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Air pollution in Indian cities

5th July, 2024 Environment

Air pollution in Indian cities

Source: Business Standard

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  • Research highlights the significant mortality risk from 5 pollution in India's largest cities and majorly due to emissions from vehicular and industries.


Key Points

  • Around 2% of daily deaths are attributed to PM2.5 pollution in 10 largest and most populated cities of India (Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune, Shimla and Varanasi)
  • In Delhi, highest fraction of daily and yearly deaths is linked to PM2.5 pollution.
  • World Health Organisation has set guidelines of 15 µg/m³ PM2.5 over 24 hours whereas Indian Air Quality standards is at 60 µg/m³ PM2.5 over 24 hours.

India’s Health Burden:

  • Air pollution in India is largely due to PM2.5.
  • In 2019, over 1.67 million deaths in India were due to air pollution.
  • Respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders and premature deaths were such health impacts.

About PM2.5:

  • 5 refers to fine particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres.
  • These are so small that can penetrate deep into lungs and causes significant health problems.
  • WHO has set 15 μg/m³ (24-hour average) as a safe PM 2.5 concentration in the air.
  • However, India has set it less strict than WHO which is 60 μg/m³ (24-hour average).

Sources of PM2.5:

  • Fossil fuel burning, Biomass burning and Windblown dust are the primary source for PM2.5.
  • Whereas Ammonia, SO2, NOx reacts in the atmosphere to form PM2.5 (Secondary source).

Government Initiatives:

  • Frequent revision of air quality standards.
  • Strengthening of vehicle and industrial emission standards.
  • Time bound reduction of PM2.5 levels by National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
  • Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region (Delhi).

World Bank Support:

  • Knowledge sharing and capacity building for air quality management.
  • Providing fund to governments to tackle air pollution.
  • Supporting India's first State Air Quality Action Plans and Regional Airshed Action Plans.
  • "India Lighthouse Initiative" for knowledge exchange on air pollution mitigation strategies.


  • Airshed-level coordination between states for effective management of air pollution.
  • Long term commitment with cost effective plans for sustained better air quality.
  • Focus should be on clean energy transition to reduce fossil fuels dependency.


Business Standard


Q. Examine the economic and public health implications of PM2.5 pollution in India. What role do international organizations, such as the World Bank, play in supporting India's efforts to improve air quality? Suggest further measures to enhance air quality management in the country.