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Enough is enough: Indian-led 'warrior moms' rally to combat air pollution and bring back clean air

Enough is enough: Indian-led 'warrior moms' rally to combat air pollution and bring back clean air
An ideation and action-oriented group that goes beyond language barriers, demographic differences and geographical boundaries, Warrior Moms is a 'Mothers For Clean Air' initiative. They unite in the fight against a shared adversary — toxic air.

Their collective efforts are aimed at combating air pollution and creating a healthier environment for all.

In September 2020, mothers from various parts of India, who are united in their efforts to ensure that children have the fundamental right to breathe unpolluted air, came together on the inaugural UN International Day of Clean Air and Blue Skies.

"If one suffers, everyone does. Therefore, it was time to band together and not only be the change, but demand change as well," says Bhavreen Kandhari, co-founder of Warrior Moms.

Warrior Moms are committed to fighting the battle for clean air for all children by raising awareness about the sources of air pollution and climate change, educating and empowering citizens to take action, and actively engaging with decision-makers to enforce regulations.

With their rallying war cry, 'Enough is Enough', the Warrior Moms raise their collective voices to bring back clean air for children.

"As mothers, the common pledge that most of us took when our child entered this world was to protect them and provide the best of everything we could afford. The best schools, the best food, the best facilities, and the best healthcare. When the very air we breathe starts choking us and causing various health ailments, it is time to step up, raise our voices for the future of our country and the well-being of our families," Kandhari said.

Warrior mothers inspire and educate fellow moms about their legal rights, encouraging them to report any infringement.

"It's called 'Know Your Rights!'" Kandhari explained. The group takes a proactive approach in their actions, but they are also willing to engage in advocacy whenever the need arises, without hesitation.

"Our emphasis is placed on the rigorous implementation of laws that are in place to promote clean air. This includes various aspects such as preventing tree felling, discouraging waste burning, controlling the use of fireworks, reducing vehicular emissions, managing construction dust, improving waste management practices, and regulating thermal power plants," she said.

The mission of Warrior Moms is to guarantee the implementation of air quality standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) across India.

They achieve this by demanding accountability from the public and private authorities regarding plans to reduce air pollution, collaborating with relevant stakeholders to promote proven cost-effective solutions, and expanding the movement by empowering more mothers to join and make a significant impact.

"As more studies keep coming in from around the world, we are realising the sheer scale of the damage done to the country," Kandhari said.

"As mothers learning of these health impacts and seeing that India has higher rates than the world in almost all of them, it motivates us not only when and if our children are sick, but also to worry about their future health," Kandhari said, adding that the analogy of air pollution to cigarettes is particularly poignant when in some cities it is estimated that children breathe in the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day when the smog sets in.

Kandhari expressed that as mothers, learning of the health consequences associated with these issues and observe that India has higher rates of such impacts compared to global standards, it serves as a strong motivation.

"Our concern extends not only to our children's immediate health when they fall ill but also to their long-term well-being," she said.

Delhi-NCR, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are the states where they (Warrior Moms) are currently active.

"Environment violations in my opinion equal human rights violations," said Nina Subramani, a documentary filmmaker and teacher, who has consistently centered her films on the inherent connection between humanity and the environment.

As an educator, she actively engages in conversations with her students about environmental concerns, emphasising the importance of understanding and addressing these issues.

When the COVID-19 pandemic initially struck India and the nation underwent a lockdown on March 24, 2020, the cacophony of vehicles honking was replaced by the pleasant chirping of birds. During this time, there was a noticeable improvement in air quality, and the discharge of sewage and industrial waste into rivers decreased.

"During the lockdown, the improvement in air quality was strikingly apparent. One didn't need to rely on Air Quality Index (AQI) readings or reports to perceive the change. It was visible, noticeable through the sense of smell, and palpable while breathing. It became evident that the environment experienced significant improvement due to factors such as reduced traffic congestion on the roads, among others," Subramani said.

It was during this period that Subramani became actively involved with Warrior Moms, recognising the heightened significance of joining together and discussing the impact of air pollution on our lives.

"I felt that it was more crucial than ever to unite with like-minded individuals and raise awareness about this pressing issue," she said.

In today's world, with the widespread availability of social media platforms, information has the ability to spread rapidly, often resembling a rumour. People consume various types of news and unfortunately, sometimes fall victim to misinformation. When it comes to the climate crisis, there is a notable lack of awareness, and false information persists and continues to spread.

Despite being only three years old, Warrior Moms is making consistent progress each day, driven by their goal to raise awareness and advocate for policy changes. They are committed to taking proactive steps towards their mission, recognising the importance of generating awareness and working towards policy reforms.


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