Improving Urban Air Quality in India: Lessons from the Kolkata Clean Air Regulations of 2009

Outdoor air pollution has been a major component of the Indian government’s environmental policy. Over the last decade several states have passed legislation that mandates the use of clean fuel in public transport vehicles and have expelled old vehicles from major metropolitan cities. In addition, federal norms have been brought in that control the emissions from newly manufactured vehicles and industry. Much of this legislation has been court-ordered.

The current project consists of an elaborate data gathering exercise in order to assess the impact of these regulatory changes. We will gather the following types of data:

1) For each of the 5 major metropolitan cities in India (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad) collate information on the regulatory environment that governs public and private transport. This will determine the costs and benefits to public transport operators from shifting to new technologies. As an example of how different these environments can be, the auto-rickshaws in Kolkata are restricted to functioning on pre-specified routes and therefore operate more like buses, while those in Delhi and most other cities can move in an unrestricted manner and therefore operate like taxis. Also, some cities such as Delhi and Ahmedabad have an intricate network of CNG stations, while others like Kolkata and Bangalore rely on LPG, which has different properties, costs and emissions.

2) For each of these cities, collect data from the state pollution control boards on air quality. Although this is intended to be available on the internet through the websites of these institutions, very little of the data collected is actually downloadable in most cases.

3) From the Department of Transport, obtain data on the registration of new motor vehicles. For some vehicles, such as auto-rickshaws and taxis, their number changes very occasionally and has to be approved by the government. As a result, we are able to identify the speed of implementation of laws requiring conversion to gas through the data on new registrations.

4) Small surveys in each of these cities to measure costs and revenues of public transport operators (auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers). There is no secondary source for these data, but surveys of 50-100 operators in each city should give us a good idea of costs and revenues.

With the transport department registration data, we will be able to look at the rates at which different cities transitioned to the new regime. This allows a finer measure of policy change than simply using the date of court-orders since implementation lags are often considerable. From our previous study of Kolkata we found that the transition to clean fuel was slow and uneven and occurred over a period of two years. This finer data on implementation will allow for more accurate measures of impact than have been possible in currently available research.


  • Research in progress.

    Project last updated on: 16 May 2016.