Where Does India’s Air Pollution Come From?

In our 2022 25 most polluted cities report, 9 Indian cities made the list. So where does India’s air pollution come from? Let’s dive into to see what the sources are of India’s serious air pollution.

Sources of India’s Air Pollution: By Industry

A study undertaken by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) estimates where India’s air pollution comes from. The three major contributing sources of air pollution in India are the residential, power, and industrial sectors. 

Let’s have a look at these three sources of India’s air pollution.

Pollution Source #1: Residential Sector

The study showed the largest source of PM2.5 in India comes from the residential sector, with contributions ranging from 27% to 50% of total PM2.5. Burning solid fuels like firewood in homes for cooking, heating, and other purposes is the leading source of ambient particulate pollution in India. Several studies suggest that household air pollution contributes 60% higher to total PM2.5 exposure than coal burning, as well as four and six times higher than open burning and transportation respectively. 

India Pollution Source #1: Residential Sector

Pollution Source #2: Power Sector

India Pollution Source #2: Power Sector

Power emissions are the second leading pollution source in India. In particular, power emissions are the biggest contributor to SO2 (44% to 62%). The emissions primarily come from the burning of coal for power generation. In addition to SO2, power generation also leads in NOx emissions, contributing around 24% to 43%.

Pollution Source #3: Industrial Sector

India Pollution Source #3: Industrial Sector

The massive industrialization in India over the last few decades has had a big impact on India’s air pollution levels. The unregulated small-scale industries use fuels such as biomass, plastic, and crude oil which release various toxic pollutants in the air when burned. Industrial emissions account for about 51% of total air pollution in India. 

Summary: Where Does India’s Air Pollution Come from?

Below we summarize the major sources of India’s air pollution discussed above. Note the fourth source is transport.

What Can Be Done to Help India’s Air Pollution Problem?

In 2019, the Indian government launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The program has a goal of 20%-30% reductions in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024. The government should strengthen its efforts in promoting Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) and Unnat Chulha Abhiyan (UCA) to promote improved stoves and clean fuel to cut down residential emissions. Apart from this, stricter regulation and compliance are needed to curb secondary particulate pollution from power plant emissions. Finally, an efficient policy is needed to stop industrial pollution. 

Why India’s Air Pollution is So Dangerous

PM2.5 particles are smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter. These particles penetrate deep into our lungs and even enter the bloodstream. Studies have found that PM2.5 raises blood pressureinflammation, and rates of heart attacks and strokes.

PM2.5 India

Read More: 6 Benefits of a HEPA Air Purifier

How I Protect Myself

Despite the harms of PM2.5, studies have found that wearing masks prevents physiological harm to the body. Also using air purifiers in your home has been shown to have positive effects on blood pressure, inflammation, and immune response.

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