“We know climate crisis is real, it’s a fact and not a myth or a belief,” 29-year-old Mumbai-based climate activist Pooja Domadi told CNN. “We’re having multiple events through the week to remind our leaders and authorities, we need less talk and more action. We cannot wait.”
“We are living in the beginning of a mass extinction,” Greta Thunberg, who sparked the climate strike movement and held the Indian government to account earlier this year, has said. “Our climate is breaking down. Children like me are giving up their education to protest.”In Delhi, protesters called for action by policymakers. A gathering outside the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs saw chants of “we want climate action” and “I want to breathe clean air” – referencing an air pollution crisis endemic throughout India, which killed 1.2 million people in 2017. Rural areas and cities alike are hard-hit: India is home to seven of the world’s ten most polluted cities and seventy percent of pollution-related deaths occur in rural India.
“I have come to this protest today because I live in the world’s most polluted city and our government is doing nothing to change that,” student Asheer Kandhari told Al Jazeera. “Not taking action, a government doesn’t realise that they are taking away our futures. It’s my future that is being affected by the government’s inaction regarding the climate change policy.” Issues such as deforestation and plastic waste have been raised at protests across the country.
Students have been striking for climate change action on multiple occasions in the past year, with a global protest under the banner of Friday for Futures engaging Indian students in droves ahead of this year’s Lok Sabha elections. “No clean air, no vote,” was their rallying cry then – and the pressure continues for legislators and policymakers to act.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to speak at next week’s Climate Action Summit in New York City and has proclaimed his commitment to environmental health, from ending the scourge of plastic waste to improving sanitation to expanding renewable energy. Parliamentarians, meanwhile, have spoken out about climate change and pollution. All of this comes against a backdrop of millions of pollution deaths, rising temperatures, and increasing natural disasters fuelled by inclement weather patterns. The time to act is now – and when students call for action, politicians must follow suit.
Time is running out, but it has not run out yet. As Thunberg says, “we can still fix this. You can still fix this.”