Giving the urban Indian a better life


Giving the urban Indian a better life


On World Cities Day, the theme “Financing Sustainable Urban Future for All” highlighted the critical need to steer financial resources toward addressing flawed urbanization and mitigating the impact of air pollution. Alarming statistics reveal that air pollution in India is cutting short life expectancies by over 10%, demanding immediate policy shifts for better, healthier urban futures.


GS – 02 (Urbanization, Separation of Powers, Local Self Governance, Government Policies & Interventions)


74th Amendment Act 1992, 15th Finance Commission, Atal Mission for Urban Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework 2.0, TULIP-The Urban Learning Internship Program, Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, Urban Heat Island, Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme.

Mains Question:

Analyzing the challenges of air pollution in Indian cities, propose some effective strategies for sustainable urban development. (250 words)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • The Distressing Scenario of Air Pollution
  • Reasons behind Acute Air Pollution in Indian Cities
  • Urgent Need for Sustainable Urbanization
  • Strengthening Governance for Pollution Control

The Distressing Scenario of Air Pollution:

  • A report by The Energy Policy Institute at Chicago highlights that out of the 50 most polluted cities globally, 39 are in India. The direct health impact results in an average Indian losing 5.3 years of life expectancy, escalating to 11.9 years for Delhi residents.
  • The adverse effects of pollution encompass various health issues, from respiratory discomfort to serious conditions like asthma and cardiovascular diseases. Notably, air quality concerns extend beyond the Indo-Gangetic plains to India’s coastal cities, signifying a pervasive issue across the nation.

Reasons behind Acute Air Pollution in Indian Cities:

  • The prevalent urban development strategy in India primarily focuses on real estate expansion, wider roads accommodating high-emission vehicles, and the neglect of pedestrian spaces.
  • Construction activities, polluting industries, vehicular emissions, and the rapid growth of motorized transport significantly contribute to urban pollution. Notably, the burning of paddy residue in North India exacerbates the situation during winter.
  • The staggering rise in India’s automobile market, accompanied by increasing vehicle sales, points to the urgency for a comprehensive shift in urban development approaches.

Urgent Need for Sustainable Urbanization:

  • The imperative shift from ‘grey’ infrastructure expansion to sustainable and ecological urbanization is necessary. Emphasizing sustainable development over real estate-centric growth, preserving green spaces, promoting public transportation, and reducing vehicular congestion are vital strategies.
  • This shift requires substantial investment in public transport, estimated at almost 10 lakh additional buses to meet urban mobility demands. Furthermore, stringent measures, such as congestion taxes, odd-even number plate policies, and city leaders’ active promotion of public transport, are pivotal in curbing pollution levels.

Strengthening Governance for Pollution Control:

  • Empowering residents through the city’s governance structure is crucial. Implementing pollution control measures like GRAP, enforcing standard operating procedures, and engaging the medical fraternity in issuing public health advisories can significantly combat air pollution.
  • It is imperative to foster citizen participation in pollution control initiatives and safeguarding urban commons, ensuring open spaces are not sacrificed for private gains.

Way forward:

  • The emphasis should be on a holistic approach to urban development, focusing on sustainability, public transportation, and stringent pollution control measures.
  • Prioritizing green spaces, curbing vehicular congestion, and fortifying governance structures to involve citizens in pollution control measures are essential.
  • Encouraging public support for pollution reduction strategies and ensuring the marginalized segments have access to a cleaner, healthier environment is imperative for a sustainable and liveable urban future.
  • Efforts toward sustainable urban development, citizen involvement, and stringent pollution control measures are crucial to ensure a healthier and more equitable future for all.