Delhi has introduced many measures to limit emissions, but it is still difficult to say anything certain about the effect they have had. Photo:© Photo Delhi /

Failure or success of air pollution policies in Delhi?

The severe air pollution events in Delhi due to sharp economic and population growth have been widely reported. A lot of the emissions are due to combustion of fossil fuels and in some cases a combination of biomass combustion in residential heating and cooking and agricultural burning, and fossil fuel combustion in power plants, transport and industry. Several policies have been implemented to curb these emissions, starting in the late 1990s, when on the suggestion of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), the Supreme Court of India ordered the closure of nearly 680 companies, 246 brick kilns and a number of other furnaces and plants in Delhi.

Several measures have been taken in the industrial sector such as emission standards, relocations, restricting the use of coal and installing filters. For the transport sector various action plans have been put in place on emission standards, sulphur content in diesel, reducing benzene and banning lead in gasoline, scrapping old vehicles and improvements in public transport including replacing all diesel buses with natural gas buses. In Delhi, coal-burning boilers at thermal power plants have all closed during the past decade.

The use of pet coke and furnace oil in industry is banned in Delhi, and since 2017, in the wider capital region too. Emission standards have also been set for major industries. However, their implementation is a major problem. Crop residue burning in nearby states is a significant source of pollution during the post-harvest season due to the very limited time gap between harvesting and sowing of the crop. Several measures have been introduced, including remote detection, training, incentives for farmers and even fines, and since 2018 agricultural mechanization has been promoted for the in-situ management of crop residues. The varying sources and the exponential growth of vehicles (7% per annum) makes it hard to evaluate the effectiveness of policy. In the case of industrial emissions it is difficult to analyse their impact due to a lack of transparency in implementation.


Source: Long-term trend analysis of criteria pollutants in megacity of Delhi: Failure or success of control policies, Nidhi Verma and Shiva Nagendra; Urban Climate (September 2022), Vol. 45, 101254, doi: 10.1016/j.uclim.2022.101254.


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