Managing Regional Air Quality

March 25, 2022

Need for a framework

'The clear blue skies during the hard lockdown phases of the pandemic were possible not only because local air pollution was minimized in cities with near shutdown of the economy, but also because the influence of pollution from the larger regions could be lessened. Nearly all the regions of India had cleaned up together during this humanitarian crisis.

But this crisis-led experience has a big lesson for air quality management in India. Air has no boundaries. Therefore, clean air action plans that draw hard boundaries around cities for the clean-up job and fail to address the major pollution sources in the larger orbit fight a losing battle, as pollution from the larger airshed continues to invade and undermine local efforts.

This science on the regional influence of pollution has begun to take shape in India. The National Clean Air Programme of the Government of India has taken on board the principle of regional air quality management. But there is no regulatory framework to enable multi-jurisdiction management for aligned action and to establish the upwind and downwind responsibilities of state governments to improve regional air quality. The deadly winter smog that wraps the entire Indo-Gangetic Plain every year is a lasting reminder of this regulatory gap. Globally, national governments have begun to develop such a framework for management of transboundary pollution within the country and between countries. India also needs its template for regional action.'



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