Sanjukta Mandal is a Post Graduate Diploma in Urban Planning and Development (PGDUPDL) student at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and a Fellow at Youth Leaders for Clear Air Fellowship by Clean Air Fund in the collaboration with Pravah.
Here, Sanjukta is sharing her story of being a part of this prestigious fellowship and designing and executing her unique Social Action Project to address Delhi’s acute air pollution problem.
Her efforts are actively bringing substantive changes in the lives of the residents of Delhi and empowering them to take meaningful action towards a cleaner, greener Delhi.
Go on and read how her story inspires you(th) to take action because the time is now!
How did you come to know about the fellowship?
I was just checking my college email one fine morning and I came across a shared email from one of my professors stating “might be of your interest”. That application was really something that interested me to apply to, I didn’t think twice and filled up the form with loads of questions which I had general knowledge about. That’s how this fellowship came across as an opportunity.
What inspired you to take up this fellowship?
The issue that it concerns- Air Pollution, something we all talk about but hardly act against it. We have the right to a good environment, so why not work for cleaner air to breathe.
When I see the land I was born in, it makes me happy when I look into the clear sky. However, with time as I grew up and moved to Delhi, I tend to compare it with that of Assam where I was born. But if I actually look back into the times when I suffered from Athame which used to worsen during the time of Diwali, it worries me by wondering how all age groups of people are affected by Air Pollution.
So, the moment I read the heading on the email on the Clean Air Fellowship, I was like ‘this is the time to combat air pollution by starting to work against it with our actions’.
What is the most pressing concern with respect to Air Pollution in Delhi?
The rising concern starts from us and how we handle or change the environment. Urbanization brings in advancements in science but at the same time, it creates urban pollution that leads to health issues. The concept of an urban heat island is something we all should know and design our abode accordingly.
The anthropogenic activities are a threat to the environment. In Delhi, the built-up areas emit high temperature that creates an island of heat in an urban landscape. Therefore, we need to understand and come up with solutions that minimize the impact of our actions on the environment.
What problems does your project solve? Briefly describe your efforts to address the issue.
The project that I am working on starts with my understanding of urbanization and Air pollution. Therefore, it’s a try to come up with a research paper on the cause and impact of urban heat islands and what are the required solutions to deal with them.
Along with this, my social action project is also a venture to interact at the same time deliver and exchange knowledge about air pollution. I have taken smaller steps to advocate the issue and bring it up at a grassroots level by involving in sessions with the youth and also the expert.
Which SDG(s) is your project directly addressing?
The project addresses mainly Sustainable Development Goals no. 11 and 13 and talks about working towards a sustainable city and community. And taking urgent action towards climate change, respectively.
What motivates you to work towards the long term sustainability of the environment?
As the statement on sustainability says “meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Therefore, to have a sustainable future we need to start working and treating the environment that would not pose any threat to this generation but mainly to the coming generation. It’s like taking small steps to contribute to a larger action in order to combat air pollution.
What impact have you affected or plan to achieve?
So far I could manage to hold interactive and activity-based sessions with school students on cause and effect along with tips and tricks for reducing, reusing and recycling waste. I am also collaborating with other organizations to hold discussions and webinars on the issue and topics related to urban pollution.
The main motive is to advocate the issue by the means of various platforms and mediums and reach as many people as possible. Our team cumulatively could indirectly reach up to 19k people and directly around 1300 people. There’s a long way to go but it’s definitely a good beginning.
What challenges did you face during the journey? How did you overcome them?
The journey initially was very rough as it made me change, think and rethink the topic that I wanted to work on as the pandemic was really an issue in carrying out the task, I was demotivated by my situation. Managing time and dealing with the pandemic situation generated a lot of negative thoughts.
However, we the youth leaders for clean air are fortunate enough to have created a space of support and encouragement, we never let each other get de-motivated if something doesn’t work according to our plan. We support each other and deal with our challenges together.
What are the skills and values that you acquired during the fellowship?
The fellowship taught me certain values and skills that will stay with me forever. The power of self-esteem which some of us lack is a crucial positive value that we need to have in our life. Making connections for the betterment of each other, supporting and lifting each other up is how a team should acquire.
Communication skills and social media reach are something I am learning from my other fellows. One of the most important skills is time management which is what kept me going. To work on any project or action plan, empathy and leadership skills are something we all need to pose.
How do you plan to sustain your project further?
The actions that I am taking, be it a small step or at a larger scale are all adding up to the action that we all are fighting against. I am planning to create a platform which will be held every year.
The sessions with young kids are itself a step to make my project sustain as they will grow up to be responsible citizens by incorporating the actions to sustain a better life and environment. Along with that, social media reach would be another way of making the project and the message go on for the times to come.
How can people reading this contribute to your project or cause?
Taking responsibility for breathing clean air by minimizing the activities that affect the air. The basic way would be what we have been taught in our environmental studies class. Vehicular pollution in Delhi is an important cause of air pollution thus, trying to reduce the usage of private vehicles and using public transport would be viable.
The importance of waste management, basic knowledge of 8R’s, and building an environmentally friendly home is the least that we all can do to save the mother earth.
How can others follow in your footsteps towards sustainability?
I wouldn’t say it to follow my footsteps towards sustainability but more of how each individual can contribute to the solution of the cause. Just pick up any sub-topic revolving around air pollution and be creative to handle or deal with it.
Remember, even the smallest of steps and actions count. The understanding of Air pollution is very vague to us. We need to make certain actions and rules in our life like a habit then only we can go ahead to having a better air to breathe.
We at Young Influx would like to take this opportunity to thank Sanjukta for taking a leap of faith and sharing her impeccable story with us. We appreciate her efforts and are pleased to bring out her story to a climate-conscious audience.
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