A vareity of organizations in Pune are coming together to work on the issue of air pollution, and have formed an informal coalition. We spoke with Sanskriti Menon (CEE) and Ranjit Gadgil (Parisar) to learn more:
How did the idea of setting up a city coalition come about?
Several local groups in Pune are concerned about and working on air pollution. Most groups are working on various environmental issues, governance issues etc and see air pollution and the efforts to address it as being very important and linked to the issues they are working on.
There is also recognition that different civil society groups bring different knowledge, perspectives and strengths to act. This has been our experience of working with each other on diverse issues, and holds good for air quality too.
What kinds of organizations are involved in the Coalition?
CEE (Centre for Environment Education) that has been involved in air quality (AQ) communications with Pune Municipal Corporation earlier, and is now developing a health communications programme with NRDC and IIPH, along with Parisar, an advocacy group working on sustainable transport, urban planning and governance. Hinjawadi Residents Welfare Association (HIRWA) and other residents’ associations, the Pune International Centre, a local think tank, Samuchit Envirotech, and other groups have been actively working on different aspects of air quality and related issues.
Are there specific objectives related to the Coalition’s work portfolio?
Broadly the aim is to ensure that the air quality in the city improves through a combination of interventions by the government, industry, civil society and communities as well as individuals. The advocacy focus is around institutional actors developing a sound information base, a good plan to address air pollution with locally relevant mitigation actions. We also hope to create greater awareness about the issue, and an understanding of what can be done to improve the situation – how to avoid exposure as well as how to reduce air pollution.
We believe that Air Quality Management and Climate Change response requires multi-stakeholder approaches. While governments at various levels have responsibilities, this alone is not enough. An informed, engaged and responsive public that demands, supports and contributes to the required actions is essential.
The work by civil society organizations is helping get rich insights, and we want to consolidate and converge these efforts too. For example, in May 2019, CEE and Parisar conducted a rapid survey of perceptions and understanding about air pollution, which can help inform awareness future efforts.
The residents association in Hinjawadi has installed monitors with the help of CEEW, as they have been facing waste burning. They decided to use this citizens’ science approach to make the point, and bring the severe situation to the notice of the pollution control board. CEE is also developing students action projects to explore air pollution sources.
What are the top three air quality concerns in Pune?
Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5) is one of the key concerns. Inadequate awareness and understanding about health impacts and studies for the same, lack of actionable information and the absence of a clear plan of action to tackle the problem are also concerns.
What are the next steps for the Coalition?
Currently the coalition is having meetings with experts and trying to enhance its understanding about the problem, policy gaps and what approaches have worked in other cities/countries.
Later, apart from advocating for a robust action plan to be prepared by the pollution control board and the city government, we also hope to support interested neighbourhood groups to develop their own community action plans to address local sources like waste burning, explore whether biomass burning for water heating could be changed to biogas, take up greening etc. Air quality improvement actions are connected to issues some of us are already working on, such as mobility, waste management, greening etc, as well as approaches such as action projects by schools, colleges and residents’ associations. The lens of air quality and health impacts provides an additional dimension to these efforts.
“Pune and Punekars have to take the responsibility for invisible pollutants, especially greenhouse gases too.”Prof Amitav Mallik, Pune International Centre
Can other organizations join the Coalition? How?
It is an open and informal coalition, any organization/ individual/ groups concerned about air pollution and its impacts can join and interact. Currently convenings happen informally and through the network of groups.
Interested individuals and organizations may get in touch with us via Sanskriti Menon and Parisar .