Status assessment of graded response action plan implementation in the Indo-Gangetic Plain

Every winter, New Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) becomes a central talking point amongst mainstream media, policymakers, and on social media. However, the issue of toxic air goes beyond the administrative boundaries of Delhi-NCR and affects millions of people – especially those residing in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP). The land-locked region, covering an area of about 700,000 square kilometres, is home to 40% of India’s population across five states and two union territories. The population density of the region is more than three times that of the rest of the country (AQLI, 2019). It is also the epicentre of the country’s ambient air quality crisis, yet has received scant attention from state authorities. The geographical region of the IGP, however, extends beyond India. It includes most of northern and eastern India, half of Pakistan, the whole of Bangladesh, and southern Nepal (NGT, 2021). Combined with unregulated industrial growth, unfavourable topographical and meteorological conditions have exacerbated the health impacts of air pollution on its population. To tackle this issue, air pollution needs to be seen as a transboundary problem. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) has released a report highlighting the poor, and sometimes entirely lacking, infrastructure and a systematic plan to mitigate the emission of toxic pollutants during heavy pollution days.