What comes to your mind when one says 'Warrior Moms'? Things like mothers who safeguard their children, mothers who nourish their children and many more pop up in your mind. But what if I say mothers who protect their children from rising air pollution which has hazardous health implications on children?
Yes, they call themselves 'Warrior Moms', a group of environmentally attentive mothers, banding together in a battle against air pollution. It is a pan-India campaign that was initiated on September 7, on the day of the International Day of Clean Air.
On the occasion of International Mother's Day, CitySpidey TV interviewed four warrior moms. Anuja Bali Karthikeyan from Pune, Midhili Ravikumar from
Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi, Bhavreen Kandhari from Delhi, and Anu Mukarji from Gurugram spoke about the group and their initiative.
We all are aware of the rising air pollution but very few take any action to control it. "Air pollution is a critical issue right now. I have been fighting for this cause since 1998-99. Every year the same cycle is repeated. The governments are fighting with each other with no conclusion. There will be a blame game, debates start from September till November and then finally in February, no one wants to hear about air pollution or anything related to the environment. This is how we become a part of this mechanism. But we are mothers, our concern is our children, their future, their lungs, which are getting damaged every second that they are breathing. So this is the time we have to get aggressive. It is like, you come home and your staff tells you that we fed poison to your child. How will you react? I mean, of course, you want to kill her, but then that's not what we do. Because our children are breathing poison. 'Warrior Moms' are not going to accept this. this will be our step to question our legislature and politicians," Kandhari from Delhi said.
Mukarji from Gurugram said, "Nothing concrete happened to control the pollution. From various rallies to implementing the odd-even scheme, nothing really happened. By the end of March, everybody forgets and again from September, the cycle starts with no final decision or effective way of dealing with the rising pollution. The AQI of Gurgaon is horrible. I face so much difficulty in breathing and this is what we are doing to our children. We are locking them up in our homes since we cannot let them play in this polluted air. So where is the future of my child? Everybody needs to join this movement, whether you are a mom or not, because our future generation is at stake. If they are going to breathe poison, they fill prey to such pandemics. They will not be able to sustain good health. People are getting affected by this pandemic because our immunity is low because of breathing polluted air. We just talk about the economy and development but what will the government do if there are no people or if everyone is in hospitals? If you don't give us basic air or clean air at 50-60 AQI throughout the year then what are we going to breathe? What will be our immunity?"
Karthikeyan, who had shifted from Gurgaon to Pune, said, "In 2010, Gurgaon was going through a lot of construction work in the name of infrastructural development. We shifted to Gurgaon in 2007 when my son was born. I have two children. One was born in Bombay and the other one in Gurgaon. We never experienced something so hazardous in terms of air pollution. Bombay is also polluted but Gurgaon has its unique kind of physical geographical location, as well as proximity to too many construction activities. Along with that, there were too many factories. When my son was 8 months old, he started wheezing. I was not able to figure out what was happening so we took him to the hospital and the doctor said that he is finding it difficult to breathe so they kept him under observation for a night. I had no idea what was going on. I thought to myself, 'I am educated, an aware citizen, talk about the environment then how come I was not able to figure out this situation? It took us two years to realise that Gurgaon and it's air will not change. When my child was 2-and-a-half, we shifted to Chennai and within one year his wheezing stopped. We did not give him any medications and there were no emergency or hospitals episodes. Until strong impactful steps are not taken for Gurgaon and Delhi-NCR, pollution will continue to grow. Stop blaming and start figuring out the steps to be taken."
It's not only Delhi or Gurgaon but most of the states in India are extremely polluted. "Every state has a different root of pollution. I belong to Bhopal and I visit it frequently. From what I have seen in Bhopal, dust is the major problem. Even though you clean your home a hundred times a day, it will continue to look like you have not cleaned it once in a century. Whereas in Pune there is a lot of greenery but when you go to the main roads then the vehicles' emissions makes it problematic for anyone to walk. Also, the construction of the Metro is one of the contributors here," Karthikeyan added.
Ravikumar, who has a masters degree in sustainability and pollution-related issues talked about a solution-related approach. "Growing up, pollution was never my concern. I just wanted to finish my education and start working. When I got married, I shifted to Mumbai and the first picture of Mumbai I have is of a slum. Then I moved to Bangalore. It was when I moved to these two cities that I started to understand the gravity of pollution. I would fall sick every month. I would need antibiotics then I would go for a second dose of antibiotics. I started showing signs of early ageing, and my hair started greying. But after I returned to Trivandrum, my health and my skin started improving. I can say from my personal experience that pollution can not only harm your physical health but your mental health as well. But then this is the price we have to pay for development. There were a couple of turning points for me. One was when my daughter was born and then when two of my family members were diagnosed with cancer. This happened in 2017 and we were not able to figure out how it happened to us. Because they were completely healthy people, they exercised, and ate well as well. I started reading about reasons behind their cancer. I realized how toxic particles were entering our body through air and water. I also understood the plight of little children undergoing chemotherapy treatments. I couldn't live with myself without revolting against pollution and with 'Warrior Moms', I found that platform. We are a tribe, we are deeply emphatic, and we are not just working for our children but for every single child in the country. In Kerala, I still don't feel the air quality is so bad, it's pretty good. But it's not the same in Bangalore and Mumbai. Now the population has increased as a lot of people burn their dry waste."
Kandhari, who lives in Delhi, added that there are laws but they are not enforced. She said that the government needs to own up and take more steps to control pollution. It is a common and shared responsibility. "Anyone and everyone in Delhi is suffering right now," she said.
The group is now getting support from all over the country. These warrior moms have proven that mothers can do anything when it comes to their children's health. We salute these 'Warrior Moms'.