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Right to Pollution Free Air before & after the COVID-19 and Impact of Lockdown on Air Quality

Tripti Sinha is a law student from Delhi Metropolitan Education, Noida

Published onFeb 02, 2022
Right to Pollution Free Air before & after the COVID-19 and Impact of Lockdown on Air Quality


It is well said that “By living in harmony with Nature one gains a healthy mind and body”. Going against nature one day returns us whatever we do. First nature suffers till the very end of its limit and then it returns the sufferings back like it has done we destroyed nature for our living it returned by locking us and slowly it’s destroying the economy of the world. We covered nature with plastics, now nature covered us with plastics for saving lives. The focus of this paper is to cover the effect of the deadly virus on the right to life and the right to clean and free air. How does polluted air affect life? Reasons for pollution and how can we cure it. It also covers the cases which tell the serious effects of polluted air over the lives and legal issues which were covered before pandemic period. Basically, it is the overall analysis of the scenario before the pandemic and after the pandemic.

Keywords: Nature, Pandemic, Legal Issues


“Air Is Life...

Pollution Is Death...

What If We Live Life Like Dead...

That Is What Air Pollution Is...”.

A very well said line by Rajat Mittal, these lines are enough in short to explain air and air pollution. But if we talk about air pollution then before understanding air pollution we must understand what is air and air pollution?

So the answer is here for the above questions, Air refers to the Earth’s atmosphere, it is a clear gas by which we get a life and in the language of science, Air is a mixture of gases and tiny dust particles thus it has a mass and weight as it is a matter. A clean air contains1 approximately 78% of Nitrogen, 21% of Oxygen, 0.9% of Argon, 0.04% of Carbon Dioxide and a small number of other gases with 1% of water vapor and now we will see Air Pollution it is an air which gives an invitation to a large number of dangerous & serious health issues and death. Basically, Air pollution consists of Smoke, Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur, Nitrogen, and other harmful gases. An exception to pandemic years in last many years world was facing the problem of air pollution and other kinds of pollution. Air pollution is one of the major issues in the world as the world is getting developed and advanced the more and more the pollutions are increasing.


Some reasons2 for the air pollution, which is increasing on daily basis— are as follows:

  1. The burning of Fossil Fuels.

To produce energy for transportation and electricity we need to burn the fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gasoline, etc. The burning of these fossil fuels releases a high level of Carbon Monoxide and other toxic gases into the atmosphere. Inhaling of toxic air due to the burning of natural gas and fossil fuels reduces the ability of the heart to pump enough oxygen and due to this, the living being faces respiratory illness.

  1. Industrial Emission.

One of the reasons for effects in air quality is Industrial emissions the industries which help in developing a country and make its bases strong effects the quality of air by releasing chemicals and harmful gases like Nitrogen dioxide, Sulphur dioxide, and carbon monoxide, these are some main pollutants which are majorly released from the industries as they use primary fuel coal and wood in order to develop a nation. Due to these industries and pollution living beings suffer a lot as these gases affect health and the range of affection is from itching of eyes, irritation, and sore throat to respiratory distress, and at many times other chronic illnesses are also been noticed.

  1. Indoor Air Pollution.

Insufficient ventilation, uneven temperature, use of toxic products also known as Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs), and increased humidity causes indoor air pollution which affects the comfort of any human whether in house, office, school, college, or at any other institution like these. Not only these factors but some other factors are also there that are smoking inside a room, mold infected walls of a room untreated, sewage systems, use of the woodstove or space heaters all these factors affect the health of a person at times.

  1. Wildfire or Forest Fires.

Wildfire is also known as forest fires gives a high spike in air pollution. Uncertain increase in temperature causes fire in the forests. As many tribal communities live in forests and practice agriculture so after cutting crops they are left with some residue and because they have to grow up crops again they place fire which sometimes leads to forest fires. The air collides with harmful substances like chemical gas and pollen which creates smog and smog makes the air pollute and people breathe.

  1. Transportation.

We cannot deny that whatever the medium we use today for transportation has a major contribution to air pollution, especially in urban cities when a car burns petroleum or gasoline in a day it leaves harmful gases in air equal to 10 to 20 tobacco cigarettes burnt in a day. Vehicles releases carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, and other harmful gases. Due to the high increase in air pollution the protective shield which stops Ultra Violate rays i.e. Ozon Layer has got many holes in the atmosphere. As a result of these holes, we get sunburn tanning and other various health issues.

  1. Agricultural activities.

A serious impact on decreasing air quality has one of the important reasons i.e. agricultural activities. In the present times, most of the farmers had increased their working efficiency in the farm they use tractors, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. These pesticides and fertilizers are mixed with new invasive species (these are not found naturally these are man-developed species) and these are used for the quick growth of the crops and vegetation. When these fertilizers and pesticides are sprayed out on the crops the smell and harmful effects pollute the air. Not only this but the incident of Agricultural fire that is burning of stubble and farm residue also gives rise to air pollution.

