Researchers Provide a Roadmap to Clean Up India’s Air

More than 660 million Indians live in areas that exceed the country’s standard for what is considered safe exposure to fine particulate pollution (PM2.5). To help improve India’s air quality, researchers from the University of Chicago and Harvard Kennedy School have laid out five key evidence-based policy recommendations in a new report titled “A Roadmap Towards Cleaning India’s Air.”

“Air pollution is causing hundreds of millions of people in India to lead shorter and sicker lives,” said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago (TCD).

“However, we are at the dawn of a new era where the combination of advances in computing power and big data are creating radical new opportunities for environmental regulations to reduce air pollution, without undermining the urgent goal of robust economic growth in India.”

The recommendations included:

  • Improving emissions monitoring by better aligning incentives of auditors
  • Providing regulators with real-time data on polluters’ emissions
  • Applying monetary charges for excess emissions
  • Providing the public with information about polluters, and
  • Using markets to reduce abatement costs and pollution

Elaborating further, Rohini Pande, the Rafik Hariri Professor of International Political Economy and co-director of Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard Kennedy School, said, “While the economic costs of pollution are high, and there is no easy solution, we remain optimistic because of the incredible innovations currently being experimented with throughout India.”

The policy brief was issued in conjunction with the National Conference on Innovations in Pollution Regulation, organized by EPIC-India and the TCD in New Delhi on 13 August, 2018. Aimed at facilitating knowledge sharing between policymakers, regulators and academics on pollution regulation and measurement, representatives from more than five state pollution control boards and experts from India and abroad attended the conference.

Inaugurated by Hon’ble Justice Mr. Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairman of the National Green Tribunal, the discussions delved deep to explore questions around the role of pollution data in decision-making, the need for better quality data, strengthening enforcement through public disclosure, and the advantages of market-based instruments in reducing pollution, among others.

Download the policy brief here.

Note: The material listed here is based on the press released from EPIC-India.

Niti Aayog’s Action Plan on Air Pollution

NITI Aayog has released a 15 point action plan to combat air pollution in Indian cities entitled Breathe India: An Action Plan for Combating Air Pollution. Measures discussed in the plan include introduction of low sulphur fuel, promoting the use of electric vehicles, cleaner construction, waste and dust management and behavioural change, among a longer list of action points.

The action plan includes a mix of immediate and long-term actions aimed towards improvement in air quality.

Link to the report 

Guidebook on urban air quality

New open-access resource on urban air quality

The Guidebook presents the results of the AIRUSE LIFE Project (LIFE11 ENV/ES/584) offering a state-of-the-art compilation of measures to improve air quality in cities ( The primary goal is to assess Southern European environments, although many of the suggested measures can be applied to other regions.


The Guidebook, available in five languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Greek) consists of 7 chapters. The “Guidebook of measures to improve urban air quality” is a free and useful tool for policy, research, education, industry and environmental agencies to improve air quality in cities in the short and long term. All chapter of the book are available for free download.

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

The goal of the National Clean Air Progamme (NCAP) is to meet the prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards at all locations in the country within a stipulated timeframe.

Details of the programme are available here, and public comments are invited until May 17, 2018.

The programme was first announced in January 2018 (link), and a stakeholder consultation has been organized on April 19 and 20, 2018 to discuss the programme (agenda for consultation).

Graphic: The Economic Times 

Related media coverage

Govt plan a Rs 637-crore Clean Air Programme to give you clean air 

MoEFCC releases details of National Clean Air Programme; no clarity yet on emission reduction targets 

Air Quality Action Plan for Panjim

Indian and European Experts gather in Goa to develop Panjim’s Air Quality Action Plan


On 16 September 2017, Indian and European Experts will gather in Panjim, Goa to brainstorm about air pollution emissions in the city and find solutions to be developed in a local air quality action plan.

Henriette Faergemann, Councelor Environment, Energy and Climate of the Delegation of the European Union in India and Bhutan:

The interchange of best practices and technologies between the European Union experts and India institutions will be a catalyser for the further development of local action planning and strategies to reduce air pollution. The planned workshops are expected to be a great forum for productive brainstorming and contribute to a stronger partnership between India and the European Union.

Read the press briefing here, and learn more about the project here.