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Polluted air killed 54,000 in Delhi

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    19th Feb, 2021


Greenpeace has claimed that Delhi sustained an estimated 54,000 avoidable deaths due to PM2.5 air pollution in 2020, or one death per 500 people.

Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollutants


  • Ozone (O3)– A free radical of oxygen (smog).
  • Particulate matter– Sooty particles that are most toxic when they are small (<10 microns).
  • Sulfur dioxide/sulfuric acid– Key component of acid rain.
  • Carbon monoxide– Product of incomplete combustion.
  • Nitrogen oxides– Common pollutants from burning of fossil fuels.
  • Diesel exhaust– A mixture of particles, gases, and other chemicals.
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons– Chemical constituents of soot
    • Asbestos
    • Biological Pollutants
    • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
    • Cook stoves
    • Formaldehyde/Pressed Wood Products
    • Lead (Pb)
    • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
    • Pesticides
    • Radon (Rn)
    • Indoor Particulate Matter
    • Second hand Smoke/ Environmental Tobacco Smoke
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
    • Wood Smoke


  • Respirable particles and gases affect different parts of the respiratory tree depending upon their inherent characteristics. For gases, relative solubility is important. For particles, size is important
  • sulfur dioxide, because it is highly water soluble, initially affects the upper airway, whereas ozone, which has medium solubility, initially affects the middle airways, and nitrogen dioxide, which has low solubility, initially affects the lower airways.

Harmful effects of Air Pollution

  • Heart disease, lungcancer, and respiratory diseases such as emphysema, long-term damage to people's nerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs. Some scientists suspect air pollutants cause birth defects.

International measures

  • United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
  • Paris Deal
  • Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air-Pollution 
    • Sulphur Emissions Reduction Protocol
    • Gothenburg protocol.

Remedial steps taken by government

  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB): statutory organisation was constituted under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  • NGT: established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection
  • THE AIR (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT, 1981: enacted after India’s participation in United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in June, 1972
  • National Clean Air Programme (NCAP): long-term, time-bound, nationallevel strategy to tackle the air pollution with targets to achieve 20% to 30% reduction in Particulate Matter concentrations by 2024 keeping 2017 as the base year.
  • National Air Quality Index: The measurement of air quality is based on eight pollutants, namely,
    • Particulate Matter (size less than 10 µm) or (PM10),  
    • Particulate Matter (size less than 2.5 µm) or (PM5),
    • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2),
    • Sulphur Dioxide (SO2),
    • Carbon Monoxide (CO),
    • Ozone (O3),
    • Ammonia (NH3), and
    • Lead (Pb)
  • Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) developed by CPCB. CPCB has done a nationwide environmental assessment of Industrial Clusters based on CEPI