Ankit Sharma Sharma
Green tea Addict | A Tree Hugger | Born for Change
Recently, a survey, concluded that Dehradun, a beautiful valley in the vicinity of nature, is one of the most polluted cities in the country. It brought sheer disappointment to the admirers of the city as they believe that rapid development and increased traffic is the reason behind this degradation. One of the citizens of Dehradun decided not to just talk or keep thinking about the deteriorating environment of the state but to take action. The Logical Indian speaks to Anoop Nautiyal, who left politics and formed Gati Foundation, an NGO fighting against pollution in Uttarakhand.
Anoop Nautiyal is among those inspiring personalities who has been working in the state of Uttarakhand for the socio-sustainability-environmental growth of the Himalayan region. An alumnus of the Shri Ram College of Commerce from Delhi University and the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Anoop had worked abroad for nearly a decade in countries like Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Mauritius. He found Gati Foundation and established a think tank to conserve the environment and Air pollution in the state.
Anoop who has been committed towards the betterment of the society. He had worked closely with the Uttarakhand Government as the leader of the free 108 – Emergency services in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode. 108 also played a crucial role in the successful execution of the Maha Kumbh Mela of 2010 in Haridwar when more than 70 million pilgrims visited the state. He left the Aam Aadmi Party two years ago, and now, he has no more political affiliations.
Gati is a nine-month-old foundation which is based out of Dehradun. It is a research and policy-oriented think tank and citizen-centric organisation that has been working in the field of environment, urban governance and public health. It has so far largely concentrated on the issues of air pollution, solid waste management, urban planning and road safety.
In the beginning, Gati confined itself in two working areas, i.e. environment and urban governance. With the expansion of cities in India, both governance and environment are becoming crucial challenges for the society and government machinery. Various reports and government agencies have highlighted that the air quality levels have deteriorated in the Doon Valley. So, the foundation first began with their work with air pollution.
Situated in the majestic hills, lush greenery and once hailed as ‘Devbhoomi’, several places in Uttarakhand have now become victims of unplanned development, pollution and excessive waste dumping. The situation is changing due to rapid construction activities and unregulated commercialisation. The city of Dehradun which was called the green city is now in the list of most polluted cities in our country. The religious town of the state like Haridwar and Rishikesh have crossed the approved Particulate Matter (PM10) levels of average 60 μg/m3 annually, according to the data of Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board.
Being a foundation that is oriented towards the environment and public health, Gati had launched a 10-day campaign to monitor the air quality in Dehradun. After conducting citizen surveys and on-ground data collection of pollutants which had been a first ever in itself in the city, Gati recorded the live results for the PM 2.5 levels in the valley. Notably, the team checked the air pollution levels in two slots, i.e. morning slot scheduled for two hours from 7.30 am to 9:30 am and evening slot from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Moreover, the team used an ISO certified device known as Thermo Scientific Machine which is a product of University of Exter (UK) and has been used by several recognized organisations working in the field of Air Pollution.
Undoubtedly, the team efforts have highlighted the issue of pollution and created a sense of urgency among citizens and government officials. State-level workshops were also held for the creation of air action plans. While speaking to The Logical Indian, Nautiyal said, “We hope to play a vital role in these efforts. We are also working on another issue which relates to indoor air pollution due to cooking and heating in the mountain areas of the state.” It is estimated that more than 3,000 people, mostly women, are losing their lives due to indoor air pollution in Uttarakhand. Nautiyal hopes that these research-based initiatives and findings will finally lead to policy interventions and extend support in saving lives.
After obtaining results at the ground level with accurate facts and figures, the foundation suggested some recommendations to the State Pollution Control Board as mentioned below:
⦁ There is a need to conduct Source Apportionment Study to understand the real causes of air pollution in depth and deal with them individually at a micro level and holistically at macro.
⦁ Install Continuous Air Monitoring Stations (CAMS) with Real-Time Air Quality Index Systems. Also, regular air monitoring system can help the Government and other agencies in understanding the existing gap in the domain of air pollution and dealing with the current environmental scenario.
⦁ Implementation of localised Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in Doon Valley.
⦁ Transport sector including public transport and non-motorized transport is the central point of an entire debate on air pollution. There is a need to focus on a robust, public transport to reduce the levels of air pollution.
⦁ Lastly, involve the flow of information between the Government agencies, various stakeholders, and civil society.
The team identified sanitation and waste management as one of the critical working mandates. For starters, they completed an extensive social audit of the most used, dozen public toilets in Dehra Dun in various areas of the city including ISBT, Prem Nagar, Rajpur Road and Bindal Pul. After inspection the team gave recommendations like geotagging of public toilets through mobile applications like Google maps, construction of adequate number of public utilities in marketplaces, cleaning, and other essential services must be deployed, provide liquid hand wash and toilet freshener facility, and construction of “Pink Toilets” exclusively for ladies equipped with amenities like sanitary napkins and its disposal.
The team worked on a policy paper discussing in depth the policy level issues surrounding the public sanitation scenario. “Impressed by our work, the Traffic Directorate of Uttarakhand Police invited us in knowing the existing on-road and basement parking systems concerning facilities of public toilets. The project is ongoing, and we hope to share the report of our findings with the citizens of Dehradun soon,” said Nautiyal. “It may sound elementary, but such improvements which are going to make the everyday lives of city dwellers and tourists better,” Nautiyal added.
Diversity is the most significant strength of this organisation. According to Nautiyal, it is a significant asset for his foundation as their team consists of professionals from different backgrounds like law, journalism, public health, and management. It helps the team to adopt a holistic approach and divergent views for their research studies and publications. The team has adequate representation of women, and apart from this, it believes in open communication, focuses on the quality of work and abhors titles. Moreover, the democratic nature of Gati is attracting a large number of young people.
“Unlike the corporate sector which is characterised by speed, the social sector sees changes in attitudes, beliefs, and practices over a longer period. The process of transformation is slow and tedious. This dilemma is particularly acute for a think tank in a startup mode. We are also grappling with making people understand the difference between a think tank and an NGO. We believe that these are teething troubles which we will overcome by our work and on-ground results,” stated Nautiyal.
The biggest dilemma and challenge for the foundation on an everyday basis is to have ‘Patience’. When financial stability is uncertain, people tend to lose their tolerance levels and look for other options which are much more rewarding. However, as a unit, the team tries to reinforce the confidence and keep reviewing strategies and upcoming opportunities to maintain this pressure at a distance.
“We are also careful and constantly reminding ourselves that our work should be as close as possible to the people, at the end of the day it should be a citizen-centric forum where people can share, discuss and seek solutions. We are slowly emerging as an authentic and trusted forum that is working on the sustainable development issues of our state and its cities. Our wish is to eventually emerge as an influential and result oriented voice for the entire Himalayan region,” Nautiyal said.
‘We are grateful to The Logical Indian team for highlighting our journey. Millions of people in India and abroad are fond of this wonderful and beautiful region, Uttarakhand and wish to contribute with ideas, experiences, volunteerism and intellectual and financial support. Moreover, since we are an open-minded organisation which seeks inputs, the readers of The Logical Indian are more than welcome to reach out to us. We promise to listen, reply and hopefully act on some of the feedback that we receive’, concludes Nautiyal.
Also published on Medium.
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