Air Pollution Mitigation

According to State of Global Air Report 2019, in 2017, annual PM2.5 (particulate matter that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers) exposures were highest in South Asia, where Nepal (100 µg/m3), India (91 µg/m3), Bangladesh (61 µg/m3), and Pakistan (58 µg/m3) had the highest exposures. Airpocalypse III, is the report released by Greenpeace, which analyzed air pollution data of 313 cities and towns for the year 2017.Of these 241 (77%) had PM10 (particles that are 10 micrometers or less) levels beyond the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

  • Frontier Report of UN - It includes chapter on nitrogen pollution. It shows the rising levels of nitrogen due to livestock, transport and agriculture has led to nitrogen pollution.
  • The Indian Nitrogen Assessment shows that agriculture is the main source of nitrogen pollution in India within which cereals contribute the most. Wheat and Rice take up 33 per cent of applied nitrogen fertilizer in form of nitrates while 67 per cent is causing nitrogen pollution as it seeps through soil.
  • Air is an important natural resource which is vital for healthy human resource and sustainable environment. Its pollution has led to health complications for humans and warming up of environment leading to climate change and decreased productivity of crops thus threatening food security. This has led government to act in urgent manner.

Cause of Diseases

Global Burden of Disease from Major Air Pollution Sources (GBD MAPS) project found that in India, household burning of biomass was responsible for about 24% of the total population-weighted PM2.5 concentrations in 2015. Global patterns of deaths attributable to ambient PM2.5 generally mirror the global patterns of population-weighted PM2.5 concentrations around the world. In 2017, ozone exposure accounted for about 472,000 deaths from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, most of which occurred in China (38%) and India (31%). In 2017, exposure to PM2.5 was the third leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes deaths, after high blood sugar and high body mass index. This burden was highest in India, where PM2.5 exposure accounted for 55,000 deaths.

Sources of Particulate Matter

PM 2.5 sources in India include household burning of solid fuels; dust from construction, roads, and other activities; industrial and power plant burning of coal; brick production; transportation; and diesel-powered equipment. An estimated 846 million people in India (60% of the population) were exposed to household air pollution in 2017.

Past Initiatives of Government

In light of seriousness of the menace of air pollution, government initiatives in past are:

  • Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP) 2018: The Central Government has notified a Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP) in 2018 identifying timelines and implementing agencies for actions identified for prevention, control and mitigation of air pollution in Delhi and NCR.
  • Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) was notified on January 12, 2017, for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution in Delhi and NCR. It identifies graded measures and implementing agencies for response to four AQI categories, namely, Moderate to Poor, Very Poor, Severe and Severe + or Emergency.
  • SAMEER App has been launched wherein air quality information is available to public along with provision for registering complaints against air polluting activities.
  • A dedicated media corner, Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created for access to air quality related information and to provide a platform for lodging complaints by general population.
  • Under the National Green Corps (NGC) programme about one lakh schools have been identified as Eco-clubs, wherein, nearly thirty lakh students are actively participating in various environment protection and conservation activities, including the issues related to the air pollution.
  • The National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched on September 17, 2014. The new index measures eight parameters. There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe. The AQI will consider eight pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb) for which short-term (up to 24-hourly averaging period) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are prescribed.

Recent Initiatives of Government

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP): Overall objective of the NCAP is comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution besides augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country and strengthening the awareness and capacity building activities.

  • Other features of NCAP include, increasing number of monitoring stations in the country including rural monitoring stations, technology support, emphasis on awareness and capacity building initiatives, setting up of certification agencies for monitoring equipment, source apportionment studies, emphasis on enforcement, specific sectoral interventions etc.

Note: There is low financial support for NCAP and it has no legal backing. It only states that central pollution control board will implement it in consonance with Air act, 1986.

  • City Gas Distribution Project: CGD networks have been focused to increase the availability of cleaner cooking fuel (i.e. PNG) and transportation fuel (i.e. CNG) to the citizens of the country. The expansion of CGD network will also benefit to industrial and commercial units by ensuring the uninterrupted supply of natural gas.


  • Moral hazard in polluting air as it is a free resource.
  • Knowledge deficit among masses regarding consequences of pollution.
  • Poor compliance of emission norms.
  • Competition of clean energy sources with alternate sources of energy.
  • High initial investment required for clean energy.

Way Forward

  • Adequate financial support to pollution abatement measures is needed.
  • Polluters’ pay principle should reflect in the environmental legislative framework of government.
  • Nitrogen pollution related issues should be brought under one umbrella law.
  • PPP model should be used to bring private investments and supplement government efforts.