Delhi’s Air Pollution Governance

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A Study Of Delhi’s Air Pollution Governance

Written By: Naveen Talawar


Environmental pollution is one of the serious problems in most of the megacities of the world, especially in the developing countries as it is leading to serious health hazards and also worsening our environment. The remarkable increase in the population during the last 50 years has led to rapid industrialization and a high rate of urbanization has created pressure on all of the natural resources.

Air Pollution in India has become an issue of national importance. Air quality in many urban and rural places in India is very poor. Talking about the air quality in Delhi, the capital territory of India was declared to be the most polluted city on the planet by the world health organization.

According to a report by WHO, around 7 million people lose their lives every year prematurely as a result of worldwide air pollution., among them, India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases and asthma. The apex court of India has made a statement concerning rising pollution in Delhi saying that “Delhi has become worse than Narak(hell)”.

Meaning of Air pollution

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines air pollution, as ‘‘substances put into the air by the activity of mankind into concentrations sufficient to cause harmful effects to health, property, crop yield, or to interfere with the enjoyment of property’’ 

According to The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, “air pollution is the presence of any solid, liquid, or gaseous substance in the atmosphere in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property or environment”.

Main Causes of air pollution

  1. One of the major causes of the air pollution in Delhi is stubble burning by the farmers but the government has rejected this contention and said to the supreme court that “ the contribution of the farm fires or stubble burning only has 10% share in Delhi’s severe pollution” in the recent case Aditya Dubey(Minor) V. Union of India and others. And also stated that industrial and road dust has played a big role in causing air pollution.
  2. Vehicular emission is another major cause for increasing air pollution in Delhi due to which the air quality index has reached severe levels.
  3. Large-scale construction in the National Capital Region is another cause of increasing dust and pollution in the air.
  4. Industrial pollution, garbage dumps, and firecrackers are also the top reason for the building up of smog in the air.

Effects on human health

Air pollution has become an environmental health hazard over the years, due to exposure to polluted air it poses a major health risk and can cause stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, respiratory diseases and reduction in life expectancy, etc. 

According to the report of the WHO, 92% of the world’s population lives in the area where the quality of air is below the WHO standards and about 88% of premature deaths occur in the low and middle-income countries, where air pollution is escalating at an alarming rate

Constitutional bodies and authorities

There are certain constitutional bodies and authorities for monitoring and controlling air pollution. Those are as follows:

Air pollution authorities

  1. DPCC ( Delhi pollution control committee).
  2. CPCB (Central pollution control Board).
  3. IMD ( Indian meteorological control board).
  4. SAFAR (System of Air quality and weather forecasting and research).

Air pollution control regimes

  1. Central pollution control board, Delhi pollution control committee.
  2. Environment Pollution ( Prevention and control authority) EPCA

Other principal constitutional bodies

  1. Ministry of Environment, Forest and climate change.
  2. Environment appellate authority.
  3. National green tribunal 

Measures that are undertaken to improve the air quality of Delhi

The constitution of India through Article 48 provides that “the state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”. The main legislation which controls air pollution is the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, and the Environment (Protection Act, 1986). 

Because of the seriousness of air pollution many rules and policies are implemented by the government those are as follows :

  1. To improve the air quality in Delhi the supreme court of India passed an order in 1998 stating to convert all public and commercial vehicles operating in Delhi into CNG fuel mode and relocation of hazardous industries.
  2. Another policy adopted by the Delhi government was of banning the entry of commercial vehicles during peak hours to avoid traffic congestion.
  3. In 2015, the supreme court ordered to ban 10 years old diesel vehicles, as diesel vehicles emit more particulate matter emissions than any other fuels, as a result of this the government has banned diesel vehicles that were older than 2006.
  4. Odd-even scheme: an initiative (on a trial basis) was taken by the government of Delhi to curb air pollution by applying this scheme on 4 wheelers. The scheme proposed that the vehicles having registration numbers ending with an odd digit were allowed to run on the odd dates and vice-versa. The main aim of this scheme was to reduce the number of vehicles from the roads of Delhi.
  5. The government of Delhi has set up a car-free day campaign “ Ab Bus Karein” since 22nd October 2015, which is to be observed on the 22nd of every month.
  6. And very recently the supreme court has ordered a ban on construction and demolition activities in the city to control air pollution levels in Delhi. As a result of this, the government has imposed a ban on construction in the city.

The Commission For Air Quality Management In National Capital Region And Adjoining Areas Act, 2021

Recently, the commission for air quality management was established, as an overarching body to carry out air quality management in Delhi which will take decisions and issue orders for protecting and improving the quality of air in Delhi under the commission for air quality management in the national capital region and adjoining areas Act, 2021.

Functions of the commission

Some of the functions of the commission include Planning and execution of the plans to prevent and control air pollution in the National Capital Region., preparing various action plans such as increasing plantation and addressing stubble burning, and providing a framework for identification of air pollutants. etc

Powers of the commission

Powers include restricting the activities influencing air quality, preparing codes and guidelines to prevent and control air pollution, and imposing and collecting environmental compensation from farmers causing pollution by stubble burning. 


Any non-compliance or contravention with the orders and directions of the commission will be punishable with imprisonment of up to 5 years or a fine up to 1 crore rupees or both.

Only the national green tribunal has been given the power to hear cases from the commission’s orders.


With the increasing population and industrialization, the transport demand has also increased consequently. The national capital territory of Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world caused by vehicular and industrial pollution. To restore the air quality the Delhi government has taken certain measures to some extent which have helped to reduce the levels of air pollution to a large extent. If such measures are carried out effectively then the pollution in Delhi can be minimized to the great extent.



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