The Solvable Challenge of Air Pollution in India

Conference Paper
Published on 12 July 2017


More than 660 million Indians breathe air that fails India’s National Air Quality Standards. Research suggests that meeting those standards would increase life expectancy in India by 1 year. Going further and meeting the international benchmarks of the World Health Organization is estimated to add 4.7 years to life expectancy. Notwithstanding these large benefits, successfully implementing policies that deliver clean air has proved difficult. Greenstone et al. (2017) review a breadth of empirical evidence from within and outside India, as well as new data from Delhi's recent program to ration driving, and industrial emissions in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The authors distill three lessons for designing effective reforms: (i) ensuring that regulatory data is reliable and unbiased, (ii) framing regulations that are both economically efficient and incentive-compatible across the range of actors affected, and (iii) introducing a culture of piloting and evaluating new policy as a scientific route to achieving better outcomes. They make the case that market-based policy instruments may solve several problems with existing regulation in India, and have the potential to reduce air pollution and cut compliance costs at the same time.


Michael Greenstone

University of Chicago

Rohini Pande

Yale University

Anant Sudarshan

University of Chicago