‘Breathing lungs’ in Ludhiana turn black in 9 days


All it took was just nine days for the giant pair of faux lungs installed at a busy junction of Ludhiana on November 30 to turn dark black from chalk white, thus raising concerns amongst citizens about the health impacts of breathing in polluted air.

The lungs billboard is a part of the larger campaign initiated by Clean Air Punjab along with EcoSikh, BCM Arya Model Sr Secondary School and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to raise awareness about deteriorating air quality in the Malwa belt. Titled ‘The Billboard That Breathes’, these ‘artificial’ lungs were put up outside the BCM Arya Model Sr Sec School, Shastri Nagar.

A similar pair of lungs installed in Mumbai in January 2020 took 14 days to go black, while one installed in Delhi (November 2018) just took six days to turn black.

Experts, as well as local residents from Ludhiana, have asked the Punjab government to consider this “experiment” as a warning bell and take strong measures to improve the air quality in this area.

According to Gurpreet Kaur, Campaign Manager, EcoSikh, the lungs turning black in a week should be an eye-opener for all to imagine what’s happening to our lungs. “We are fully aware of the worsening air quality in Ludhiana. We expect that efforts to lower pollution levels will be coordinated by the government and the general public as the health of many are at stake due to the toxic air,” she said.

Over a thousand students and educators visited the lungs billboard last week and voiced their concerns about the increased air pollution. Meanwhile, the billboard has also drawn the attention of locals who have been making a beeline to see it.

Calling access to clean air a fundamental human right, which the children are being denied, Samita Kaur, a Warrior Moms member, stated that the blackening of the lungs billboards put up in Ludhiana was evidence of the air’s toxicity.

“Punjab has nine non-attainment cities. What purpose does industrial growth in cities like Ludhiana serve? We don’t want Punjab to have a deplorable standard of living; our kids deserve better,” she said, adding that despite Punjab having a high cancer rate and a high childhood asthma rate, we as a society, chose to disregard the root causes of these problems.

Kaur went on to add that as a mother, she is worried for all the children breathing in toxic air and extremely upset. “I want the relevant authorities to take pollution seriously since it’s a health emergency and can no longer be ignored,” said Kaur.

Dr Akashdeep, Senior Pulmonologist, DMC, Ludhiana, said it was a smart idea to use the ‘breathing lungs’ to represent the damage caused by the hazardous particles that are deposited in our lungs. “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.

A dentist and an environmentalist, Dr Amandeep Bains, said, “The litmus test on the condition of the air in Ludhiana came out positive. The lungs turned pale, not grey, but black within a week that too when they were installed in 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.” Bains also runs the RBS Roots, an NGO which works for the environment.


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