Spotlight: #LetMeBreathe

#LetMeBreathe is an independent pollution storytelling platform, which tells stories that otherwise mainstream media won’t tell. It has no agenda or bias, it provides space to document and tell stories of living and surviving air pollution in India. It started out as a hashtag used by Delhiites while uploading their videologs documenting their days of high pollution but over time has quickly developed into a pan India movement.

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LMB’s Facebook and Twitter pages act as a catalogue of all the videos it has received from across India. LMB combines the ethics of mobile journalism, reach of social media with public engagement at its core. All the stories submitted are by ordinary folks or shot by our creators, using nothing but their mobile phones.

Influencers and creators range from Entrepreneurs in Delhi, Resident Welfare Association (RWA) leaders, Non-Profits, policy makers to people surviving pollution everyday in the ‘power hub of India’ Singrauli (Uttar Pradesh) and students in Gangtok (Sikkim). Some of these stories have already been picked up by big national media houses such as NDTV, regional publications such as North east today and UN Environment as well as citizen initiatives such as YouthKiAwaaz.

A short Q&A with Tamseel Hussain, who is leading the platform:

What was the motivation for this platform?

The platform started out as a hashtag used by Delhiites making their own vlogs to document high air pollution. In October 2017, when Delhi was covered in smog, we noticed that a lot of people were worried, But no one knew what to do, and there was no central place where people could tell their story.

Our team consists of mobile journalists, social media experts and public engagement junkies so crowdsourcing is key to what we do.

What has been your biggest learning after interactions with citizens/experts on air pollution?

The key aspect that we spent time on during the initial phase was to convince people that we are not agenda driven and these stories have no call to actions. They present facts and leave the decision making on the user. We realized that India today, especially millennials and Generation Z is moving faster towards doing rather than thinking and talking. By doing more, they are learning more and sharing more.We noticed that the narrative we see in mainstream media or in the civil society bubble is very different when it comes to ordinary citizens finding solutions and learning out of them. If one compares the climate change narrative of 2005 to the current pollution and environment narrative of 2018 – it’s a different world now. Another thing we noticed is that citizen action is at an all-time high, from RWAs to entrepreneurs people want to take action and seek solutions a faster pace.

Apart from visible catastrophes, social media and mobile phones have given more power to the average, it has created a better learning curve for people where they spend more time in debating and understanding the depth of pressing issues.

For example: Last week we asked two people (Abhimanyu and Anurag) who go plogging regularly in Delhi to go live on our facebook page and answer queries on plogging post the conversation, we noticed in their next clean up drive they had partnered with SDMC – where using a mobile phone, they asked tough questions to the SDMC representative on longer term solutions to waste instead of dumping the trash collected from one area going to another.

What’s next for the platform?

We want to create a web platform and ensure more stories reach out to people via search and simplifies storytelling for them. We will be conducting mobile storytelling workshops in more areas and accessing smaller towns since the way we tell stories breaks language barriers We will also be looking at engaging decision makers to enable an informed conversation between young people and people in power.

How can people get involved?

Simply follow or like any of our pages on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and reach out to us or just share your story. The power of #LetMeBreathe is that anyone and everyone doing anything on pollution can tell their story and reach out to more people.

We hope these stories help people make informed decisions when it comes to pollution.

 

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