Air pollution levels have skyrocketed over the past few years in India, making the very simple act of breathing, one of the most dangerous things you can do today. Amidst all the smog, a New Delhi-based organisation is trying to make a little room for air. Let Me Breathe is a platform that curates stories from across India to inform and educate people about the threats of air pollution.
ICYMI, a recent study found 1.2 million Indians die because of air pollution in one year, and unfortunately, 15 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, with Gurugram taking the #1 position. And this year, the theme for World Environment Day 2019 is air pollution.
From farmers in Punjab to school kids in Varanasi, founder Tamseel Hussain sources stories about surviving air pollution and climate change to build a larger narrative around sustainability and climate emergency. The six-member Let Me Breathe team also works with communities to train them to document their stories. Since they began in 2017, they have published more than 300 stories that have reached an estimated 90 million people across India and beyond.
“We’ve also partnered with Twitter, to host ‘City Sessions’ where we invite environmentalists and policy makers to address very city specific pollution issues and how to solve them. The whole discussion is live streamed on Twitter,” Hussain says. The team also hosts about 150 “Whatsapp Newsrooms” where they train people from across India to report on air pollution issues, fact check stories and get the dialogue around air pollution rolling.
Fighting against air pollution
The team is currently working with a group in Varanasi who have set up a hostel which aims to clean up the city by upcycling plastic waste.
In the past, Hussain and his team have worked with NGOs in New Delhi to create awareness around better waste management among middle and upper classes. Thanks to a story they created around the lives of waste pickers at a landfill site, the team raised enough money to distribute 263 face masks to poor families in the area. The Let Me Breathe team also trained about 80 farmers in Punjab and Haryana about the myths around stubble burning and to discuss alternative solutions.
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