Pollutants of the capital’s air: An overview


  • The Supreme Court re-imposed the ban on the sale of fireworks in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) till November 1st.
  • The direction, according to the court, is an outcome of “direct evidence of deterioration of air quality” every year during Deepavali on account of bursting of fire crackers.

What is the need for the ban?

  • Burning of firecrackers during Deepavali in 2016 pushed up the particulate matter in the air by three times.
  • Each year, the seasonal festivities make the air in and around Delhi and surrounding areas thick with smog and suspended particulate matter, leading to residents and children feeling breathless and vulnerable to asthmatic attacks.
  • The Supreme Court observed that the air quality deteriorates abysmally and alarmingly and the city chokes thereby, leading to closure of schools in view of the health emergency situation and thus the ban came into being.

What possibly makes the air of the capital so polluted? A report:

  • At least four major government studies over the past decade have reached varying conclusions on what makes Delhi’s air so foul.
  • 2007 report concluded that control on emissions of pollutants from vehicular traffic necessitates the control on the new registration of commercial diesel vehicles in Delhi.
  • 2008 report identified road dust as the biggest contributor (52.5%) to particulate matter in Delhi’s air, followed by industries (22.1%). It attributed only 6.6% of particulate emissions to vehicles.
  • 2011 report conclusion that road dust from paved and unpaved roads contributed the largest share to air pollution (55%), followed by residential sources (15%), transport and vehicular pollution (13%), industrial sources (12%), and power (5%).
  • 2016 report says that while underlining the role of road dust, also stressed on vehicular emissions moving vehicles, in fact, contributed to over half of Delhi’s air pollution

What are the laws relating to air pollution in India?

  • The Government of India under Article 253 of the Constitution of Indiaenacted the Air Act, 1981 (“Air Act”) for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution and further to implement the provisions of the Air Act
  • Air pollution, according to the Air Act means the presence of any air pollutant in the atmosphere. 
  • The Air Act confers the regulatory power to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)and the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) to prevent and control the air pollution.

What is Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB)?

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs):

  • The Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
  • It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • CPCB along with its counterparts the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) are responsible for implementation of legislation relating to prevention.

Functions and Power of CPCB:

  • Advice the Central Government on improvement of air quality and prevention, control or abatement of air pollution and to provide training to persons engaged in such program.
  • Prescribe the standards for air quality.
  • Execute nation-wide programs for prevention, control or abatement of air pollution and training to persons engaged in such programs.
  • Give direction to SPCBs, co-ordinate between SPCBs and provide any technical assistance, guidance and resolve the disputes among SPCBs.

Functions and Power of SPCB:

  • Plan comprehensive program for the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution.
    Advice the State Government on any matter concerning the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution.
  • Prescribe the standards for emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere in consultation with CPCB.
  • Collaborate with CPCB in providing training to persons engaged in the prevention, control or abatement of air pollution and also to organize mass education programs.

What is the way ahead?

  • Instead of putting a ban on sale of firecrackers, the government should seek to check their production.
  • Efforts should first be made for sensitizing the people about the ill-effects and futility of burning firecrackers before imposing a ban.
  • The sensitization could be achieved through inclusion of a chapter in school, advertisements and holding of seminars and workshops.
  • Different NGOs and SHGs should come forward and make efforts to provide a adequate information about harmful effects of the firecrackers among the common mass.
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