A personal narrative on air pollution

The following is an open letter from a mother of two who lives in the Delhi-NCR region. Her story is likely to resonate with many of you.

My name is Dr. R. Sharma. I am a mother of two and a doctor by profession. In 2017, I noticed that my younger child was developing cough around the months of the festival Diwali. After 15 days of dry cough, they suddenly devolved acute respiratory distress and I contacted a pulmonologist. He told me that my child had developed bronchitis due to high pollution level (at that time, AQI was ~600).

We started oral medication as well as nebulisation , and after a month of continuous medication, there was only 50% improvement. Then, I decided to send them to my parental village in the hope of clean air. There was a drastic improvement in their respiratory symptoms even without medication and when they came back to the city (Ghaziabad), they again developed similar respiratory symptoms. Around the same time, my other child also developed similar respiratory symptoms . Since the last six months, both of my kids are on medication. I am depressed due to this situation and now I have decided to move from NCR with my kids. My husband has to stay in the city for his job, so I am moving with the kids. 

The major source of pollution in the area around my residence is a number of  polluting factories. I contacted relevant authorities including the DM’s office and CM’ s office in Lucknow but no satisfactory action has been undertaken.

In closing, I want to say that in coming years this will be the major problem for our coming generations. Uncontrolled industrialization and urbanization will lead to an  epidemic of major diseases like lung cancer , bronchitis, asthma, autism etc. The list is never ending. Our next generation will have to pay a heavy price for this nightmare.

This is my sad pollution story . #RightToBreathe

Resources on information related to the impact of air pollution on children’s health:

Air pollution and children’s health [download pdf]

UNICEF Reports on the Impact of Air Pollution on Children

Find Dr. Sharma on Twitter.

Do you have a story to tell? Get in touch!

How do residents of Delhi perceive air pollution?

In 2016, Clean Air Asia- India launched the Youth for Clean Air Network (YCAN) as a voluntary platform to engage young people in finding solutions for better air quality in Indian cities. YCan is involved primarily in evidence based advocacy and finding local innovative solutions to meet the challenge of air pollution.

In April 2017, the group undertook a survey across Delhi (1500 respondents across four zones) to understand people’s understanding and perceptions on air pollution.

A few excerpts from the survey report:

Prarthana Borah, Director, Clean Air Asia-India:

“In fact, it was interesting that people connected pollution to traffic immediately but very few talked about waste and transboundary issues. Also, pollution and its impacts were more familiar to people who had a direct impact from it like roadside tea stall owners, auto rickshaw drivers and women who used traditional cookstoves.

With regard to health impacts more people could make a connection especially because itchy eyes and cough are becoming more and more common for them in Delhi.”

From Anirudh, a YCAN volunteer:

“In the Haiderpur area most respondents live in slums. They identified waste burning as a huge issue that causes air pollution. But, when authorities came to the area to oppose the practice, residents of the area resisted as there were no other waste disposal options.”

The full report is available for download  > Public Perception Survey Report_CAA 2017-18 or you can access it online.

News coverage (2017)   

50 students hit streets to study Delhi air quality

US embassy, students promote air quality awareness in Delhi