  1. Open burning of garbage wastes.

Open burning of garbage wastes is ten times more harmful to the health and the environment. The air pollution in Delhi was day by day choking the public health. Delhi generates a whopping quantity of approximately 9500 tons of waste every day and this makes Delhi the second waste dumping city of India. The open burning of garbage waste poses serious and chronic health risks like cancer, liver issues, the ruination of the immune system, reproductive functions, even in some cases it affects the developing nervous system of the body.

From the above reasons we can understand how much the air quality affects human life quality.


The topmost countries of the world have the worst air quality3 in the year 2020 and that is as follows:

  1. Bangladesh – Bangladesh possesses the 1st rank in the world’s Air Quality Index, the average concentration of PM4 2.5 of 79 ug/m3. The population of this country is 166 million people in the world and such a high population is the burden over the resources of a country and especially on the air. Because of such a high population, there is plenty of human and industrial activities taking place within the country with the aim to develop but it, unfortunately, affects the air quality. The unhealthy air quality also affects the Human Life Expectancy which is calculated by Human Life Expectancy Index and according to this Index, all humans have an expectancy of 70 years.

  2. Pakistan – Pakistan possesses the 2nd rank in the world’s Air Quality Index, the average concentration of PM 2.5 of 101ug/m3. The population of this country is 200.8 million people in the world. Pakistan is the most polluted country with a very high pollution level and due to this, there are very high & increasing respiratory problems. The unhealthy air quality affects the Human Life Expectancy, according to this Index this country has a very low expectancy of 64 - 66 years.

  3. Mongolia – Mongolia is a very small country like Qatar, but has a very high population & GDP5 per capita is at $13.14 billion6 with an average concentration of PM 2.5 of 64 ug/m3. It is the 3rd most polluted country in the world. This is caused by the regularly burning of coal in the country to get over the chilled cold weather. The carbon emissions and other harmful gases go into the air high and pollute it very badly. The Human Life Expectancy according to this Index this country has a very low expectancy of 68 years.

  4. Afghanistan – Afghanistan is the fourth most polluted country in the world and has a standard concentration of PM 2.5 of 84 ug/m3. Just like Mongolia and Qatar, Afghanistan also has a very low GDP and high population. Here the biggest reason for air pollution is the burning of rubber, plastics, and fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and CNG which increases carbon emission.

  5. India – India possesses 5th position in the worst Air Quality Index with a standard concentration of PM 2.5 of 59 ug/m3. The second biggest country in terms of population is 1.3 billion7. As the biggest population, India has a GDP of $2.87 trillion8 according to the data of 2019. The large population has put on a very high strain on the resources available in the country and managing such a large population with low rates of resources is difficult and with this, the government has to manage the development of the country too. And in view of all these, there is a very high use of coal and petroleum with high stress on resources like water sources, industrial activities the dependency over industrial working is so high and not only this a high percentage of the population use their private vehicles for movement and the second most garbage dumping city in the world is from India i.e. National Capital of Territory (Delhi), Here garbage is not only dumped but also being put on fire openly which is popularly known as Open Burning of Garbage Wastes. Agriculture fire and forest fire is also a reason for high air pollution in India.


Has Air Quality been affected during pandemic times? Has there been any effect on Air Quality due to COVID 19 and lockdown? The answers to the above questions in this paper are in context to India. So here are the answer to the above questions is Yes, the infection of COVID – 19 started to spread in the last months of 2019, and in the early 2020s when the world was unknown to this Virus to control its government of every country took the decision to lock down the whole nation so that the spread of this virus could stop. In India, the decision and announcement of lockdown in the country was done on 24th March 2020 and the nationwide lockdown on 25th March 2020 this lockdown consisted of suspension of all the economical activities, except for essential services like food and ration store, medical shops, hospitals, movement of frontline workers not only this online shopping of essential goods was also permitted so that everyone in the country could be safe. This lockdown nationwide was continued till a financial year i.e. March 2020 to March 2021 and when the government announced to unlock this pandemic again spread off in the other variant which was 10 times more powerful than the first wave and again the whole country is in lockdown so there is a very high effect on the Air Quality of the nation as there was really less working vehicles so the Air Quality has improved. The statement of improvisation can be demonstrated9 by the analysis of more than 200 pieces of data are provided by the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations and the report that has been issued by the National Air Quality Index, the spatial distribution and the concentration levels of PM10, PM2.5, CO2, NO2, and other useful and harmful gases present in the air of nationwide and especially in the five metro cities containing the worst air quality that are Delhi & NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai & Hyderabad. The satellite vision of maps of AOD10 which clarified the first four months of lockdown has a remarkable decrease in the Air pollution levels in India. The percentage of harmful gases like PM10, PM2.5, NO2, CO2, SO2, CO, and many other harmful gases has a reasonable reduction from 35 % to 20% as compared to the concentration level before lockdown. In April 2019 the concentration level of these harmful gases were decreased from 55% to 35% respectively. The concentration level of O3 has shown an impressive rise in the period of lockdown. COVID – 19 pandemic impacted the national economy but has given a rare chance to India in order to reduce air pollution and this lockdown is really useful in the formation of the air pollution reduction policies for the future. Not only this due to the mandatory lockdown imposed across the country, but all the Indian cities have also observed a drastic reduction in air pollution11. Other than India lockdown in various countries like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the USA, etc, led to shutting down of power plants, transportation, and other industries and commercial activities except for the essential activities which resulted in a drastic decrease in concentration levels of GHGs, NO2, PM2.5, PM10, CO, SO2, and other harmful gases has led to spikes in ozone, primarily in Europe and other large countries lockdown has made an impressive change the spikes in the ozone layer slowly but highly has started to recover and if the trend of lockdown or less use of non-essential industries and vehicles takes place then the day is not so far when the Air Quality will get recovered and ozone spikes will get filled up, no doubt economically the countries will face issues but yes the pollution level will surely decrease down.


