Meet Bhavreen Kandhari, Copy Writer turned Environmental activist

For Business Upturn Inspirational Women Series, We spoke with Bhavreen Kandhari about her activism, career and defending children’s rights.

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Hi Bhavreen Kandhari, thank you for being with us today. We are going to start by asking you the most cliché question. Tell us about yourself?

Being a Fauji kid, daughter of an Indian Air Force Officer, I got to travel widely in India and later completed my studies in Delhi. During that time, I specialised in Advertising & PR. This was follow by an eventual shift towards becoming an environmentalist. I realised the importance of the cause and that involved and interested me further into the subject and soon into becoming an activist; this new designation that the media gave me fits the bill. Above all, I am a concerned mother to twin 17 year old girls and that makes me more concerned about the environment, Clean Air and the future of my children on the planet.

When did you decide that you wanted to be an Environmentalist?

It was around the year 2000, when I was getting draw into the depth of the situation. It happened when I was reading about the smog of London and I was finding a lot of similarities with Delhi and surely it wasn’t a coincidence. I realised that it is not a local problem, it is a consolidated global problem. Everyone knows about it, but it is time we all stand up and do something about it. Clean air is a right and sure enough it shouldn’t be fought for.

How is your day–to–day work at Warrior Moms and Fridays For Future India ? What initiatives are you working on?

If you want to believe it, it’s really non-stop just like a mother’s job. We are citizens, parents, youth, kids and have limited resources. Most of the tasks are towards challenging the local authorities and the government/s to implement/enforce laws. It involves standing up to and talking to those who obviously are very powerful. This can be really overwhelming but sure enough each other’s support and the passion to win clean air is what keeps us going.

We never really stop, there is no day off. I have campaigned for clean air for over two decades, which honestly is a right and no one should have to demand that. Why should air be polluted, why should our children breathe in impure air or smog?

How do you see that this is going to impact the world and the people in general?

We are already living through one of the side effects- the pandemic. Many other Climate Crisis are awaiting us in the near future but if you talk about today, Air Pollution is killing us now. Do you know that over 1.2 million people have died of air pollution, which is much higher than the number of deaths caused because of COVID-19. Despite the alarming figures and numbers, we don’t see the urgency to deal with it like a public health emergency. I don’t know what are the people apprehensive or sceptical about when it comes to air pollution? It is affecting their skin, hair, lungs, and heart. It is ruining the nutritive value of food products. Air pollution is just damaging everything.

What are the most challenging and most satisfying parts of your work? What motivates you?

Most challenging part comes towards the acceptance of the problem by the government and the citizens too and now that we are no longer in denial, it’s the lack of urgency to tackle the crisis that is super challenging.

What satisfies me most is that slowly but gradually people are understanding. They are moving towards a thought process that puts environment, air quality first.

It’s your own children and their future that motivates mothers like myself to continue to take action. When I imagine the future, I don’t want bottles of air being sold. I don’t want my child to inhale bottled air. I don’t want children to not be able to walk free without a mask or without any precaution.

How will COVID-19 be impacting sustainable development goals? Moving forward, what should be our priority?

COVID19 is the biggest example of how the world was forced to change. If we can change for the pandemic, then why can we not change to prevent another one. The moves to sustainable development goals have to be simple, starting at home and sometimes pitched aggressively to be able to achieve any success.

But the go has to come from the government/s or authorities. If they enforce the laws vigorously, citizens will be compelled to follow.

What would be your priority areas moving forward to build societies and to ensure that proper economic resources reach all?

Sustainable societies and communities are built when the opportunities for urban poor and those with limited resources are opened up. Alongside that we need to have sustainable growth and urban development. One needs to concentrate on building things that last for generations and include every strata of the society.  So in order to achieve that, it is important to lay emphasis on – financing an economic agenda that unlocks the urban poor potential, develop territories and promote their interests, and build in a manner which is sustainable and can withstand climate change.

What is your advice to children and young people?

Please realise that environmentalism isn’t a fashion statement. It is not a political cause, you need to save the environment for your future. Volunteer for a cause or start your own cause. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Don’t waste anything, buy or shop for sustainable products. Use green products, clean energy, don’t waste. There is been a time and again retaliation on going green, planting more trees.

And the most important the onus is on the authorities. Pressurise them to enforce laws and for that file complaints. Just complaining to each other on WhatsApp chats or Facebook pages don’t help .

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