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A Billboard That ‘Breathes’ to Test the Air Quality of Ludhiana

In a first-of-its-kind initiative in Ludhiana, an interactive art installation consisting of giant-sized faux lungs demonstrate and create public awareness of the health impact of breathing polluted air.
Titled- ‘The billboard that breathes’, these lungs have been installed on the footpath outside the BCM Arya Model Sr. Sec. School on Wednesday, November 30th, in presence of concerned citizens.
This awareness drive has been organised by EcoSikh in collaboration with Clean Air Punjab- a citizen’s collective working on the issue of air pollution and supported by Punjab Agricultural university as knowledge partners.
What are these ‘lungs on billboard’?
The chalk-white lungs have been created using HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters. The same filters are used inside the operation theatres, anti-pollution masks and other places to trap dust. The lungs have also been fitted with fans that will suck in air to mimic the functioning of the lungs while breathing.
Pulmonologists Highlight the Health Emergency
Not only does air pollution contribute to climate change, but it also has a negative influence on public and individual health due to increasing illnesses and death.
Dr Akashdeep Senior Pulmonologist, DMC Ludhiana said, “Air pollution causes lung cancer, cardiovascular events, central nervous system dysfunctions, and skin diseases, as well as respiratory disorders such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Asthma, and Bronchiolitis, we are in health emergency the way pollution levels are rising every day.”
Civil Society Demands State Government Act on Air Pollution
Gagnish Singh Khurana, an environmentalist shared that this billboard will increase the conscious participation of the citizens, NGO and Govt machinery of our city. “The primary objective is to create a model of awareness among the citizens of the city and other stakeholders. Time has come when we should vigilantly observe the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the city similar to the way we see the weather in our mobile apps,” Khurana said.
As per Ludhiana Clean Air Action Plan, four Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS) were to be installed in Ludhiana at various locations till March 31, 2020, to measure the average Air Quality Index (AQI) but sadly they weren’t installed.
Citizen Participation to Achieve Clean Air Is Non-Negotiable
“Citizen participation is essential to achieving clean air as we all require access to healthy air to live. This fact alone makes it necessary for each and every one of us to diligently monitor the state of the air quality. The Lung billboard serves as a reminder to reflect, act, and modify our lifestyles,” said Supreet Kaur, President EcoSikh adding that they will plan campaigns around the lung’s billboard to ensure the message reaches all across Ludhiana.
Environment Manager of BCM Arya, Vipra Kale said: “The deteriorating air quality is due to anthropogenic reasons and there is a need to be aware of growing disasters causing Climate Change which will affect the generations ahead.”
Punjab Agricultural University’s Take on Declining Air Quality In Punjab
Senior Scientist Dr Prabhjyot Kaur said, Punjab is mostly a green state with approximately 83% of its land planted in agriculture and despite this, Punjab’s AQI is still higher, with the majority of its air quality falling into the Poor to Very Poor category.
“Educating the public about AQI is the first step to building awareness of air pollution and its health impacts. Together, we must cut emissions while also educating the public about the benefits that reductions in emissions can have on an individual level,” said Kaur
According to Kaur, the Lungs billboard campaign will help to build awareness amongst people as now people will get a visible understanding of how severe the crisis of air pollution has grown in the city.
“Rising air pollution is a wake-up call for everyone to take preventative measures to minimise health risks,” said Vipra Kal, Environment Manager of BCM Arya Sen Sec School.
Health Experts Take
Dr Akashdeep, Senior Pulmonologist DMC, Ludhiana stated that using these white ‘Breathing Lungs’ turning black to represent the damage caused by the hazardous particles that are deposited in our lungs to demonstrate how pollution is damaging people’s lungs was a smart idea.
“The number of people expressing complaints of shortness of breath, a persistent and recurrent cough, chronic bronchitis, obstructive airway disease, rhinitis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure is closely correlated with the amount of pollution,” he said.
The Verdict 
Dr Amandeep Bains said, “The litmus test came positive regarding the condition of air of ludhiana. Lungs installed before BCM turned pale, not grey, but black within a week that too when they were installed  in an area of the city, which is away from factories and major roads. This is an emergency which is not being announced because of vested interests of a few.”
A similar pair of lungs installed at Mumbai in January 2020 took 14 days to go black, while one installed in Delhi (November 2018) just took 6 days to go black.

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