Air Pollution

Cancer, heart disease, diabetes – odd-even scheme is not the answer to pollution woes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NACP

Mains level: One Health approach

One Health approach

Central idea

The article delves into the alarming air pollution crisis in Delhi and the National Capital Region, highlighting global and local concerns. It emphasizes the health impact of air pollution, particularly on vulnerable groups like children, and evaluates India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) and potential strategies for effective air quality management.

Key Highlights:

  • Air Quality Crisis: Delhi and the National Capital Region face a severe air pollution crisis, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) touching 500, prompting various restrictions and interventions.
  • Global Air Pollution Concerns: Air pollution is a global issue, affecting low- and middle-income countries the most. The World Health Assembly Resolution 68.8 emphasizes addressing the health impact of air pollution, highlighting its role in millions of global deaths.
  • India’s Efforts: The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) launched in 2019 aims to reduce PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations by 20-30% by 2024 through diverse interventions targeting vehicular pollution, industrial emissions, waste management, and more.
Let’s revise for prelims


India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)


Ministry Under Which NCAP Operates: Operated under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).


Establishment and Jurisdiction: Launched in 2019 to address air pollution and improve air quality. Encompasses various interventions to reduce pollution levels.


Objective: Aims to achieve a 20-30% reduction in concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 by 2024 (base year, 2017).


Key Components: Focuses on reducing vehicular pollution through regulatory norms. Promotes public transport and enhances infrastructure. Addresses industrial emissions, waste management, and stubble burning.


Legal Framework: Aligned with existing environmental laws and regulations. Operates within the framework of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.


  • Health Impact: Air pollution, laden with pollutants like PM2.5, leads to severe health consequences, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory issues, and neurological disorders.
  • Vulnerability of Children: Children are particularly vulnerable due to developing lungs, higher exposure, and increased susceptibility to neurotoxic compounds, leading to various health issues.
  • Social Gradient in Exposure: Studies indicate that air pollution often exhibits a social gradient, impacting marginalized communities more, challenging the notion that it affects everyone equally.

Key Phrases:

  • Air Quality Index (AQI): Measures air pollution levels, categorized into ranges with associated health advisories. Delhi’s AQI touching 500 signifies hazardous air quality.
  • NCAP: India’s National Clean Air Programme, launched to combat air pollution, emphasizing reductions in PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations through diverse strategies.
  • One Health Approach: Recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health, urging comprehensive actions to address the impact of land, air, and water use on well-being.


  • Global Concerns: Nearly 90% of the global population breathes air exceeding prescribed pollution limits, with low- and middle-income countries facing the most significant impact.
  • NCAP Effectiveness: The NCAP outlines specific interventions to combat air pollution, but the effectiveness of measures like the odd-even scheme in Delhi is debated, with studies showing mixed results.

Key Data:

  • Health Impact: Air pollution contributes to chronic diseases and cancer, with a third of deaths from major diseases linked to air pollution, rivaling the impact of smoking.
  • Global Scenario: Delhi ranked as the most polluted city globally in terms of fine particulate matter, emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive air quality management.

Way Forward:

  • Stringent Standards: Evolve more stringent air quality standards, considering the absence of safe thresholds, especially for particulates and ozone.
  • Airshed-Centric Approach: Transition from city-centric to airshed-centric air quality management, recognizing the local factors affecting pollutant dispersion.
  • Global Cooperation: Leverage international platforms like the G20 to address pollution in the context of climate action and promote a One Health approach globally.

In essence, the article underscores the critical need for immediate and comprehensive measures to combat the escalating air pollution crisis, emphasizing the global and local impact on health and the environment.

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