The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to arrest rising air pollution levels, lest it step in. The court demanded to know from the government why results on the ground were negligible if everything was good as per compliance report submitted by the solicitor general


 Industrial sources

  •  Pollution from industries- harmful effluents released by industries lead to soil water and air pollution ultimately enter the human food chain
  •  Release of chlorofluorocarbons
  •   Burning of fossil fuels- it leads to harmful greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere resulting in  global warming and climate change
  •  Pollution from thermal power plants, coal based power plants are the major source of greenhouse gases
  •  Mining Operations

  Domestic sources

  • Burning of biomass like wood, cow dung causes emission of harmful gases in atmosphere and is also responsible for lung diseases and eye ailments
  •  Municipal waste

Agricultural activities

  • Agriculture has been the largest emitter of nitrous oxide
  •  The issue of stubble burning leads to extremely poor air quality in the NCR region and is a cause of various health problems
  • Jhum cultivation in North eastern states is also a source of air pollution
  •   Methane emissions-  ruminant livestock rice are one of the major sources of methane


  •  Vehicular emissions like carbon monoxide ,carbon dioxide , sulphur dioxide, particulate matter etc are the harmful air pollutants persisting around us

Natural sources

  • Forest fires and volcanic eruptions are natural causes which add various harmful elements into the atmosphere


 Health effects

  •  Respiratory and heart diseases
  •  As per state of global air report (2019) 1.2 million Indians died due to ailments triggered by air pollution in 2017

 Environmental impact

  • Global warming- world is already witnessing the consequences of increased temperature of the Earth
  •  Climate change has affected the agricultural practices, Indian agriculture which is majorly dependent on rainfall has been seriously affected
  •   Acid rain- is harmful for both  plants and aquatic ecosystem and ultimately  toxic elements enter the human food chain

Social impact

  •  Lancet commission on pollution and health report said that nearly 92% of pollution related deaths occur in low and middle-income countries

 Economic impact

  • People have underwent economic losses due to degraded quality-of-life, increased expenditure on health and manpower loss


Underlying problems

  • Delhi is landlocked - because of geography, the pollutants get trapped
  •  Huge vehicular emissions- Delhi requires 11000 public transport buses but contains only 5500
  • Construction activities- the dust released it is also a major cause of degraded air quality
  •  Stubble burning

Causes of stubble burning

  • Policy failure - Due green revolution and government policies of minimum support price and procurement incentivize farmers for production of rice and wheat
  • Rice, being a water intensive crop requires more water usage so farmers tend to push the sowing season towards monsoon so the window becomes less and the the shortcut for clearing the fields is the stubble burning
  • Loss of nutrients in the topsoil- Due to burning, nutrients in the soil are lost so, more use of fertilizers and hence more water is required. Hence, the stubble becomes very hard so the removal will be even more difficult
  • Basmati Versus other varieties- Regions where basmati is grown farmers practice manual harvesting so stubble burning is very low also it is used as animal feed generating economic value for waste
  • Lack of capacity and coordination- Because of fragmented approach between state and Central agencies the desired results are not achieved
  • Increase in wages-Manual labour is not cheap. Also, because of MGNREGA, the migration of labourers has decreased and there is a lack of availability of labourers


Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

  •  Supreme Court in 2017 mandated the Central Pollution Control Board to come up with an emergency, comprehensive action plan.
  • The programme is referred to as a ‘graded’ plan, as it functions according to stages as per the pollution levels

 National Clean Air Program

  •  Government launched the National Clean Air Program (NCAP), a five-year action plan to curb air pollution  in 2019
  •  It aims to  build a pan-India air quality monitoring network, and improve citizen awareness.
  •   The programme focuses on city-specific action plans that will be developed for 102 cities in India that exceed national air quality safeguards. It aims to reduce PM2.5 levels by 20-30 percent by 2024 (compared to 2017 levels).

Odd-Even Scheme

  • The odd-even scheme is a traffic rationing measure under which private vehicles with registration numbers ending with an odd digit are allowed on roads on odd dates, and those with an even digit  on even dates. The rules also apply to vehicles with registration numbers obtained from other states but using Delhi roads


Thailand Model- Government of Thailand introduced very small power plants scheme for biomass projects below 10 MW within a span of few years, this has solved the issue of rice husk waste

Beijing Model- Beijing was one of the most polluted national capitals, so the government came up with National Air Quality Plan based on forecasts made by its pollution observing agencies.

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