Air Pollution

The cost of cleaning air


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 3- Funds allocated for containing air pollution and issue of its inadequacy

The article deals with the issue of allocation of funds to tackle air pollution and issues with it.

Allocation in the budget

  • A ₹4,400 crore package was announced in last budget for 2020-21 to tackle air pollution in 102 of India’s most polluted cities.
  • The funds would be used to reduce particulate matter by 20%-30% from 2017 levels by 2024 under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

Issues with estimating the scale of the problem

  • It is unclear if this amount is adequate because the scale of the problem is unknown.
  • Delhi government spent money on the measurement of pollution for in Delhi that far exceeds s allocations that find mention in the Centre and State government’s budgeting books.
  • The funds allocated don’t account for the trained manpower and the support system necessary to effectively maintain the systems and these costs are likely to be significant.
  • Historically, cites have used manual machines to measure specified pollutants and their use has been inadequate.
  • An analysis by research agencies Carbon Copy and Respirer Living Sciences recently found that only 59 out of 122 cities had PM 2.5 data available.
  • Only three States, had all their installed monitors providing readings from 2016 to 2018.
  • Prior to 2016, making comparisons of reduction strictly incomparable.
  • Now manual machines are being replaced by automatic ones and India is still largely reliant on imported machines.
  • In the case of the National Capital Region, at least ₹600 crore was spent by the Ministry of Agriculture over two years to provide subsidised equipment to farmers in Punjab and Haryana and dissuade them from burning paddy straw.
  • Yet this year, there have been more farm fires than the previous year and their contribution to Delhi’s winter air woes remain unchanged.
  • This indicates that money alone doesn’t work.


A clear day continues to remain largely at the mercy of favourable meteorology. While funds are critical, proper enforcement, adequate staff and stemming the sources of pollution on the ground are vital to the NCAP meeting its target.

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