Project Pravaah – Clean air, not a luxury

Project Pravaah, an initiative by Enactus SSCBS, aims at providing holistic indoor air purification solutions at affordable prices while reducing the harmful effects of stubble burning by using innovative methods, sensitizing the community and empowering the skilled unemployed youth.  

People often decipher air pollution as a normal phenomenon, but it’s much worse than even the coronavirus pandemic. Deaths due to COVID-19, till February 3, 2021, float at around 2.25 million, air pollution on the other hand takes 5 million lives every year. I am in no manner saying COVID is a normal flu, but my point is that air pollution should be equally taken seriously. [1] Air pollution accounts for about 9% of deaths globally. According to WHO, 21 out of the 30 most polluted cities in the world are from India. In India, the average life expectancy is expected to decrease by 2.6 years just because of the exposure to high AQI levels! [2]

Polluted air consists of two major components: particulate matter (PM) and volatile organic compound gases (VOCs). PM are fine inhalable particles with diameters ranging from 1µm3 to 10µm3. VOCs are gases that are emitted from certain solids or liquids which are commonly available in our households too. One of the major reasons for high air pollution is stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab. Stubble Burning, a globally prevalent practice of setting crop residue on fire, releases 3 kg particulate matter, 60 kg of carbon monoxide, 200 kg of ash, and 2 kg of Sulphur dioxide for every tonne of stubble burned. Almost 11 million tonnes of stubble were burnt last year. In 2019, 46% of Delhi’s air pollution was attributable to it. [3][4].

While outdoor air pollution is recognized by all, the air quality indoors, where we are presently spending almost 100% of our time is 3.5 times more harmful and exposes us to a dangerous concentration of VOCs, particulate matter, and dust particles. [5]

Due to this, many terms indoor air pollution as a silent killer; it is slowly affecting our body and over time the effects start to show as various diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, stroke, heart attack, kidney diseases, etc. that trap us in a vicious circle of lifetime medication. 

Keeping in mind the severity, there are multiple things we can adopt that can help reduce indoor air pollution significantly, and also act as additional precautions for the pandemic. These are simple tips that can assist in elevating our mood, prevent various diseases, and also improve our cognitive abilities.  Firstly, Ventilation. It is an important means of achieving good indoor air quality in buildings, as it removes or dilutes pollution and moisture. As newer buildings have become more airtight and well insulated, there is an increased focus on the ventilation system, either natural or mechanical, to ensure good indoor air quality. Secondly, have a separate pair of shoes/sandals for outdoor and indoor use. Footwear is known to bring more than 50% of dust, disease-causing microorganism, and outdoor chemicals into our homes. For this reason, the practice of removing footwear at the door is among the simplest ways of reducing indoor air pollution. Frequent mopping and wet dusting with water are highly advisable. 

Next, get rid of odors; don’t mask them. Most people try to avoid indoor odors by masking them with artificial fragrances and air fresheners. It simply worsens the problem as the artificial fragrance or air fresheners contain VOCs which can harm your health even more. Instead, find the source of the odor and clean the area with homemade cleaners or with baking soda. Artificial air fresheners have allergens that circulate in the indoor air and are associated with asthma and allergy attacks. Opting for fragrance-free products like Roll-on deodorants help reduce indoor air pollution.

Remove carpeting if possible. Carpets act as a harbor for small dust particles and pet dander that increases indoor air pollution. Removing the carpeting is a sure way of reducing indoor air pollution. Use charcoal bags in your cars and air purifying plants in closed spaces to control air pollution. Wear masks when you go out or when you travel. 

These were some everyday tips, but the air pollution in India is so severe that these alone cannot clear all unwanted things out of your home. These are some bare minimum things we request everyone to follow. To have a better indoor environment, we must invest in indoor plants and air purifiers. Everyone would agree with plants, but these cannot be just any plants. A study by NASA found out a list of plants that act as succulents and absorb all the VOCs in the air and make your indoors not only safe but also beautify your indoor décor. 

Pravaah air purifier and indoor air purifying plants

As stubble burning is a critical problem causing huge air pollution, we at Pravaah had set our goal to help eliminate this. While analyzing existing solutions, we found out the ex-situ and in-situ methods of stubble management had various flaws. In-situ solutions caused problems to the farmers in the next crop season while ex-situ solutions caused environmental damage. Seeking a perfect solution, we, with our knowledge partner-Deutec, identified a method that takes the best of both in-situ and ex-situ techniques, the pseudo-in-situ method. Stubble from the field is extracted and, with the help of Deutec’s technology, we convert them into pots. These pots provide the necessary nutrients to the plant for its growth and development. Watering plants in these pots would also require less frequency. Manufacturing these pots by upcycling stubble is one of the best solutions for stubble burning and keeping your plants greener, that’s one shot for two birds! Plants work well in trapping VOCs, but are inefficient while eliminating particulate matter, a huge component of indoor air pollution. Investing in an air purifier has therefore become a necessity. The majority of air purifiers range anywhere between Rs. 13,000 to Rs.1,50,000, making them unaffordable for almost 65% of the Indian households. Pravaah, with its holistic value offering, provides an air purifier with a triple-layered filter technology consisting of a pre-filter, an activated carbon filter, and an H13 HEPA filter. The purifier has an efficiency of 92% and is at par with various air purifiers in the market.

Pravaah offers its air purifier, indoor air purifying plants and stubble pots at an affordable price so that maximum people can prevent themselves from air pollution and live a healthy and happy life. If you are interested in these or want to learn more about air pollution and health, you can follow us on Facebook (Project Pravaah), Instagram (@projectpravaah) and LinkedIn (Project Pravaah).

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The author is a management student, pursuing a graduation degree from Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, University of Delhi. Being a committed individual, she has been involved in various social entrepreneurship projects as part of Enactus SSCBS.
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