Manufacturing industries as the major source of air pollution in India

By Indra Giri & Priya Chetty on June 17, 2017

Air contamination is defined as the presence of toxins that affect the environment (Vallero 2011). India, as a rapidly developing nation, needs to manage its ecological issues well to minimise contamination of air, water and soil. The major factors for air pollution in the country are:

  • vehicular emissions
  • healing centre waste
  • sewage transfers

The manufacturing industry is one of the major air pollutants. Furthermore, the recent campaign launched by Prime Minister Modi promoting “Made in India” products is receiving widespread local and international support (Aldrich et al. 2015). Though this campaign and related strategies contribute to the growth of India, they are also partly responsible for environmental degradation.

Measure of air pollution in India

increasing air pollution in India leads to increase in number of monitoring office
Growth of operating ambient air quality monitoring stations under NAMP in India

In India, the monitoring of air quality began in 1967 under the aegis of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI). The  Central Pollution Control Board started the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring (NAAQM) program in 1984. It was later renamed as National Air Monitoring Green Growth and National Air Quality Monitoring Program in India (NAMP). Under the NAMP, four air poisons, viz., sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NO2) suspended particulate matter (SPM) and respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM/PM10), have been distinguished for customary checking. Additionally, extra parameters such as respirable lead and other poisonous follow metals, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), alkali (NH3) and polycyclic fragrant hydrocarbons (PAHs) are checked.

Major air pollutants from different manufacturing industries

Some of the most polluted industries in India include metals, chemicals, compost, petroleum and sustenance. Apart from these, pesticides, cleaners, plastics, solvents, fill, paints, colours, and nourishment are also pollutants. In addition, due to advances in nuclear vitality, there has been an expansion in radioactivity in the biosphere (The & Metals n.d.).

Industrialization that relies on fossil power contributes to air pollution. Air contamination is an essential issue in the mechanical industry which may adversely affect the health of an entire population (Mehraj 2013).

Air pollutantsSectors
Particulate, dust, SPM, RPSMAbrasion, stone mining, fuel combustion in automobiles, civil construction, mining power station
Oxides of sulphurPowerhouse, smelters, coal and fossil fuel combustion, sulphuric acid plants, refining process, petroleum and natural gas industries
Oxides of nitrogenRefining of petroleum, combustion of fuel, natural gas, oil and coal, acid manufacturing
Hydrogen sulphidePetroleum industry, wastewater treatment, tanneries, oil refineries
HydrocarbonMotor vehicles, refuse burning, combustion of coal, natural occurrence
Hydrogen fluorideGlass and ceramics, cement factories, steel and aluminium industries, phosphate fertilizer plants, brick plants
Carbon monoxideMetabolic activity, fuel combustion, automobile exhaust
OzonePhotochemical reactions, storm centres
LeadAutomobile exhaust
MercuryPesticides, paints, laboratories
Organic solventsPaints, pesticides, cooking, cosmetics
ChlorinePetroleum refineries, glass industry, plastic incineration, scarp burning, accidental spills
AmmoniaSpillage of anhydrous ammonia, leaks and breakdown in industry operations, feedlots and stockyards
Air pollutants from various manufacturing sectors

Top three industries responsible for air pollution

There are various industries which contribute to air pollution in India. Some of the top polluting industries are discussed here.

Industrial chimney waste

There are various ventures which are wellspring of air contamination. One of them is petroleum refineries which emit gasses such as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen oxide (NOx). In addition, cement factories also produce waste which are harmful to human health. Stone crushers and hot blend plants are additional sources of pollutants. Furthermore, food and fertilizer industries which discharge toxic waste and corrosive vapors are also potentially harmful to the environment.

Thermal power stations

There are many power stations and super warm power stations in India. One of these is the National Warm Power Partnership (NTPC) which has set up four mammoth coal-fueled power stations located at Singrauli in U.P., Korba in M.P., Ramagundam in Andhra Pradesh and Farakka in W. Bengal. However, the main pollutants are fly powder, SO2 and different gasses and hydrocarbons.


Vehicular exhaust emissions are a source of extensive air contamination, next to warm power plants. Therefore, the steady expansion of the car industry increases air pollution risks, affecting air quality. The source of pollution in the auto industry is the vehicle components such as:

  • framework
  • fuel tank and carburettor
  • crankcase

Furthermore, the fumes produce unburnt hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and lead oxides. There are additionally hints of aldehydes, esters, ethers, peroxides and ketones which are artificially dynamic and consolidate to shape exhaust clouds in the nearness of light. Similarly, evaporation from fuel tanks due to the unstable nature of petrol, results in the outflow of hydrocarbons. The evaporation through the carburettor happens when the motor is halted and warm air is emitted. During this process, as much as 12 to 40 ml of fuel is lost amid each long quit bringing on outflow of hydrocarbons. (The & Metals n.d.).


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Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).