India’s air quality has been ranked as the most polluted in the world. In 2019, India had 10 out of 15 most polluted cities on earth, according to a recent report by IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company. And there are several scientific reports that show that increase in air pollution levels is taking a toll on public health as well as the economy. For example, a 2016 World Bank study estimated that India lost more than 8 per cent of its GDP in 2013 because of air pollution as welfare losses and forgone labour output. Another study by IIT Bombay highlighted that air pollution cost $10.66 billion to Delhi and Mumbai alone in 2015 or about 0.71 per cent of the country’s GDP. Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago also estimated that on an average, life expectancy of Indians is reduced by 5.2 years due to air pollution.
Back in 2015, increasing air pollution levels had compelled the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) to come out with new emission standards for coal-based power plants in which, for the first time, the government stipulated limits for sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and mercury (Hg) emissions as well as water consumption limits. A study done by IIT Kanpur in 2015 substantiates the fact while highlighting that 90 per cent reduction in SO2 from power plants within 300km of the national capital Delhi will result in the reduction of approximately 35 micrograms per cubic metre of PM2.5. Particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) in air does serious damage to our respiratory system and creates multiple medical complications. High levels of SO2 is also linked to cardiovascular diseases.