Greenpeace campaigner Areeba Hamid insists the government must take the issue of air pollution from diesel-powered vehicles far more seriously, given its devastating effect on the lives of UK citizens.
Experts suggest 10,000 people die each year as a result of London breaching the air pollution limits set by the World Health Organisation. It is also estimated a further 200,000 will be killed over the next five years unless the government takes serious action.
Greenpeace protesters placed gas masks on some of London’s most iconic statues, including the likes of Oliver Cromwell and Queen Victoria yesterday (Monday), in a desperate attempt to raise awareness of the issue. The actions led to eight arrests, including those of activists Luke Jones and Alison Garrigan.
While speaking to Julia Hartley-Brewer, Hamid pointed out this has been an ongoing issue for a number of years now, and insisted the government must work harder to regulate car manufacturers to limit their pollution levels.
“People are just trying to get from one place to another, while companies like VW are selling us lies telling us this [the use of diesel-powered vehicles] is actually good for the environment,” he said.
“We want the government to regulate these companies so VW scandals [misleading the public about the dangers to the environment] can’t happen again. We want the emission testing done in the real world. We all now know it’s bogus and that it’s done in labs.”
Hamid has called for the UK government to step up and take responsibility for what has become a ‘silent killer’.
“The UK has been breaching air limits since 2010. They [the government] have been sued by Client Earth for not meeting these standards. Our role at Greenpeace is to put pressure on the people in power to actually make a difference.”
She added: “We are demanding the government commits to a network of clean air zones across the country to phase out the most polluting vehicles off our streets."
Hamid and the rest of the campaigners at Greenpeace hope their actions across London will help people understand just how serious an issue this is going forward.
“Part of the problem is air is invisible, and many of us think it’s just part and parcel of living in the city. People don’t really understand the extent and the gravity of the situation. That’s why actions like we did [putting masks on iconic statues] are important.”