Chandigarh, Jan 14 (IANS) In the run up to the assembly polls in Punjab, Clean Air Punjab -- a group of organisations, think tanks and civil society groups along with EcoSikh, on Friday asked all the political parties to include clean air in their poll manifestos.
On behalf of Clean Air Punjab, Gurpreet Singh of the Punjab Development Forum and Director of United Sikhs submitted a dossier containing the recommendations to Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Daljit Cheema, AAP legislator Aman Arora and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Pratap Bajwa.
"Punjab needs a strong leader who can implement structural reforms and revise policies to improve the air quality of all cities in the state," Gurpreet Singh said.
"Our state wants its leaders to lead by example and present answers to the air pollution crisis, which impacts the health of the people."
He said the generation is being choked by air pollution, which has resulted in a high number of deaths.
According to statistics, Punjab had 41,090 deaths in 2019, accounting for roughly 19 per cent of the state's total mortality.
Indu Aurora, Vice President, Voice of Amritsar, said this was for the first time that all political parties competing against each other were discussing air pollution at length.
"We will hold the new administration accountable for their promises," she said, adding she herself is a witness to the deteriorating air quality in Punjab and it is high time that those who get voted into power should take on the responsibility to ensure that the air "we breathe" is clean and proper checks are implemented to ensure a cleaner future for the next generation.
Clean Air Punjab has been conducting meetings in cities and was successful in ensuring that 2021 was the first time in the state when the air pollution was highlighted through different citizen campaigns across Punjab.
"Citizens of Punjab along with citizen groups, air quality experts and health practitioners have been successful in building a momentum, which has resulted in clean air and its impact on public health becoming a pressing issue for politicians who were earlier oblivious of the air pollution problem. We are now sure they will not be able to ignore it any further," said Anju Chabbra of EcoSikh.
According to global estimates, the air pollution is one of the most serious environmental issues confronting India today, and it is regarded as a major cause of countless deaths.
Punjab has reason to be concerned: the National Clean Air Action Plan lists nine non-attainment or million-plus cities in the state. A city that does not fulfil the Union Environment Ministry's specified air quality requirements is known as a non-attainment city.