A passage to clean air
Mains Paper 3: Environment
Prelims level: Air Pollution Index
Mains level: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation,
environmental impact assessment
- Globally, rapid economic and social development has resulted in
severe air pollution that kills around 7 million people every year, and
India is home to 14 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities.
- To win the battle against air pollution, India needs a
comprehensive action plan for the whole year.
- It is noteworthy that China had also faced severe air pollution
- On January 12, 2013, the Air Quality Index (AQI) in Beijing rose
to a record 755 about 35 times the guideline set by the World Health
Organisation on what is called the “Blackest Day”.
Lesson from China
- China acted firmly: On March 17, 2013, Premier Li Keqiang
announced: “We need to face the situation and punish offenders with no mercy
and enforce the law with an iron fist”.
- In September 2013, the Chinese government announced an Air
Pollution Action Plan with a PM 2.5 reduction target of 33 per cent in
Beijing by 2017, with 2013 as the base year.
- The measures adopted were costly, controversial and implemented
with seriousness, enabling the city to achieve its target.
- Along similar lines, in 2017, the South Korean government also set
a target of PM 2.5 reduction by 30 per cent by 2022, with base year 2017.
- Based on their experience, and other insights, we feel that India
needs three action measures to begin its journey towards clean air.
- The first is a comprehensive plan and setting of goals.
- The Indian government on May 17 had announced a draft of the
“National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)” with a framework and multiple
strategies to reduce air pollution in the entire country.
- (MoEF) has set a target to cut down PM levels by 30 per cent in
five years, with 2019 as the base year.
- The second corresponds to Designating an in-charge, empowered with
the due mandate.
- In China, air pollution prevention and control is the
responsibility of the central environmental protection inspector, and in
cities special inspections are carried out to strengthen the accountability
- To top it all, the Chinese government has established the
“five-step” supervision mechanism that involves investigation, assignment,
verification, interview and special inspection.
- Our last action item is about driving a change in perspective.
- A view often touted about pollution reduction plans is that they
are economically and politically difficult.
- However, clean air programmes can actually provide significant
economic opportunity in areas of technology, business, innovation, and
enterprise while addressing the challenges of air pollution.
- Further, according to the NITI Aayog report on “Zero Emission
Vehicles (ZEVs): Towards a Policy Framework”, electric vehicles could launch
new business opportunities in areas such as battery charging and swapping
infrastructure, service, or integrated transport.
- In the Indian context, coupled with the generation of renewable
power, the battery manufacturing industry in India can become bigger than
the total amount spent on import of crude oil, thus providing a huge boost
to the Indian economy.
- So clean air, apart from better health and quality of life, can
also bring in higher GDP, more jobs, more business, social benefits and
higher tax revenues.
- It certainly doesn’t look like an economically or politically
Q.1) Consider the following statements regarding the population growth in
1. According to UN, India's population may peak by 2066.
2. Total Fertility Rate influences the population growth of a country. Select
the correct code.
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both 1 and 2
D. Neither 1 nor 2
Q.1) What are the lessons we can learn from China to control air
pollution in India?