Third in Bare Necessities- Zero Waste India’s series on SDGs in relation to zero waste, circular economy methodology and sustainability is Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being.
Air pollution is waste that seeps into all of us- quite literally- every time we take a breath. As populations grow in size more people are inhaling particles that are causing us harm. UNDP estimates that 7 million people die each year from fine air particles being inhaled from polluted air (1.2 million in India in 2017 alone, according to WWF). It’s time to embrace this as a challenge and find simple, everyday solutions to combat it. This is a situation that can- and needs to be- addressed by people who are a long way removed from day to day poverty. Similarly to the food waste conversation, discussed last week for SDG 2, the majority of waste (be that physical waste or emitted matter into the air) comes from people who live each day comfortably. This means that people living in this ‘comfortable’ position are capable of making a difference!
The situation, simply, is this: as the population living in cities increases and more and more people improve their livelihoods the dependence on cars and other forms of transport that pollute the air is increasing (in part because people are aspiring to use vehicles when their livelihood improves). Studies have highlighted that the way individuals travel needs to be changed to limit air pollution, the findings suggest that more sustainable solutions need to not only be found but utilised.
Positively, there are numerous examples of solutions being implemented around the world. For example, Melbourne in Australia is creating ‘20 minute neighbourhoods’ according to the World Economic Forum, which are designed to limit long commutes by car. This solution advocates that people live within 20 minutes of their workplace, medical facilities and schools, which means that people can easily commute by foot, bike or public transport. Other locations around the world, such as New York, Barcelona and Hamburg, are also implementing systems that work for their location in order to limit air pollution.
The high levels of energy and carbon pollution created in cities needs to be addressed within India and many other countries throughout Asia too as income levels of the average person in each country reaches par with countries such as Australia, the USA and many across Europe. Cities are, and need to be, leading the way especially in locations across Europe, the USA and Australia, yet, countries such as India are in a unique position. By implementing simple steps such as utilising public transport or creating 20 minute neighbourhoods, where possible, India can show themselves and the world what can be achieved by a maturing nation. Significantly, the Indian city of Pune already is providing a leading example.
To combat air pollution Pune is promoting the use of public transport, cycling or walking to work/ school. The city aims to make 80% of commutes sustainable by implementing simple steps such as creating new bike lanes and improving public transport options. Currently, India has 9 out of 10 cities in the top 10 most polluted cities in the world, according to WWF, Pune is showing already what can be achieved by finding simple, everyday sustainable solutions that value good health and well being of every individual within the city.