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By: Sukriti & Palak Nigam* |


Delhi's battle with low air quality during the winter months is nothing new; it happens year after year. As winter swept in, another cloud of choking smoke and dust descended upon Delhi's 20 million inhabitants, approaching "serious" or "emergency" thresholds across the city. Last year, air pollution levels exceeded all safety thresholds, prompting the government to declare a public health emergency. India enacted an air quality control law almost 40 years ago. Nevertheless, as northern India faces yet another air quality crisis, it's yet another year struggle for a regulation that's been mostly disregarded.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981 seeks to assist with "air quality management and environment protection." It was adopted by India to fulfill its promises made at the United Nations Environment Conference in 1972. This law gave state and municipal government’s unprecedented authority to increase air quality, enforce pollution control regulations, and imprison polluters.

However, the law's importance has waned over time, even as Indian cities have raised to the top of global air pollution assessments, the most recent of which is the State of Global Air 2020. Northern Indian states have filed almost no lawsuits under the Air Act in recent years, despite the fact that they experience the worst emissions every winter.

Particulate Matter Levels in Delhi and the Contributing Factors to Extreme Air Quality

A research was conducted by researchers from the University of Hyderabad, the India Meteorological Department (IMD), and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Banaras Hindu University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Finland, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. According to the report, South Asia has had significantly impaired air quality, with particulate matter less than 2.5 μm.

A country like India faces an extreme level of air pollution every year in which almost 1.24 million people lose their life. This is because, in Indian cities, the mean attentiveness Of Particular matter (PM) transcends Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) standards. Air pollution sources can be understood by constructing settlements on alleviation and dominance.

Pollution can be understood by using two methodologies i.e. Top-down and Bottom-up. These two methodologies adjunct each other in ascertaining and certifying the source apportionment analysis, this is the reason why both the methods should be used in a region. Many source apportionment surveys, such as CPCB 2010, IIT Kanpur 2016, TERI 2018, SAFAR 2018, has reported that Delhi is among the cities in India that has been surrounded by extreme air pollution for a long time.

To understand the factors responsible for pollution in Delhi, we need to look into the two main components i.e. PM10 and PM2.5 which are present in five major contributing sectors- Transport, Industries, Power Plants, Road Dust and Construction. The bottom-up method is used by an emission inventory to form the bedrock for a source apportionment study.

The most significant contributor to PM2.5 in Delhi is the transportation industry, which accounts for 17.9% to 39.2% of total emissions. Road dust is another significant source of PM2.5, accounting for between 18.1 and 37.8% of the total. It's also seen in PM10, with levels ranging from 35.6 percent to 65.9%, and it's a big part of it.

According to SAFAR (2018), a significant number of factories contribute to PM2.5 emissions in the range of 25-250 tons per year in Delhi's northern, eastern, and southeastern zones.

According to the different studies presented by the sources, Emission inventories are developed for different years ranging from 2007 to 2018.

1. As stated by Guttikunda (2018), in the year 2018 in an area in NCT Delhi, the total PM10 emission load (kt/year) was 238.68 and the total PM2.5 emission load (kt/year) was 99.15.

2. By TERI (2018), in the year 2016, during the winter and summer season, in Delhi, the total PM10 emission load (kt/year) was 67.49 and the total PM2.5 emission load (kt/year) was 31.99.

3. By IIT Kanpur (2016), in the year 2013-2014, during the winter and summer season, in Delhi total PM10 emission load (kt/year) was 52.34 and the total PM2.5 emission load (kt/year) was 21.39.

Following the pandemic's lockdown in Delhi, pollution levels dropped dramatically, and the air quality index returned to an acceptable level. Previously, the cleanest day for Delhi's air was September 29, 2019, when the AQI weighed 60, which is considered "satisfactory." According to the Real-Time Air Quality Index, particulate matter (PM2.5) in Delhi fell from 165µg/m3on March 21, 2020, a level deemed unsafe for all, to 64µg/m3on March 29, 2020, a level considered moderate or suitable. This is a significant reduction in air pollution for Delhi, which typically has ‘poor' to ‘severe' air quality, with an AQI varying from 100 to 300, and even higher in the winter.

