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India is one of the world’s most polluted countries and Delhi is the most polluted capital city. Air pollution causes one in eight deaths. We work with government, businesses and the public to reach India’s clean air goals.

Air pollution in India 

India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and air pollution is one of the challenges associated with this growth and development.

Of the world’s 30 cities with the worst air pollution, 21 are in India. The capital, New Delhi, has the poorest air quality among capital cities globally. Concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5) in New Delhi are nearly 10 times higher than the World Health Organization guidelines.

Thermal power plants, pollution from vehicles, industrial emissions, and the burning of wood and dirty fuels for cooking and heating are some of the main causes of air pollution in India.

The effects are devastating. Air pollution is a silent killer, causing more than 2 million deaths a year in India. It also leads to health problems like respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

early deaths every year in India
impact of dirty air to the Indian economy

If India had achieved safe air quality levels in 2019, its GDP would have increased by $95 billion. Read the full economic analysis from Dalberg. This is because cleaner air would result in lower rates of absenteeism from work, higher productivity at work, higher consumer footfall and fewer premature deaths.

Public awareness of air pollution as a problem is on the rise, especially in Delhi where 85% support stricter air quality laws and enforcement of policies. See the full 2020 YouGov air pollution and Covid-19 survey results.

India has launched an ambitious National Clean Air Program to reduce particulate matter pollution by 30% by 2024. Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur has collaborated with the Department of Environment, Forest & Climate Change [and others], supported by Clean Air Fund, to enable real time measures to mitigate and plug pollution sources.

Prof S.N. Tripathi –Expert member of the National Clean Air Program, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change

Tackling India’s air pollution crisis 

Clean Air Fund’s work in India is relatively new and we will continue to build our partnerships as our grant portfolio grows. We work with government and business, and at every level of society, to help reach India’s clean air goals.

Our work includes: 

  • Supporting air quality monitoring and management initiatives
  • Building capacity on air quality data collection (including concentrations and impact)
  • Facilitating dialogue and information sharing among the air quality movement. 

Engaging the community is also crucial to bringing about cleaner air. Our grant to Health Care Without Harm is building a network of health workers who can act as clean air champions for patients, policy makers and the wider public.

In 2021 we supported the Sesame Workshop India Trust to survey 10,000 children from low resource communities in Delhi about their environmental concerns. The children had the opportunity to bring their concerns to their local leaders.  

Businesses have a significant role to play in tackling the problem too. The India CEO Forum for Clean Air is growing, with 70 members signed up in the first year. Two major Indian businesses, Wipro and Mahindra Group, are both in the Clean Air Alliance, launched in partnership with the World Economic Forum in 2021.

An example of our work in India: Health Care Without Harm

Clean Air Fund has been instrumental in empowering healthcare professionals and amplifying the health voices in the clean air movement. It is a privilege to be a partner and work together towards ensuring clean and healthy air for humankind.

Dr Arvind Kumar – Chest and lung surgeon, founder of Health Care Without Harm

See more on India

Helping India’s health workers become clean air champions

This case study outlines our work in mobilising Indian healthcare professionals to act on air pollution

How solving air pollution can boost India's economy

New research from Dalberg Advisors outlines the case for reducing air pollution to increase economic growth