Giving the Urban Indian a Better Life


02:28 PM

1 min read
Giving the Urban Indian a Better Life Blog Image

Why in News?

  • On 31st Oct, the world celebrated ‘World Cities Day’ under the theme “Financing Sustainable Future for All”.
  • A significant number of the world's most polluted cities are in India and there is an urgent need for policy shifts to ensure better and more liveable futures in Indian cities.

The Nature of Air Pollution in India and its Consequences

  • Extent of Pollution in India
    • According to the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC), 39 out of the 50 most polluted cities in the world are in India.
    • This statistic underscores the severe air pollution issue in the country.
  • Air Pollution has Become a Widespread Problem
    • The bad air quality is not limited to specific regions like the Indo-Gangetic plains but is becoming a problem in India's coastal cities as well.
    • This shift indicates that air pollution is a growing concern throughout the country.
    • For example, recently the air quality in Mumbai was labelled as "Death by Breath" due to very unsatisfactory Air Quality Index (AQI) levels.
  • Impacts Life Expectancy: The average Indian loses 5.3 years of their life due to air pollution, with the residents of Delhi suffering an even greater loss of 11.9 years.
  • Other Health Effects Due to Air Pollution
    • The health effects of air pollution, including symptoms like burning eyes, nasal and throat irritation, coughing, breathlessness and asthma is very visible among residents of Indian cities.
    • The air pollution also causes cardiovascular diseases, and a wide range of associated health problems.

Major Reasons Behind Worsening Air Pollution in Indian Cities

  • More Focus on Real Estate Development
    • The urban development trajectory in India often prioritises real estate development.
    • As a result, there is more focus on construction and expansion of buildings and infrastructure, which in turn, leads to increased pollution due to the release of dust and pollutants during construction activities.
  • Rapid Growth in Automobile Market
    • The significant growth in India's automobile market, whose market value is expected to increase to nearly $160 billion by 2027.
    • The growth rate is substantial, at 8.1%, reflecting the increasing number of vehicles on the road.
    • The rapid growth in the automobile market has consequences for urban development.
    • It raises concerns about the approach of widening roads, which may encourage car ownership and use, ultimately leading to more traffic congestion and higher pollution levels.
  • Road Dust and Vehicular Emissions
    • Road dust is created by the wear and tear of roads and can contain harmful particles that become airborne, affecting air quality.
    • Vehicular emissions release pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to poor air quality.
    • It is estimated that motorised transport alone is the cause for 60% of urban pollution.
  • Concrete Batching: Concrete batching involves the mixing of concrete ingredients, and this process can release particulate matter and other pollutants into the air.
  • Polluting Industrial Units: The presence of industrial units within cities can release various pollutants into the environment, impacting air quality.
  • Priority to Grey Infrastructure over Green Infrastructure
    • The natural green areas within cities, such as water bodies, urban forests, green spaces in public areas, and urban farming, have all experienced a decrease in size.
    • In contrast, there has been a significant increase in the development of grey infrastructure.

Air Pollution in North India (particularly NCR) During Winter and Contributing Factors

  • Burning of Paddy Straw(Parali)
    • During the winter months, there is a lot of uproar about the burning of paddy straw.
    • The burning of paddy, primarily in Haryana and Punjab, only escalates the problem in Delhi NCR. This is only a small and seasonal part of the problem.
  • Construction Activities
    • Construction activities, which are on the rise in almost every Indian city, contribute to roughly 10% of air pollution in the NCR.
    • There are hardly any steps being taken to monitor and control construction activities with formulated standard operating procedures.
  • Poor Urban Development Decisions
    • The worsening air quality calls for a more sustainable and holistic approach to urban planning, transportation, and pollution control to address these challenges effectively.
    • But city residents have hardly any participatory role and are forced to become passive bystanders in the urbanisation process.

Ways Ahead to Mitigate the Air Pollution in Indian Cities

  • Employment of Alternate Strategy of Urban Planning
    • It is crucial to adopt a different approach to urban development, with an emphasis on enhancing public transportation, establishing safe pedestrian pathways and dedicated bicycle lanes.
    • This should also involve the appointment of bicycle officers and the implementation of standardised operating procedures to oversee construction activities more effectively.
  • Greater Focus on Public Transport
    • There needs to be good public transport, with investment in buses for towns and cities.
    • It is estimated that nearly 10 lakh buses would need to be added to the existing bus fleet in cities to meet the demands of urban mobility.
    • There must be firm initiatives that emulate the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
    • Public transport must be made accessible and affordable to people, 85% of whom are in the informal sector.
  • Requirement of Strict Measures to Control Private Vehicular Movement
    • The city administration must implement decisive measures to regulate the use of private motor vehicles within cities.
    • One option to consider is imposing a congestion tax on private car owners who drive during peak hours.
    • Additionally, adopting an odd-even number plate system could be another significant intervention. No Car Days, a practice that should be encouraged by those in positions of authority and influence.
    • City leaders, should set an example by using public transport at least once a day as a symbolic source of motivation.
  • Strengthen Governance with Every Stakeholder to Ease the Pollution Level
    • Delhi's Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) activates anti-pollution measures based on air quality levels and should be replicated in other Indian cities.
    • Real-time industrial pollution monitoring is essential. Communities should oversee urban spaces, preserving them from private interests.
    • Efforts like smog towers and watering roads are futile solutions to pollution. True progress lies in empowering people through effective governance.
    • Pollution guidelines and standard procedures should be accessible and integrated into daily life.
    • Enforcing measures, like the odd-even plate system or a 'no-car day,' requires strong governance and public support.


  • The citizens must not accept that our lifespans should be reduced due to factors like air pollution.
  • It is essential to recognise that the poor and marginalized members of society are often the least responsible for pollution, yet they bear the brunt of its consequences.
  • The citizens deserve a higher quality of life and protection from the harmful effects of pollution. Hence, the government must ensure giving the Urban Indian a Better Life.

Q1) What is green infrastructure?

Green infrastructure is an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle. Green infrastructure is effective, economical, and enhances community safety and quality of life. It means planting trees and restoring wetlands, rather than building a costly new water treatment plant.

Q2) What are some of the monitored pollutants to check the air quality?

There are several pollutants that are regularly monitored to assess air quality. These include particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, ammonia, and lead. These pollutants are known to have various health and environmental impacts.

Source:The Hindu