Million jobs needed for India’s air quality management, says iFOREST report

Air pollution management should be seen as an opportunity to build a green economy, suggests report’s author

September 08, 2022 06:04 am | Updated 06:04 am IST - NEW DELHI

India will need to train at least a million people over the next five years for air quality management. This will also create several thousands of jobs in the public and private sector to manage air pollution, according to a report released on Wednesday by the thinktank International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST).

The report was publicised to mark the third International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The report ‘Jobs for Clean Air: National Programme for Capacity Development for Air Quality Management’, highlights the need of a national-level programme to develop the capacity of all stakeholders — cities, State and Central government agencies, private sector, NGOs and media — to effectively tackle the air pollution problem.

“Our report shows that we need to train at least one million people over the next five years for air quality management. This will also create tens of thousands of new jobs in the public and private sector to plan, monitor, mitigate, and control air pollutants”, said Chandra Bhushan, the CEO of iFOREST and the lead author of the report.

The report has mapped the Air Quality Management (AQM) sector, which includes government agencies, organisations and industries, and is a first attempt of its kind to map an environmental sector in the country. Via surveys, the report found that there are at least 2.8 lakh organisations and industries across the country that require personnel for AQM.

It highlighted 42 specific job roles needed to control air pollution in the country ranging from municipal workers involved in dust control and Construction and Demolition waste management, to specialists in transport planning, air quality modelling and forecasting.

All in all, 2.2 million jobs are required to manage air pollution in the country of which about 1.6 million already exist. However, many of them have never been trained to manage air quality, the report noted.

There was no structured capacity building programme in AQM sector. “A major challenge in the AQM sector in India is that the people presently working in the sector have not been trained and a large number of jobs that are required do not exist”, said Bhushan.

“Air pollution is an environmental issue, but we must also see its management as an opportunity to create new jobs and build a green economy,” he noted.

Towards clean cities

A major thrust of the Centre to address pollution in India is the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) that aims to reduce Particulate Matter by 20-30% by 2024 compared to 2017. This will be largely focussed on 131 of India’s most polluted cities, who will be given performance-based grants. So far, grants worth ₹6,424 crore have been release with ₹2,299 crore earmarked for the coming year.

These cities have developed City Action Plans to address various sources contributing to poor air quality such as vehicles, road dust, construction, industries, thermal power plants, burning of waste, Construction and Demolition Waste etc. There has been an overall improvement in Particulate Matter concentration in 95 cities, including 20 cities conforming to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards in the year 2021-22 compared to 2017, according to the Environment Ministry.

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