Rising urbanisation and booming industrialisation have rapidly led to deteriorating air quality in India cities. A vast majority of India’s population is exposed to unhealthy levels of ambient pollution—emanating from multiple sources and sectors such as emissions from burning fossil fuels such as coal or oil, or crop residues, construction, transport and industry. According to the World Health Organisation, 10 out of the 20 most populated cities in the world are in India. Based on the concentrations of PM2.5 emissions, India was ranked the fifth most polluted country in which 21 among the top 30 polluted cities were in India.
Alarmingly, ambient and indoor air pollution is estimated to have caused 1.7 million premature deaths in India in 2019. It is estimated that India’s lost labour income due to fatal illness from PM 2.5 pollution in 2017 was in the range of $30-78 billion.
The continuous deterioration of air quality demands effective measures to curb air pollution. India is implementing significant steps towards this including expanding renewable energy, promoting electric vehicles and supplying LPG cooking fuel to millions of households. The Union budget has dedicated funds allocated for air quality management. India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is one of the most powerful steps in tackling deteriorating air quality. The NCAP has set a long-term, time-bound strategy to reduce PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 20-30 per cent by 2024 against a 2017 baseline. It identifies 132 non-attainment cities where air pollution standards are not being met and asks these cities to prepare clean air plans.
The NCAP has witnessed progress particularly in increasing awareness on the sources of air pollution, strengthening air quality data infrastructure and promulgating innovation through technologies like low-cost sensors. But the sources and causes of air pollution remain complex and vary between geographies, across seasons and over time. This is why policies, regulations, instruments, and institutions will need to be further strengthened to achieve substantial reductions in air pollution.
Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation believes in a future where everyone can breathe clean air. Air quality management can help alleviate poverty, boost prosperity and address the vital demands of millions of Indians for healthier and more productive lives. It can also make substantial contributions to climate change mitigation through actions, such as reduction of black carbon emissions, which contribute to both air pollution and climate change.
Since 2014, Shakti has enabled strategic interventions to improve air quality management in India starting with making the brick sector cleaner. Over the years, Shakti's work advanced to air quality monitoring, assessment of mitigation options and catalysing evidence-based research, capacity building and outreach.
Building on these efforts, Shakti continues to catalyse solutions for cleaner air, better health and a more stable climate through the following strategies:
Strengthening The Air Quality Data Ecosystem: The lack of adequate, robust air quality data can hinder the development of clean air plans. Shakti works to strengthen the data infrastructure in non-attainment cities in order to better understand and tackle source emissions and other factors that worsen air pollution.
Supporting The Implementation Of The National Clean Air Program (NCAP): Under the directive of the NCAP, several non-attainment cities have developed city clean air action plans with mitigation measures. Shakti works to support the objectives of the NCAP by engaging with city level stakeholders to develop and revise their clean air plans, as well as to create research evidence for informing decision making on clean air interventions.
Capacity Building: Most of these cities will require stronger organisational and individual capacity in terms of skills, workforce and understanding to support their clean air action plans. Shakti works towards facilitating the capacity building of stakeholders to take effective actions on addressing air pollution.
Public Health And Air Quality: Poor air quality impacts human health, especially that of vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly. Shakti is enabling studies to review and analyse this impact as well as identify effective measures to reduce the air pollution burden on these groups.