24 June, 2021

Act On This Reaction

Why regulating SO2 is critical for improving India’s air quality?

Photograph by Suresh K. Pandey
Act On This Reaction

India possesses the unenviable distinction of having the second worst air quality of any country in the world. This is not just a Delhi, urban, or North Indian problem—a staggering 84 per cent of the population breathes air that does not meet national standards. The effect is that the life expectancy of the average Indian is reduced by over five years on average from breathing dirty air.

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more urgent than ever that we find different ways to clean the air, while also encouraging equitable economic growth.  We suggest an important part of the solution could be a national cap-and-trade market to regulate sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions from large industry and power-plants.

Why would regulating SO2 help? The single most important air pollutant in India is fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) which enters the air in two ways. The first is direct emission of particles created by burning fuels and crop-residue; construction activity; road dust etc. The second is indirectly, when other chemicals such as SO2 and...

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