Cycle-rickshaws to lead ‘care for air’ plan

Patna (Story – Matters India): Your cycle-rickshaw-puller will soon take up the fight against air pollution. After all, not only do rickshaw-pullers work all day on the streets, they mostly sleep on pavements at night.

When you take out your purse to pay your fare after a rickshaw ride, don’t be surprised if the rickshaw-puller fishes out a cardboard leaf bearing information about air pollution and its harmful effects. He might even request you to list your name, addr-ess and sign on a paper.

Signatures will be presented to the minister of environment and forests in the state, petitioning him to take strict steps to curb air pollution in Patna, which has 20 lakh residents and is India’s second most polluted city, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) data.

The Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED) launched its “Care for Air” campaign by roping in 200 rickshaw-pullers on Thursday to spread awareness about air pollution and build up pressure on the government to act.

“We chose rickshaw-pullers as ambassadors as they are the ones most affected by air pollution,” said CEED programme manager Ankita Jyoti. Her colleague Naveen Mishra said: “We are also trying to provide them masks to save them from “respirable suspended particulate matter’ (RSPM).”

The campaign, introduced in collaboration with Samman Foundation, a civil-society organisation working for the welfare of rickshaw-pullers, will run for a month, The Telegraph reported.

“We are aiming at collecting one lakh names and signatures over the next month,” Jyoti said. “We will submit them to the concerned minister and Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) on February 29 and request them to take suitable action.” The organisers are providing health insurance cover of Rs 1.5 lakh to the rickshaw-pullers.

“We suffer from burning sensation in our eyes, nose and throats daily,” said Krishna Prasad Gupta, a 44-year-old rickshaw-puller. “Many of our brothers suffer different lung ailments.”

RSPM level in Patna is several times higher than the permissible 60 micrograms per cubic metre of air. “The reason is unchecked construction without measures in place to check emanating dust and respirable particles and use of diesel engines,” BSPCB chairman Subhash Chandra Singh said.

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