Impacts of Air Pollution

  • Human Health: According to a study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India’s life expectancy has decreased by 2.6 years because of severe diseases induced by air pollution.
  • Economy: Economic cost of air pollution to Indian economy is estimated to be more than US$150 billion per year, owing to pollution-related death, disease, and welfare.
  • Climate Change: including global warming, acid rain, depletion of ozone layer etc.
  • Wildlife: Toxic chemicals present in the air can force wildlife species to move to new place and change their habitat.

Steps taken By Government

  • National Clean Air Program: This program aims to reduce the levels of air pollution at both regional and urban scales. Target is for reduction of 20-30% of PM 2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024 by stringent implementation of mitigation measures, augmenting and evolving effective a proficient air quality monitoring networks and augmenting public awareness.
  • Clean Air India Initiative: to curb air pollution in Indian cities by promoting partnerships between Indian start-ups and build a network of entrepreneurs working on business solutions for cleaner air. Under it, an ‘INDUS impact’ project aims to halt the burning of paddy stubble by promoting businesses that “up cycle” it by using paddy straw as feedstock to make materials that would find use in construction and packaging.
  • Notification of National Ambient Air Quality Standards, National Air Quality Index and sector-specific emission & effluent standards for industries to reduce emission of PM 10, SO2 and oxide of nitrogen.
  • Promotion of fuel standards- Leapfrogging from BS-I to BS-VI fuel and ban on pet coke and furnace oil.
  • Subsidy to cooking fuel under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) to curb indoor pollution.
  • Encouraging Alternatives: Promotion of public transport and network of metro, e-rickshaws, promotion of car-pooling etc.


The Act aims to control and prevent air pollution in India, and some of its main objectives are:

  •   Prevent, control, and reduce air pollution.
  • To provide for the establishment of boards to enforce the law at the federal and state levels.
  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) were given the responsibility. It is stipulated that air pollution sources such as internal combustion engines, industries, vehicles, and power plants shall not contain particulate matter, lead, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other toxic substances exceeding specified limits. It empowers state governments to designate air pollution areas.


Swachh vayu survekshan

  • It has been conducted since 2016 and is the world’s largest urban sanitation and cleanliness survey.
  • Goal: The primary goal of Swachh Survekshans is to encourage large scale citizen participation and create awareness amongst all sections of society about the importance of working together towards making towns and cities better places to reside in.
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
  • It is conducted under the ambit of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban).
  • ‘Swachh Vayu Sarvekshan- Ranking of Cities’:
    • The guidelines on ‘Swachh Vayu Sarvekshan- Ranking of Cities’ released under National Clean Air Program (NCAP).
    • Promotes ranking of 131 cities in the country for implementing City Action Plans prepared as part of NCAP for reducing air pollution up to 40% by 2025-26.
    • Three Groups:
      • 131 cities are categorized into three groups based on population.
        • 47 cities are in the first group having population more than 10 lakh.
        • 44 cities are in the second group having population between 3 to 10 lakh.
        • Third group consists of 40 cities having population less than 3 lakh.
    • PRANA online portal: Cities are required to do the self-assessment as per the framework provided on PRANA online portal. This assessment is carried out annually. Cities have to report implementation of activities and measures taken in respect of solid waste management, road dust management, management of construction and demolition waste, control of vehicular emissions and industrial pollution.
    • Cash award: Based on the self-assessment and third party assessment, 3 best performing cities in each group will be given cash award in the spirit of competitive federalism.

Bharat Stage Norms (BS Norms)

  • Bharat stage norms are rules which determine the maximum limit of pollutants vehicles (Including motor vehicles) can emit.
  • The standards, based on European regulations were first introduced in the year 2000.
  • 2020 – BS-VI has been introduced directly bypassing BS-V
  • BS VI is expected to be same as that of the Euro VI norms and will be declared by CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) under the Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change.

a) The coming BS VI norms will cut down the presence of sulphur (in comparison to BS IV) from 50 ppm to 10 ppm (80%)

b)   Implementation of BS VI will ensure cutting down of the harmful NOx (nitrogen oxides) from diesel cars by nearly 70%. In the petrol cars, they can be reduced by 25%.

c)    Particulate matter like PM 2.5 and PM 10 are the most harmful components and the BS VI will bring down the cancer-causing particulate matter in diesel cars by a phenomenal 80%.

Air Quality Index (AQI)

  • AQI is an initiative of the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
  • The index is constituted as a part of Government’s mission to improve the culture of cleanliness and helps public to judge air quality within their vicinity. It is a colour coded index.
  • There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe.
  • The index will measure eight major pollutants, namely, particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, ammonia and lead.

National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has notified these standards under powers given to it under Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It covers 12 pollutants: Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, PM-10, PM-2.5, Ozone, Lead, Carbon Monoxide, Ammonia, Benzene, Benzopyrene, Arsenic, Nickel.
  • Whenever monitoring results on two consecutive days of monitoring exceed the limits specified in NAAQS above for the respective category, it is considered adequate reason to institute regular or continuous monitoring and further investigation.

Air Quality Early Warning System

  • The initiative comes under the Ministry of Earth Sciences and Environment.
  • Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi has been announced by the Central government that can alert, three days in advance, about the likelihood of extreme pollution events & dust storms.
  • The air pollution system has been developed jointly by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), India Meteorological Department, National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).
  • It intends for real time observations with 72-hour lead time of air quality over Delhi region.
  • It provides details about natural aerosols like dust from dust storms and particulate matter using different satellite data sets.
  • It will provide warning messages and Alerts to take necessary steps as per Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).


It specifies actions required for controlling particulate matter (PM) emissions from various pollution sources and prevents PM10 and PM2.5 levels to go beyond ‘moderate’ national Air Quality Index (AQI) category.

These measures were earlier implemented in Delhi only. However recently GRAP has been extended to the NCR towns also.

  • It was planned by Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) and approved by the Supreme Court in 2016.
  • GRAP works only as an emergency measure. As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
  • If air quality reaches the severe+ stage, GRAP suggests shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.
  • GRAP comprises measures such as prohibition on entry of trucks into Delhi; ban on construction activities, introduction of odd and even scheme for private vehicles, shutting of schools, closure of brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers; shutting down of Badarpur power plant, ban on diesel generator sets, garbage burning in landfills and plying of visibly polluting vehicles etc.


  • A smog tower is a large vertical structure designed as large-scale air purifier to reduce air pollution particles.
  • It is fitted with exhaust fans that will help in sucking polluted air.
  • The device takes in air from all 360o angles and generates high volume of clean air at high rate.
  • It uses Highly Effective Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) which can clean up to 99.99 per cent of the particulate matter present in the air in conjunction with a pre-filter and activated carbon.

Device WAYU (Wind Augmentation PurifYing Unit)

  • Developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI)
  • Developed as a part of Technology Development Project, funded by Department of Science and Technology.
  • The device has filters for Particulate Matter removal and activated carbon (charcoal) and UV lamps for poisonous gases removal such as VOCs and Carbon Monoxide.


  • Introduced by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), GOI.
  • SAFAR for greater metropolitan cities of India is to provide location specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.
  • It has been combined with the early warning system on weather parameters.
  • The implementation of SAFAR is made possible with an active collaboration with local municipal corporations and various local educational institutions and governmental agencies in that Metro city.
  • The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for betterment of air quality and related health issues.
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