Climate Change due to Air Pollution and the solution

The Causes and Consequences of Air Pollution

Air pollution caused over 1.1 million premature deaths in 2017 in India (HEI 2019), of which 56% was due to exposure to outdoor PM2.5 concentration and 44% was attributed to household air pollution. Based on the concentrations of PM2.5 emissions, India was ranked the fifth most polluted country by WHO (2019), in which 21 among the top 30 polluted cities were in India. The Indian cities, on average, exceeded the WHO threshold by an alarming 500%.


 On-road transportation contributed over 97% of the estimated emissions in India, when compared to other modes of transport, such as railways, waterways, and airways. 

Major causes of Air Pollution


1.       Transportation

2.       Industries

3.       Agriculture

4.       Power

5.       Waste treatment

6.       Biomass burning

7.       Residential

8.       Construction & demolition waste

Industries and businesses responsible for maximum air pollution



Vehicular Emission is the main contributor of air pollution in every city.  In India, the amount of motorized transport increased from 0.3 million in 1951 to 159.5 million in 2012.  Carbon monoxide (CO), NOX, and NMVOCs are the major pollutants (>80%) from vehicular emissions. Other trace emissions include methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of sulphur (SOx), and total suspended particles.

Factors responsible for high traffic emission are:

  1. Extreme lack of exhaust measures

  1. Highly heterogeneous nature of vehicles

  1. Inferior quality of fuel



As per CPCB there are seven ‘critical’ industries which are major contributor of air pollutants are iron and steel, sugar, paper, cement, fertilizer, copper, and aluminum. The major pollutants comprise SPM, SOX, NOX, and CO2 emissions. Some small-scale industries use state provided electricity and also other sources of energy like biomass, plastic and crude oil etc.

 In Delhi, a major fraction of the pollution load comes from the brick manufacturing industries, which are situated at the outskirts of the city. Rajkot (42%) and Pune (30%) are the two cities where industries play a prominent role in contributing to the highest amount of PM2.5



Ammonia and Nitrous oxide are major pollutants from agricultural activities.

Methane production from enteric fermentation processes

Nitrogen excretion from manures

Methane from agricultural wetlands

Nitrogen emission from the soil due to addition of fertilizers.

‘Slash & Burn’ technique responsible for photochemical smog.

Burning of residue emit toxic gases.


Power Plants

According to The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the emissions of SO2, NOX, and PM increased over 50 times from 1947 to 1997. Thermal power plants are the main sources of SO2 and TSP emissions. . In Delhi, power plants contributed 68% of SO2 emissions and 80% of PM10 concentrations over a period from 1990 to 2000.


Waste treatment & biomass burning

In India, about 80% of municipal solid waste (MSW) is still discarded into open dumping yards and landfills, which leads to various GHG emissions. Methane (CH4) is the major pollutant released from landfills and wastewater treatment plants. Ammonia (NH3) is another by-product, which is released from the composting process. The open burning of wastes, including plastic, produces toxic and carcinogenic emissions.


Domestic Sector

 India's rural population continues to rely on cow dung cakes, biomass, charcoal or wood as the primary fuel for cooking and other energy purposes and demands. These lead to severe implications on air quality, especially the indoor air quality.

 The emissions from fossil fuel burning, stoves or generators in households are identified as a major contributor of air pollution in India.  According to HEI (2019), about 60% of India's population was exposed to household pollution in 2017.


Construction & Demolition waste

Around 10,750 ton of construction waste is generated in Delhi every year. Even after the construction phase, these buildings have the potential to be the major contributors of GHG emissions. 

What is Indian Government doing?


·         Policy measures have been taken by Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change for short term and long term impacts.

·         Adoption of compressed natural gas (CNG) as alternative fuel instead of petrol and diesel.

·         Odd Even scheme in Delhi.

·         Improvement measures in fuel and vehicles quality to lower down the emission.

·         Introduction of Bharat Stage VI vehicle and fuel standards

·         The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY),

·         The National Clean Air Program (NCAP)

·         The CPCB ensures the monitoring and regulation of the NAAQS in the cities, towns, and industrial areas with the cooperation of the respective state pollution control boards (SPCBs).

·         Incentives for purchase and usage of electric vehicles (EVs) for public transportation,

·         Development of cycling infrastructure,

·         Use of bio-ethanol as fuel,

·         Installation of web cameras in highly polluting industries. 

·         Construction of multi-level car parking facilities

·         Green buffer around cities, maintenance of 33% green cover around urban areas,


What are Industries doing?

·         The implementation of zig-zag technology for the stack emissions from brick kilns,

·         Online monitoring of discharges.

·         Use cleaner and non-toxic raw material.

·         Use electric vehicles for supply chain.

·         Use mitigation technology like wet scrubber, regenerative thermal oxidizer, catalytic oxidizer and rotator concentrator system.

·         Switch to renewable energy.

·         Use predictive analytics as essential tools in enterprise resource planning, including balancing supply and demand for manufacture, Deloitte offers predictive maintenance 


NGOs are working to tackle the problem of open burning of garbage and household wastes, door-to-door collection of segregated wastes has been introduced and several compost pits have been established in urban cities. Greenpeace, TERI and CSE are NGOs which are doing commendable work in combating air pollution.


How can an ordinary person collaborate and support?

  • Travel & Transportation -
  • Please use shared transportation like Carpool, public buses, trains etc for travel. Else consider switching to electric vehicles, cycling or walking whenever possible.
  • Follow gasoline refueling instructions for efficient vapor recovery, being careful not to spill fuel and always tightening your gas cap securely.
  • Needless to mention, keep your vehicle, and other engines properly tuned for your Pollution Under Control Certificate and turn off the engine during traffic red light.
  • Make sure the air pressure in your tyres are as per norms to reduce the fuel consumption and thereby reduce exhaust.
  • Personal Habits -
  • Stop smoking and discourage your friends and family from smoking. You may consider avoiding interaction with your smoker friend to avoid passive smoking yourself.
  • Avoid bursting fire crackers to celebrate a win for your favourite team. Crackers causes all the types of pollution, i.e. sound, air, fire, water and earth.
  • For villages, consider using gas logs instead of wood.
  • Reduce your daily plastic trash, carry  your own bags and say no to Plastic, because burning of plastic emits carcinogenic gases.
  • Gift a Plant - Instead of flower bouquets wrapped in plastic, consider gifting a sapling or plant for gifting on birthdays and anniversaries.
  • Organize monthly events for tree plantation in your locality & parks. Plant a tree in as trees help keep the temperature down, provide shade and prevent dust from settling on the ground and reduce ambient particulate pollution levels. 
  • Report adverse events when others are creating air pollution by burning something around you. Click a picture and share with local newspaper emails and post it on the Central Pollution Control Board’s social media channels - i.e. twitter feed etc.


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