Symbiosis Law School, Pune (SLS-P), a constituent of Symbiosis International (Deemed University) organized the Inaugural Ceremony of the Virtual Conference on ‘Right to Breathe Clean Air: Health and Environment-related SDGs’ on 4th March, 2021 on the virtual platform Zoom, at 10 am. The conference was undertaken in pursuance of the prestigious ‘Conference Grant’ under Golden Jubilee Conference and Lecture Series Grant (GJCLSG), 2021-21 awarded to SLS-P by the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, a bi-national organization promoting understanding between India and Canada through academic discourse and exchange.
Dr. Shashikala Gurpur, Fulbright Scholar, Dean, Faculty of Law, SIU, Director, Symbiosis Law School, Pune, delivered the Welcome Address and introduced the theme of the conference to the attendees. She emphasised on the growing importance of the Right to Breathe Clean Air, in the Indian context and the nation’s traditional ties with the theme, noting that Indian culture and heritage recognizes the sanctity of each of the elements of nature, including air. She noted in the same vein, that despite such a rich and deep-rooted understanding of the importance of clean air, India is home to few of the most polluted cities in the world. Dr. Gurpur accentuated the gravity of the present situation by quoting Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who described the Taj Mahal as being a “teardrop in the cheek of time,” and highlighted the danger in which this Wonder of the World is placed, in view of the air pollution threatening its beauty. Dr. Gurpur pledged SLS-P’s continuing commitment to discussing such issues which transcend across national boundaries on forums such as the present conference, as well as through its internationalized approach to collaborative education.
Subsequently, the gathering was addressed by Dr. Rajani Gupte, Vice Chancellor, SI(DU). Dr. Gupte underscored the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals in role as the blueprint for working towards the improvement of air quality. She noted in particular the crucial importance of SDG-3, which emphasised on the reduction of air pollution caused due to household and ambient air pollution, SDG-11 which deals with waste management and SDG-12 12 which obliges responsible consumption and production. Dr. Gupte also referred to the significance of the present conference in establishing global best practices, frameworks and policy which further the cause of the SDGs and the Right to Breathe Clean Air. She concluded her address by stating that, “It is not sufficient to say that the Government needs to do something. We must all do our bit in the effort to secure the Right to Breathe Clean Air. ”
Thereafter, Dr. S. B. Mujumdar, Hon’ble Chancellor, SI(DU) addressed the conference. He inspired the attendees with his vision statement, through which he remarked that the human race has taken the Right to Breathe Clean Air for granted, and in the course of its activities, has compromised the same for other inhabitants of the planet. He observed that clear air should be the fundamental right of every human and animal, and encouraged a revamp in certain laws to tackle urban pollution. Dr. Mujumdar concluded his address by expressing his hopes for a fruitful and successful conference and conveyed his best wishes to the participants.
Following the Chancellor’s address, Dr. Prachi Kaul, Director, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, addressed the gathering. She highlighted the Shastri Institute’s efforts to instil the essence of the Sustainable Development Goals and Millennium Development Goals in students across both nations. She further elucidated on the Shastri Institute’s undertakings dedicated to increasing the knowledge associated with these goals, the present conference being an illustration of the same. She noted the key role played by the conference in contributing to the discourse surrounding the Right to Breathe Clean Air and developing a framework of global best practices for its theorization. She concluded her address by citing the Shastri Institute’s sustained efforts to ensure collaboration across the Indo-Canadian Corridor, and fostering the relationship between the two great democracies.
Lastly, the Chief Guest, Dr. David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Associate Professor, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, Canada, addressed the conference. Dr. Boyd lauded present conference in view of the sheer extent of damage that has been caused by Air Pollution- damage that extends to birth disorders, neurological deficits, health conditions and even death. He detailed that despite such widespread damage, neither the United Nations nor the WHO, or Constitutions across the world, had recognized the Right to Breathe Clean Air. Dr. Boyd thus emphasised on the need to start a conversation in respect of the same, and put forth certain key proposals worthy of deliberation including, amongst others, the monitoring of air quality, identifying sources of air pollution and regulating them, implementing specific measures aimed at improving air quality, and the legal framework for ensuring compliance. He concluded his address by remarking that, “We must ensure that everyone, everyone breathes clean air.”
The Inaugural Ceremony ended on positive note with a vote of thanks delivered by Prof. Lasya Vyakaranam, Assistant Professor, SLS-P.