Mumbai: Giant lungs billboard installed in Bandra turns black in two weeks

Updated: Jan 30, 2020, 00:54 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

'The Billboard that breathes,' is a first-of-its-kind initiative in Maharashtra, where an interactive art installation has been used to demonstrate the lethal impact of polluted air on human health

The giant HEPA-filter lungs was installed in Bandra West outside National College
The giant HEPA-filter lungs was installed in Bandra West outside National College

Two weeks, was all it took for the giant HEPA-filter lungs installed at Bandra (West) earlier this month, as part of an air pollution awareness campaign to change its colour- from chalk white to black. While health experts claim this to be a warning bell, air pollution campaigners, on the other hand, have urged the State Government to initiate steps in the right direction to ensure clean air for Mumbaikars.

A similar lung installed in Delhi (November 2018) just took 6 days to go black, another one put up in Bengaluru (January 2018) took 25 days to turn black. 

Installed outside RD National College junction, the giant HEPA-filter lungs were called 'The Billboard that breathes,' this is a first-of-its-kind initiative in Maharashtra, where an interactive art installation has been used to demonstrate the lethal impact of polluted air on human health.

Mumbai-Lungs
The Billboard that breathes

These faux lungs were installed on January 14, 2020, and it began rapidly changing its colour since the second day itself. The initiative of setting up these lungs was taken by Jhatkaa.org, a digital advocacy organisation, in collaboration with the Waatavaran Foundation, an environmental organisation, both who are a part of the Clean Air Collective in Maharashtra which is a coalition of organisations/citizen groups working on air pollution.

"In a span of two weeks, the lungs have become black. High levels of particulate matter in the air, caused in large part due to vehicular emissions and dust…was all trapped in the HEPA filters. This has proven to be one of the simplest yet visually effective ways of showcasing what the deteriorating air quality in the city is doing to our lungs," said Shikha Kumar, Campaigns Manager, Jhatkaa.org. 

Kumar further added that as per studies carried out by air pollution research group, Urbanemissions.info, vehicular emissions, and industries itself contribute 31 percent to the total PM 2.5 concentration in Mumbai."

"When I saw these faux lungs, I told the campaigners that these are like my lungs, which have been put up on a billboard. I will now get to see what is happening to my lungs as well as that of other Mumbaikars. This is the best possible way to demonstrate to people what is happening inside their body when they inhale polluted air," said Dr. Sanjeev Mehta, Chief Pulmonologist, Lilavati hospital.

Mehta added that people will forget the Air Quality Index (AQI) or Particulate Matter levels but will never forget the sight of these black lungs at the traffic junction. "I feel it's important that more such 'Billboard that breathes' should be placed across the city to create a strong public opinion," he added.

Nusrat Qazi, a student of RD National College, informed that she kept herself and her friends updated about the changing colour of the lungs as well as the air quality index being displayed at the billboard. "By around the ninth day, it was a stark and scary image as the lungs had completely changed from light to dark. Since I had images from the first day as well, I sent it along with the images of day 9 to many of my friends and relatives and everyone was shocked," she stated.

The junction has four colleges in the immediate vicinity. Several students from some of the colleges said that they never realised that the junction where they spent so much time was so polluted despite having greenery around. 

Once the billboard is brought down on January 31, plans are in place to cut the HEPA filter 'lungs' into smaller pieces and send these out to decision-makers with a detailed note to highlight that even Mumbai's air is toxic and air pollution is not just a problem of Delhi.

"We have a young and dynamic Environment Minister in Aaditya Thackeray and a new State government under Uddhav Thackeray. We want them to take a lead in making Mumbai's air cleaner. As part of the Clean Air Collective, we want to work with politicians, bureaucrats, and other officials in making Mumbai's Clean Air Plan more effective," said Bhagwan Keshbhat, Founder of Waatavaran.

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