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ESG Webinar Series on Tackling Air PollutionEventsIssue in FocusPopularWebinars

ESG Webinar Series on Tackling Air Pollution

The webinars will be livestreamed on ESG’s Facebook page.

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Bengaluru is amongst the most polluted cities in India as per the air quality Index. With an astonishing increase in private modes of transport due to poor public transport options, the widespread burning of waste, massive construction activities across the metropolis, the  city’s air quality has substantially  deteriorated over the years. This has had a direct impact on public health indicated by increased incidences of respiratory allergies, infections and other respiratory diseases,  which are chronic and complex. A range of cardio-vascular and other complications are also showing up even in younger populations. 

Air Quality Index (AQI)  value over 100 is considered moderately severe, something which may cause difficulties in people with breathing problems, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Many studies indicate air pollution levels in Bengaluru have crossed levels the World Health Organisation determines as acceptable.  

AQI is measured on a scale of zero to 500; higher the AQI, worse the air pollution level and its health impacts. Studies indicate Bengaluru has moderately high AQI across parts of the city, and it is quite  unhealthy in a few. This serious problem requires urgent action. 

The Revised Action plan for Control of Air Pollution in Bengaluru City has a 44 point agenda with responsibilities allotted to various agencies to respond with effective action, for which  funds are also allocated.  But in all of these factors, there is absolutely no attention paid directly to attending the healthy requirements of the poor and working classes, who are most at risk and constitute about half the metropolis’s 14 million population.


Second Webinar: Right to Clean Environment

6th April 2023, Thursday
6.00 pm – 8.00 pm

The webinar report and video will be available soon.

On 28th July 2022, the UN General Assembly unanimously resolved “the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right”, noting that “the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is related to other rights and existing international law”.  It further affirmed that promotion of this  right “requires the full implementation of the multilateral environmental agreement under the principles of international environmental law” and to secure which it called upon “States, international organisations, business enterprises and other relevant stakeholders to adopt policies, to enhance international cooperation, strengthen capacity-building and continue to share good practices in order to scale up efforts to ensure a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for all”.[1] 

The leak of Methyl Isocyanide from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal in the wee hours of the 2nd/3rd December 1984 killed thousands; and hundreds of thousands continue to suffer from the terrible consequences of the disaster (over 5,60,000 suffer by some estimates).  Yet, despite multiple efforts, victims and their families have failed to secure rightful and just compensation. The Supreme Court closed the possibility altogether recently.[2]  This raises questions about the utility of the Right to Clean Environment being an intrinsic part of Article 21 – the Right to Life, incorporated in Indian law by the 1988 Supreme Court decision in the Dehradun Quarrying Case.[3] 

According to the Environment Performance Index, India is the worst performing country.[4] The  suffer disproportionately more due to pollution[5].  63 cities of India are amongst the 100 most polluted places in the world.[6] As the 2019 Lancet study revealed, of the 9 million people dying prematurely due to pollution – 6.7 million deaths of which were due to air pollution – a million of these deaths were in India.  Yet, if cases in the National Green Tribunal are any indicator, only 8% of environmental cases filed during the 2011-2020 decade relate to air pollution and its adverse impacts, indicating very low prioritisation for effective action in tackling air pollution, despite its serious environmental health impacts.[7]  

● Will UN’s declaration of Right to Clean Environment compel proactive, inclusive and deeply democratic decision making in accessing clean air everywhere for everyone and for all times, a reality?

● Does India – soon the most populous country – have necessary regulatory discipline, and political and administrative will, to tackle air pollution with all the seriousness  this ever growing problem deserves?

● What kind of monitoring is essential to make the wide public alert to the growing health crisis due to air pollution?  

●  Are there global strategies that can assist India in responding to the air pollution crisis, and with urgency?

These and more questions which often cross our minds, or come to us when we suffer from air pollution, will be interrogated by an interdisciplinary panel in a webinar, the second in a series on air pollution that Environment Support Group is organising in commemoration of 25 years of service to public causes and advancing environmental and social justice. 


David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment (2018-21) and Professor of Law, University of British Columbia 
Dr. Sarath Guttikunda, Founder/Director, Urban Emissions
Randeep D, Commissioner, Health & Family Welfare, Government of Karnataka
Chee Yoke Ling, Executive Director, Third World Network 

Moderated by: 

Leo F. Saldanha, Coordinator/Trustee, Environment Support Group 
Bhargavi S.Rao, Senior Fellow/Trustee, Environment Support Group

First Webinar: Science, Public Health  and Governance 

8th March 2023, Wednesday
5.00 pm – 7.00 pm

On the occasion of World Women’s Day

Webinar Report can be downloaded here.

Adverse impacts of air pollution are largely borne by poor and marginalised communities who live in areas with high AQI. Street vendors, solid waste workers, domestic help, auto rickshaw drivers, industrial workers and a host of others from the working classes, who are also economically weaker, are subjected to very high levels of air pollution, and on a daily basis. They often live in highly polluted areas, lack environmentally safe and secure homes, often lack 24×7 electricity, they have to walk long distances to work and also engage in jobs with very high exposures to pollution, and work with little or no protective gear. 

As a consequence, the burden of disease on them is substantial. With weak access to health care or insurance, health expenditures are high which bears down on the weak incomes of the families.  This leaves them in a vicious cycle of debt and poverty. 

Several questions arise. 

About how the action points in Revised Action Plan for Control of Air Pollution in Bengaluru City were evolved, and by consulting who? 

How have funds been allocated, and are being used? Is implementation of these action points being monitored, and are reports available in the public domain?  

What are the health impacts of serious air pollution on the general population and vulnerable sections?  

What steps are taken to address concerns of the poor and the marginalised? 

Are available legal provisions to penalise major polluters being used to  protect wider populations from air pollution? 

What forms of democratic appraisal are in place to ensure governance responses to mitigate and manage air pollution at the city scale level are transparent and accountable? 

Are public health centres, and the overall medical personnel, trained and equipped to deal with impacts of air pollution of such a large population? 

What are the steps taken to proactively address adverse impacts of air pollution on women, children and elders? 

Who does one complain to when there is a high AQI in a particular area? 

What does one do when a waste pile is set on fire in the neighbourhood? 

These and more questions which often cross our minds, or come to us when we suffer from air pollution, was interrogated by an interdisciplinary panel in a webinar, the first in a series on air pollution that Environment Support Group is organising in commemoration of 25 years of service to public causes and advancing environmental and social justice. 


Prof. Julian Marshall ,Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle 

Dr. Pratima Singh, Ph.D.,  Senior Research Scientist, CSTEP 

Dr. Kashinath Dixit, Physician & Endocrinologist with special interest in public health, Manchester General Hospital, UK 

Jawaid Akhtar, IAS,  Addl Chief Secretary, Dept of Forests, Ecology and Environment, Govt of Karnataka

Leo F. Saldanha, Coordinator/Trustee, Environment Support Group 

Moderated by: Bhargavi S. Rao, Senior Fellow/Trustee, Environment Support Group

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