From persistent coughs, asthmatic attacks, and lung cancers to kidney and liver malfunctions, and mental illnesses, air pollution is a contributor to all these disorders. Measured in terms of life expectancy, particulate matter is the most harmful pollutant and the greatest threat to human life in India, taking 5.3 years off the life of an average Indian, according to studies.
A unique photo exhibition “Breathless Pune”, organised by Pune Air Action Hub, aims to shed light on these harmful effects of air pollution. It is scheduled to be held from January 18 to January 22.
“Each photograph has a story about the impact of air pollution on the daily lives of Pune’s citizens, serving as a visual call to action,” says Sharmila Deo, Senior Programme Associate, Parisar – a city-based environmental organisation.
Deo, a member of the Pune Air Action Hub, told The Indian Express that the collection of photographs would highlight the sources of pollution and urge viewers to deliberate on the solutions. “Through the lens of talented photographers, the exhibition captures the struggle of residents against the backdrop of smog-filled skies and masked faces,” Deo added.
Activists and many others are appalled at how Pune, a city known for its rich cultural heritage and educational institutions, is now grappling with a different kind of legacy – one of deteriorating air quality.
“The sources of air pollution in Pune are diverse, ranging from vehicular emissions and industrial activities, to construction dust, and biomass burning. These pollutants not only cloud the skyline but also seep into our lungs, causing a range of health issues, from respiratory problems to cardiovascular diseases,” Dr Aparna Birjadar, consultant pulmonologist and a member of Pune Air Action Hub, said.
Pune is one of the 131 non-attainment cities in India which has an air action plan under the National Clean Air Programme. The Pune Municipal Corporation was allotted funds worth Rs 300 crore through the 15th Finance Commission for improving its air quality.
“While the exhibition serves as a powerful testament to the severity of the issue, it also seeks to inspire change. One cannot ignore the urgency of addressing the root causes of air pollution and advocating for sustainable practices and policies that prioritise environmental health. It is a call to collectively work towards engaging with the right solutions and ensuring that the funds are being utilised for effective steps to mitigate pollution,” an organiser at Pune Air Action Hub said.
The organisers of the exhibition have invited citizens, policymakers, youth, medical fraternity, and environmental enthusiasts to engage in a dialogue about air pollution and its implications. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about local initiatives working towards cleaner air and sustainable urban development, they said.
Additionally, experts in the field will conduct sessions on the impact of air pollution on health and ways to mitigate its effects. “Citizens can play a pivotal role by making informed choices in their daily lives – from opting for public transportation to reducing energy consumption,” Deo said adding that beyond the captivating visuals, the exhibition serves as a wake-up call for every citizen to take responsibility for the air we breathe.
“Join us in this crucial conversation, as together we strive for a Pune where every breath is a testament to our determination to stand united in the fight against air pollution,” Deo said.
Breathless Pune exhibition
When: January 18 to 22
Time: 11 am to 7 pm
Where: Darpan Art Gallery, Kala Chaya, Patra