Interviews

Government needs to develop an Independent Taskforce for Air Pollution under the Swatch Bharat Campaign

Jai-Dhar-Gupta

Believes, Nirvana Being Founder, Jai Dhar Gupta, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and is on the South Asia Board for the Entrepreneurs Organisation(EO).

A strong believer of the fact that ‘awareness precedes change,’ together with concerned citizens and NGOs, he has initiated 2 different Citizens movement – My Right to Breathe and Help Delhi Breathe – to raise awareness about Air Pollution and garner support for change, amongst the residents of Delhi NCR and the rest of Urban India.

 

He has also worked with the Delhi Government air pollution task force, chaired by Delhi Health Minister, Satyendra Jain.

 He is very visible spokesperson on the subject of air pollution and has done a lot of work to spread awareness in India & Nepal. Jai Dhar Gupta,in conversation with Ekta Srivastava, Health Technology

What is the most distressing aspect of air pollution that is being overlooked?

The good news is that over the past 3 years there has been a lot of awareness about the state of our air.  This year, in fact, the Indian Medical Association, led by a group of leading doctors came forward and tagged Delhi unlivable.  While we’re down the road of awareness, not much has been done to reverse air pollution.

The distressing aspect is the myths around air pollution as well as the lack of expertise.  Firstly, I have heard innumerable times conversations around planting trees to reduce air pollution – on a per capita basis, Delhi is still one of the greenest cities in the World.  The real problem is our bad habits and the lack enforcement of regulations.  We do what is convenient, or what has become convenient over the years.

Our Pollution Boards have been advising our political leaders that Delhi’s problem is dust – not at all – dust never killed anyone – Delhi’s problem is PM2.5, nano-particles due to combustion that are a carcinogen and will lead to cancer.  On a good day, the levels of PM2.5 are 1000% of safe levels in Delhi, on bad days its north of 10,000%.  In the warmer months of March, April, September and October, a combination of ground level ozone and PM2.5 is lethal.

So, it is a lack of understanding – Government, Corporate and Citizens – which is distressing.

Does use of air purifiers at home and in offices limit the impact of air pollution or does it only bring a false sense of security?

There are 2 types of air purifiers, active purifiers which come with active technologies like plasmacluster, ionizers and/or UV lamps and passive purifiers which only pass the air through a HEPA filter and a carbon filter.  I recommend passive air purifiers as they come without side effects.  Air purifiers do help with improving the air quality in a micro environment – the HEPA filter cleans the particulates and the carbon filter sweeps all the odours and gases from the air.

While air purifiers do help in the near term while we work on broader change, one of the problems with air purifiers is that it creates a carbon dioxide problem. Since, you need to be in a closed room for an air purifier to clean the air, over time, with each breath, the concentration of carbon dioxide increases in the room. You must have ventilation in areas where a lot of people work or sleep in a confined space – to replenish the oxygen levels.

How much areas these purifiers cover of put in a room and what kind of pollutants they kill?

You have air purifiers of different sizes with varying CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate).  You need an air purifier that does 6-7 air changes of the entire volume of air every hour to be effective.  You must buy the right sized machine or else the purifier will either be ineffective, if undersized, or you’ll be paying extra, if oversized.

All you need is an air purifier with a good pre-filter (this is washable and extends the life of your HEPA filter), a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter.  The pre-filter sweeps for the bigger particles, HEPA the PM2.5 down to 0.3 microns and the carbon filters all the odours and gases.

Fine, we are using these purifiers in home but what about outside areas, how we are going to save our family from the air which is affecting most?

Once outdoors, a good, washable, reusable mask with a N99 certified filter is the only possible protection.  Focus should be on comfort and fit as well.  Be aware that surgical masks are not pollution masks and don’t filter inhaled air.  A lot of masks claim to be certified, I recommend buying CE certified masks that are FFP2 R certified – the highest certification for personal protective equipment.  The R stands for reusable.

What do you think government and other organizations should do to combat the pollution?

The Government needs to develop an independent taskforce for Air Pollution under the Swatch Bharat campaign, with some clear measureable milestones to reverse air pollution, at its source.  Through regulation and enforcement we need to reduce our dependence on dirty fuels and enforce standards for vehicular emissions, Industrial emissions, better waste management, crop burning, open cremation, construction dust, etc.

Corporate and individuals instead of feeling helpless or doing what is convenient, need to reduce their carbon footprint and question every decision/action – buy local, don’t buy disposable single serve items(especially drinking water), ditch diesel, save energy, focus on solar/renewable, etc.

 

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