Researchers to explore environmental storytelling to reduce air pollution in India

A new study led by Keele University will explore the use of environmental storytelling as a tool to reduce urban air pollution in India.

Researchers Dr Pawas Bisht and Dr Eva Giraud, from Keele’s School of Humanities, and Dr Sabina Kidwai from Jamia Millia Islamia, a leading public university based in New Delhi, have been awarded funding by the British Academy’s Humanities and Social Sciences’ Tackling Global Challenges Programme, supported under the UK Government's Global Challenges Research Fund.

The team will undertake research which will use innovative approaches combining media analysis, interviews, and participatory story-telling workshops to contribute to efforts to reduce air-pollution in New Delhi, one of the world’s most polluted and populous cities.

India is home to 21 out of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, with the Indian government identifying air pollution as an issue demanding ‘immediate attention’. The Covid-19 pandemic has further increased the urgency of the problem; populations with poor respiratory health caused by high levels of air pollution, such as those living in India's cities, have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

As part of the project, the team will undertake three key strands of activities, including examining news coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic and its environmental implications, interviewing environmental and advocacy organisations to understand their current aims and storytelling approaches, and developing effective environmental stories through workshops with teams of documentary filmmakers and representatives from civil society organisations.

The project will produce three ten-minute long films which will be used to increase public understanding and support for reducing air pollution, as well as a story-telling toolkit which will help civil society organisations, governmental agencies and institutional media in enhancing public engagement with the issue of air pollution.

Dr Bisht, Lecturer in Media, Culture and Creative Practice at Keele University, said: “Combating air pollution is an absolutely vital and urgent challenge in New Delhi. We are looking forward to working with local stakeholders to mobilise the power of creative storytelling in combating this problem.”

The research forms part of Keele University’s Institute for Social Inclusion, which aims to tackle the issues of inequality on a local, national and global scale.