness. It will be replaced by a fresh set of faux lungs.