Air Pollution

Towards cleaner air in Delhi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Delhi air-pollution issue

The article suggests the three-pronged strategy to deal with the emission from transportation and highlights the importance of coordination at various level to deal with the issue of pollution.

Anti-pollution campaign in Delhi

  • With air pollution returning to pre-COVID levels, the Delhi administration has launched a major anti-pollution campaign this month.
  • The campaign is focused on cutting the deadly smoke from thermal plants and brick kilns in the National Capital Region as well as on chemical treatment of stubble burning from nearby States.

Abating emission from transportation

  • Delhi’s long-term solution will depend importantly also on abating emissions from transportation.
  • Delhi needs a 65% reduction to meet the national standards for PM2.5.
  • Vehicles, including trucks and two-wheelers, contribute 20%-40% of the PM2.5 concentrations.
  • Tackling vehicle emissions would be one part of the agenda, as in comparable situations in Bangkok, Beijing, and Mexico City.

Three-part action to combat emissions from transportation

  • A three-part action comprises emissions standards, public transport, and electric vehicles.

1) Stricter enforcement of emission controls

  • Two-wheelers and three-wheelers were as important as cars and lorries in Beijing’s experience.
  • Bangkok ramped up inspection and maintenance to cut emissions.
  • The first order of business is to implement the national standards.

2) Strengthening public transport

  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)  around the world show how the sizeable investment cost is more than offset by the benefits, and that financing pays off.
  • Delhi has lessons from its BRT experience in designating better BRT lanes, improving the ticketing system and synchronising with the Metro.
  • The Supreme Court’s ruling to increase Delhi’s bus fleet and align it with the Metro network must be carried out.
  • The ‘odd-even’ number plate policy can help, but the system should reduce exemptions, allow a longer implementation period, and complement it with other measures.

3) Adoption of electric vehicle: A long term solution

  •  Subsidies and investment will be needed to ensure that EVs are used to a meaningful scale.
  • The Delhi government’s three-year policy aims to make EVs account for a quarter of the new vehicles registered in the capital by 2024.
  • EVs will gain from purchase incentives, scrappage benefits on older vehicles, loans at favourable interest and a waiver of road taxes.

Need for coordination at various level

  • Transport solutions need to be one part of pollution abatement that includes industry and agriculture.
  • Delhi’s own actions will not work if the pollution from neighbouring States is not addressed head on.
  • Technical solutions need to be underpinned by coordination and transparency across Central, State, and local governments.
  • Public opinion matters.
  • Citizen participation and the media are vital for sharing the message on pollution and health, using data such as those from the Central Pollution Control Board.


  • It is a matter of prioritising people’s health and a brighter future. Once the pandemic is over, Delhi must not stumble into yet another public health emergency. The time to act is now.
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