Close on the heels of the Union Budget allocating Rs 4400 cores towards 'clean air', comes the heartening news of politicians across parties in Delhi pledging to work for Clean Air
There can be no better time to get a politician to commit to higher standards, than just before an election.
The Dilli Dhadakne Do campaign, which has focused on community engagement and awareness for clean air, has done precisely this. Engaged with election candidates, voters and citizen groups. The campaign is an outcome of the frustration citizens have had with the massive , seemingly intractable pollution issues of the city, where even maintaining status quo has become an achievement.
The campaign has been orchestrated by a group of non-profits mostly, that have come together on a common platform, called Help Delhi Breathe.
Two Lakh people have come together over the last two months to demand for clean air. As the heat around elections rises, join the conversation with our expert panelists to take this conversation around air pollution forward!!🌍#DilliDhadakneDo pic.twitter.com/ZoVEvL6vAf
— HelpDelhiBreathe (@DelhiBreathe) February 5, 2020
Their Clean Air Manifesto gradually turned into a citizen-led movement to petition election candidates to work for clean air. Citizens of Delhi visited 30 different locations across the sprawling metro to speak to people about their experiences with pollution, to share information and their own stories, and to ask people to ‘vote’ symbolically, for a Delhi with clean air. The Clean Air Manifesto, prepared by citizens groups, with 9 solutions for a less polluted city was also shared. 1.9 lakh ‘votes’ were collected for clean air from the 30 constituencies. Voters included sanitation workers, rickshaw drivers, young mothers, RWA members.
Finally, in 48 different constituencies, 48 different political leaders from the AAP, BJP and Congress parties pledged to work for clean air. The three are the key parties locked in the fight to administer the city state after elections on February 8. Townhalls to spread the message were attended by representatives from all the major parties, who talked about their commitment to air quality solutions. Eventually, 48 candidates of 25 assembly seats across all parties supported the initiative. Chief signatories among them are Krishana Tirath, Sandeep Tanwar and Shivani Chopra from Congress, Vikram Bidhuri, Anil Sharma, from BJP, Raghav Chadda, Parveen Kumar and Saurabh Bhardwaj from AAP.
“For the BJP, air pollution is a priority. We have already started with the smog towers in the city. Logon ko saaf hawa, saaf pani, saaf road, saaf nali, this is our promise” , said the BJP candidate in Vikaspuri. The Congress candidate from Mangolpuri, Rajesh Lilothia urged people to take up the cause: “This campaign that you have run, Dilli Dhadakne Do is a worthwhile cause, and an important one. You have my full support for working on clean air, and I urge my Congress colleagues to support this cause in their constituencies.”
During the launch of the Clean Air Manifesto in January, Ghanendra Bharadwaj of AAP said “We don’t blame farmers, we blame governments for inaction. We have made all efforts to curb pollution in our territory and have decreased pollution by 25%. If this year we are elected, we intend to reduce air pollution and fulfill our promises made to the people of Delhi.”
With the increased public pressure and media attention on air pollution this year, all three major parties have included air pollution as one of their key points in the party manifestos. Congress has pledged to use 25% of their annual budget to work on Delhi’s air, bringing in 15,000 electric buses. They have also committed to zero waste from government and private offices, and a fund for stubble-to-energy technologies. The BJP has focused on their network of air purifiers and public transport. They will be promoting electric vehicles and solar energy as an alternative to coal thermal power plants. AAP’s manifesto promises to plant crores of trees in the city, tackle the pollution from the Yamuna and reduce the overall level of emissions in the city.
With parties finally using the right words, here’s hoping the right actions will follow soon. Delhi’s citizens must keep up the pressure.