Dr. Asangba Tzudir
Agents of change or destruction
Set by United Nations Environment Programme, the theme for this year’s World Environment day is ‘Air Pollution’ considering the fact that approximately 7 million people worldwide die prematurely each year from air pollution, with about 4 million of these deaths occurring in Asia-Pacific. Added to this, it is estimated that 92% of people worldwide do not breathe clean air, and even the ground-level ozone pollution is expected to reduce staple crop yields by 26% by 2030.
Researches on air pollution have been showing worrying trends on what the air contains and how it affects health thereby creating serious health emergencies. The worst affected are children and also the poorer sections of people who are affected in various ways. But on the whole, the right to clean air being a human right is embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and this comes with a call for responsibility for the global citizenry urging the governments, industry, communities, and individuals to come together to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve air quality in cities and regions across the world.
In our own yard, various forms of ‘developments’ and other related activities have reduced trees and forest and the only way out is to plant trees. Time flies by with the tick of the clock, and observing it makes it more alarming that time passed by cannot be brought back. Likewise, educational institutions and various offices can install air quality monitors to make people aware of the kind of air they are breathing, which would make them aware about the consequences of the actions that are often unconsciously or carelessly done, but which pollutes the air.
The government can also put into effect air quality action plans having identified pollution sources, and also invest in renewable energy sources. Phasing out petrol and diesel-based cars is also another option especially in crowded and traffic congested cities like Kohima and Dimapur.
The social groups and civil societies can also come together and organise tree plantation drives and make it an annual event, and also make a commitment not to burn trash.
On the individual level, there are many things that can be done about the quality of air that we breathe, and it begins with small things through a change in mindsets, and also by embracing the environment. We cannot be both agents of change as well as agents of destruction under different circumstances and the present situation requires each and every individual to become agents of change with a sense of civic sensibility and a pledge to be responsible. As agents at the heart of air pollution, we cannot stop breathing but we can do something about the quality of air that we breathe.
(Dr. Asangba Tzudir writes a weekly guest editorial for The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to email@example.com)