Our Work on Air Quality

India has many of the world’s most polluted cities. While air quality is not only an urban issue, cities like Delhi are being choked by vehicle exhaust, construction dust, and industrial emissions. We’re working to change that.

A Deadly Health Risk and Economic Burden

Based on annual concentrations of PM2.5, the particulate matter that leads to dangerously low air quality, India had 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities in 2019. Most of these cities are in the northern region, including Delhi.

Delhi is seeing more vehicles on the roads every day, rapid and massive construction attempting to keep pace with population and economic growth, emissions from industrial plants, and smoke from stubble burning on the city’s outskirts. All of these issues, combined with environmental factors like temperature inversion and wind convergence, regularly leave the city in a smoggy haze.

This air pollution causes illnesses and premature death, in people of all ages including infants, and creates a massive economic burden from lost work time to rising healthcare costs. People living in poverty bear more of these risks, due to greater time spent outdoors and lack of money to pay for in-home air purifiers that can mitigate the risks. 

Combining Political Will and Expert Insight

Government officials at the national, state, and city levels recognize the crisis caused by air pollution and understand the need to act quickly. 

There is a fundamental gap, however, in the ability of the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh governments to implement strong programs targeting air pollution because there has yet to be a clear path laid out regarding the most impactful interventions and how to implement them. Fortunately, this means there is now the opportunity to facilitate these new policy conversations and shape the government’s approach going forward.

Alongside our partners working at the city-level, Swaniti is working to create a secretariat of policy and environmental experts that will provide ongoing capacity-building and knowledge-sharing for government officials. This will ensure an informed and engaged cohort of policymakers with a greater understanding of the ways through which they can address issues of air quality.

By collaborating with policymakers, the secretariat will:

  • Create stronger connections between city and state officials and develop greater awareness of the issues of air pollution through meetings, roundtables, peer-to-peer discussions and additional engagement,
  • Develop briefs, insight papers, and policy notes for policymakers and partner team members on the current policy ecosystem, promising interventions for ensuring clean air, and informing government officials on best practices,
  • And build the capacity of policymakers and partner team members to more effectively advocate on issues of air pollution.

It’s not too late to make breathable air and blue skies a consistent reality. We are committed, as are policymakers and our partners, to making that happen.