MASKBOOK IN INDIA, TRAVEL DIARY DAY 10, NEW DELHI WORKSHOPS WITH SWECHHA
From the 15th to the 28th of Dec, Maskbook is in India with an amazing program of 5 workshops and exhibitions in Bengaluru and New Delhi. (Check out the program here, and in the agenda.) Erica, Marguerite and Aditi, members of Art of Change 21 team, share their experience through their travel diary in which they will share their best moments, talk about upcycling, air pollution, creativity and art in India.
The past few days in the world's most polluted city have been so eye-opening. Here, not only is air pollution visible, it is palpable.
Air pollution levels in Delhi hit an all time high in November 2017. On November 8, pollution surged so high that some monitoring stations reported an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 999, way above the upper limit of the worst category, Hazardous. An extra-sensitive air quality instrument at the US embassy got a reading of 1,010. Since then the monitoring stations have been recording pollution levels ranging from unhealthy to severe. As we publish this the AQI in Delhi is in the range 180-295, a range which is unhealthy. People are advised to stay indoors as much as they can and limit outdoors activity. Despite being on of the greenest capitals in the world, the view from the city’s many rooftops is not an expanse of greenery but a gray haze. A day on the road can leave one feeling like you’ve been at the receiving end of an exhaust pipe.
On the day of our workshop with the Indian School and Foundation School, December 21st, the air pollution level was at 469. As we arrived to the school on this white hazy day, we learned that the children had a great understanding of air pollution. As we presented Maskbook to the kids, we asked them who had their own anti-pollution mask at home. Nearly all said they did!
When questioned about their health, once again the answer was a unanimous yes; all of the children were currently experiencing coughs and colds, most likely due to the pollution. The Vice Principal of Indian School Sukhmeen Kaura Cheema recounted how many of the children’s wishes for Diwali were less focused on getting gifts and more focused on a desire for less air pollution.
One student, Sameksha, poignantly explained her mask creation. On her mask, she painted a mouth and attached a tube that she likened into a cigarette. Across the mask she wrote ‘’NO SMOKING’’. Sameksha, explained that whether they like it or not, it’s as if all children in Delhi are the children of smokers and are subject to toxic air and its consequences.
If the children are informed about the stakes and are motivated to act for the environment, it is also due in large part to the great figures within their school leading eco initiatives and projects.
Rukmini Thampi, Social Science teacher at the Indian School, champions the environment and passes on knowledge to students via the Eco Club which she leads, and in which students are encouraged to carpool and cycle to school but also to act for the environment directly via gardening in the school’s urban farm, through rainwater harvesting, and planting saplings.
Foundation school principal Suzanne Thomas, an Al Gore Climate Reality Leader alum, explained the school’s overall sustainability policy in which ‘’reduce, reuse, recycle’’ is a school mantra. The school’s citizenship program looks at environment in a huge way and the campus has an abundance of air purifying plants and upcycled creations thanks to their close and continued collaboration with Swechha.
In all, Maskbook had an amazing week with Swechha. The energy, optimism, determination and creativity of the children from the Pagdandi school and the Indian and Foundation schools were a breath of fresh air in the polluted city.
More info at swechha.in