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WB report on Curbing air pollution in India

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


Source: TH 

Direction: The article attempts to demonstrate that air pollution is a regional problem that requires regional efforts to control. 

Context: According to a World Bank report, India has six large airsheds, some of them shared with Pakistan, between which air pollutants move. 


  • Persistently hazardous levels of air pollution have caused public health crises in South Asia demanding urgent action.
  • Using a modelling approach over South Asia as a whole, the WB report lays out multiple scenarios and costs involved in reducing the region’s exposure to particulate matter (PM). 

Highlights of the report:

  • Currently, over 60% of South Asians are exposed to an average of 35 µg/m3 of PM2.5
  • In some parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) it spiked to as much as 100 µg/m3 – nearly 20 times the upper limit of 5 µg/m3 recommended by the WHO.
  • There are six major airsheds in South Asia.
    • Airshed includes the entire area over which the pollutants disperse due to meteorological and geographical factors.
    • For example, the region of the Indo-Gangetic plain may be considered as one airshed. The region extends from Rawalpindi in Pakistan to Rangpur in northern Bangladesh.

  • When the wind direction was predominantly northwest to southeast, 30% of the air pollution in Indian Punjab came from the Punjab Province in Pakistan.
  • This means that even if Delhi NCT were to fully implement all air pollution control measures, it wouldn’t keep pollution exposure below 35 µg/m3.

Impact: According to the ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), PM pollution in the mountains will come down when the glaciers melt and then go into the oceans. 

Significance of the report: It highlights the interdependence in air quality within airsheds in South Asia, which is necessary for pollution control.

Policy measures and cooperation among countries to reduce air pollution:

  • Airshed approach: Coordination between airsheds, would cut the average exposure of PM 2.5 and save more than 7,50,000 lives annually.
  • Best practice: In ASEAN, Nordic regions and across China, air pollution is tackled in this way.

Indian efforts to curb air pollution

  • The National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP) (2019) aims to reduce (40% over 2017 levels by 2025-26) air pollution in 131 of India’s most polluted cities.
  • The government of India has set aside $1.7 billion to fight air pollution over the next five years, as per the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission
  • Parliament has approved to the establishment of the Commission of Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas.
  • The clean air action plan is implemented across the states with guidelines from WB.

Way ahead: Curbing air pollution requires not only tackling its specific sources, but also close coordination across local and national jurisdictional boundaries.

Conclusion: Regional cooperation can help implement cost-effective joint strategies that leverage the interdependent nature of air quality.


Related news: PIB

According to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook (WEO), 2022, some of the major steps taken by India for reducing carbon emissions and moving towards SDGs

  • Permitting FDI up to 100% under the automatic route for renewable energy projects
  • Declaration of trajectory for Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) up to the year 2030
  • Setting up of Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Parks
  • Launch of Schemes such as PM-KUSUM, Solar Rooftop Phase II, etc.
  • Adding capacity under the Green Energy Corridor Scheme for evacuation of renewable power.
  • The Net Zero target by 2030 by Indian Railways alone will lead to a reduction of emissions by 60 million tonnes annually.
  • Similarly, India’s massive LED bulb campaign is reducing emissions by 40 million tonnes annually.


Insta Links:

Health as the focus of air pollution policy


Mains Links:

Q. What are the key features of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) initiated by the Government of India? (UPSC 2020)