Smog Free Delhi: Various Laws to Curb Air Pollution

Delhi’s air quality starts worsening each year in October and a series of arguments start between the different centre and states. On the 15th of October, For the primary time in this season, when AQI was very poor, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar stated that the benefaction of stubble burning was only 4% on a daily basis, an assertion that induced Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to question if stubble burning wasn't the mainspring, then why did pollution rise within the city over the last few years. Air pollution in Delhi, and hence the whole Indo Gangetic Plains, can be a multi-faceted spectacle enthralled by a variety of causes. The weather and local climate would be one of the considerations.

The central government issued an ordinance on the 29th of October 2020, which was signed by the honorable President of India, to deal with the revolting pollution in Delhi and the NCR. The offender faces either a five-year jail sentence or a fine of one crore rupees, or both, under this ordinance. The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) was dissolved, and a 20-member committee was established as a result of this ordinance issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice. The commission now has the authority to take action against those who violate the current ordinance. The Union Minister indicated that the new ordinance would significantly reduce emissions in Delhi and, as a result, the NCR. However, the farmers of India have branded the ordinance as an act of revenge by the central government since it was enacted at a time when the farmers were cultivating paddy and expulsing the sphere by setting the hearth to the paddy residue.

Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981: The target of the Air Act 1981 is to preserve the standard of air and control pollution. Two boards are there i.e. Central Board and State Boards whose main purpose is to boost the standard of air and to forestall, control pollution within the country, to advise the govt. on any matter concerning the event of the standard of air and also the prevention, control or abatement of pollution, to plan and executed a program for the prevention, assemble and bring out scientific and statistical details concerning pollution.

Environment Protection Act, 1986: The Department of Environment was established in 1980 in India. In 1985, it converted into the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The target of this act is to suggest appropriate steps for the protection and improvement of the environment and thus the prevention of hazards to kith and kin, other living creatures, plants, and properties. This act defines "environment pollution" as the presence of any hazardous pollutants to the environment, and "environment toxin" as any solid, liquid, or gaseous substance present in a mass that is also or tends to be, harmful to the environment. Similarly, chapter two deals with the last word power of the Central government. Central Government shall have the facility to want all such steps it thinks necessary for preserving and improving the standard of the environment and preventing and controlling environmental pollution, to ban and restrict the handling of a hazardous substance in numerous areas, to ban and, to hold out and sponsor investigations and research regarding problems of environmental pollution, to safeguard for the prevention of accidents which can cause environmental pollution and for providing for re-medical measures for such accidents, etc.

The Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) has ordered Delhi and adjacent States to adopt air pollution control measures under very poor and severe category air quality of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) from 15th October 2020. The Graded Response Action Plan is a series of actions designed to combat air pollution. This covers the Odd-Even Scheme, as well as the use of diesel generators and the shutdown of crushers. Despite these interventions, the air quality in the NCR has consistently remained POOR, according to recent news sources. The explanation for this could be heavily populated areas in Delhi, where the average fossil intake could render the ODD EVEN scheme obsolete. While this is a positive development, technical innovation and the use of renewable energy fuels should be encouraged.

Conclusion and Suggestions

According to the WHO, India has the highest mortality rate from chronic respiratory disorders and asthma. In Delhi, inadequate air quality permanently destroys the lungs of 2.2 million infants or half of the city's population. Air pollution is believed to kill over 2 million people in India per year, making it the country's fifth leading cause of death. During the last ten years, the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi has made a number of initiatives to minimize air pollution in the city. The advantages of pollution control techniques may be seen in the readings. However, more has to be done to lower environmental impacts. Community involvement is critical in order to have a tangible impact on pollution reduction. The usage of public transportation should be encouraged. The usage of Metro rail can be promoted by providing an appropriate number of feeder buses that run at the necessary frequency at Metro stations. Civic authorities should conduct more regular inspections of Pollution under Control Certificates to guarantee that cars release gases below allowed limits. While waiting at a traffic crossing, people need to be taught to turn off their cars.

As we all know, health is an all-encompassing topic that affects everyone responsible for human growth, not just those in the health department. From Hippocrates to many other great thinkers, the importance of the environment in one's health has been emphasized. As a result, all individuals who have a part in altering the environment in any manner, for any purpose, must help to protect people's health by managing all variables that impact it.


* The authors are students at KIIT Law School, Bhubaneswar.



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