Day Three’s events were all related to an issue that is very important to me – clean air. The day started in Bardhaman with the Bardhaman Cycling Club along the banks of the Damodar River. This mighty river flows through the states of West Bengal and Jharkhand and is rich in mineral resources, as a result of which, it is home to large-scale mining and industrial activity which come with their own set of unique environmental challenges, including air pollution.
In Kolkata, SwitchON Foundation is advocating for sustainable mobility to address the issue of air pollution caused by the large numbers of cars on the roads and the lack of adequate, integrated public transport infrastructure. In Durgapur, air pollution is a result of industrial activities. I started my day by attending a school competition event, with over 20 schools participating, focused on air pollution and waste management with a variety of knowledge-building events diving into different aspects of the problems:
– Courses on air pollution;
– DIY workshop on energy conservation and waste management;
– Model competition on Waste Management;
– Flash surveys on climate change;
– Talk with college youth about green entrepreneurship
Clean, renewable energy and green jobs are key pillars of SwitchON’s work, and here these children are taking the initiative to be so well informed about these issues and put together such amazing projects that incorporate various forms of renewable energy and sustainable waste management techniques. Not to mention the creativity displayed! Reconnecting with youth at this event energised me in ways I was not expecting.
Following this event, I cycled on to Raniganj, which is part of the coal belt in West Bengal. I joined a group of young photographers on their excursion to the nearby coal fields. Understanding the theory of air pollution is one thing, but actually being able to identify and witness its various effects and impacts is a whole other eye-opening affair. Witnessing the realities of large-scale coal mining and industrial pollution is an urgent reminder of the importance of providing alternative forms of livelihood through green jobs and entrepreneurship as well as the kinds of systemic changes we need to bring about in our country. Events like this allow us to connect theory to practise and really engage in #LoveforEarth challenges.
I continued cycling towards Asansol in the afternoon where the local college hosted a Clean Air Art Festival. The festival included a clean air natak (theatre/drama), a sit-and-draw event, and yoga. Closing out the day with relaxing yoga is exactly what I needed after the past few days of cycling as my main form of #MoveforEarth. I truly believe art is a powerful medium and these past few days have shown me all the creative ways different communities depict environmental and climate issues. And I’m especially grateful to have had the opportunity to speak to people experiencing such a myriad of climate issues and understand how we can work together to come up with relevant solutions.