Right to Life in Indian Constitution is provided in Article 21, this Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is a Fundamental Right and this Article also includes the Right to Pollution Free & Clean Air, Safe Drinking Water and Safe Environment. What if we are left in a room where the conditions are really worst polluted air, no clean water resource, no cleanliness at all? Can we live in such a situation? The answer to this question would be no because it would affect the health in a very unreasonable manner and the terrible environment maybe leads to death very early. Therefore no one would like to live a terrible life. An unpleasant air quality leads to many chronic and respiratory diseases which in short may affect the fundamental right provided under Article 21 i.e. Right to Life which also contains the Right to Pollution Free & Clean Air. A case Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar12. This case was held in the Supreme Court of India, petition was held under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution because The Right to Life is a Fundamental Right guaranteed in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and guarantees the pollution-free environment and water to an individual. The court also said that in case anything endangers the quality of life of an individual except the laws or courts then the citizens are provided with the remedy under Article 32 of the Indian constitution and the pollution affecting the life of an individual should be removed and the quality of life should be improved. The petition was filed by the way of PIL13 here the petitioner was Subhash Kumar for preventing the pollution in the water of the river Bokaro from the discharge of sludge from the washeries of Tata Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. The petitioner alleged that the parliament enacted uniform legislation (Prevention & Control Of Pollution Act, 1978) for the prevention of water pollution but the state pollution control board. The Petitioner said that the Tata Iron and Steel Co carried out mining operations in the town of Jamshedpur which are also known as West Bokaro Collieries. Then the case had further arguments the case was concluded by the Honourable Court that Article 32 is designed for the safeguard sand give speedy justice to the cases filed in the name of Fundamental Rights as these are the basic right of the citizens and the right provided under Article 21 of the constitution guarantees the right to life and right to pollution-free air and water. One another case was held in the supreme court i.e. Murli S. Deora v. Union of India14, the court recognized passive smoking as a serious issue and it was held in the case that this hampers the right to life and clean air. Thus from this case, we can understand the impact of air pollution on right to life and the right to clean air.


The outbreak of this deadly virus was firstly identified in the city of Wuhan city, China and within a couple of weeks, it was declared as a world public emergency threatening the life of the nations. Not only in India but in the whole world the Covid was and is still suffering from covid the first wave that the world crossed was from the last months of 2019 to March 2021 as the unlocking and the threat of virus was leaving the minds of citizens across the countries the second wave again came from Approximately 15th April 2021 and till date, it is going on and this second wave has introduced the different variant of fungus which has affected life at a very high number (lakhs and lakhs of people) has been drawn to death by this deadly virus. Many families have been drawn to death and in many cases, the families have lost their loved ones and in various cases, many children have been drawn to the situation to live life like orphans. Though the lockdown across the world has improved the Air Quality but has drawn the people to death and this has impacted the right to live badly. Thus we can conclude that the Pandemic has impacted the right to life but has improved the air quality and has given us hope as the reduction in pollution increased the level of Oxygen naturally which means that now we do not need to face chronic and respiratory diseases.


The world should take a collaborative initiative on some of the above-discussed reasons for air pollution.

The countries where due to UV rays and extraordinary heated temperature forest fires take place will not be happening, the government should also improve the waste management ways so that the incident of Open burning of Dumped waste does not become the reason for the hike in air pollution in India. A country like India which is majorly dependent upon agriculture should also adopt some other kinds of increased technological facility to every farmer who is practicing agriculture so that the incident of Agricultural fire that is burning of stubble and farm residue also gives rise to air pollution. The health impacts which in maximum no. happens due to the air pollution will be solved.

Either the countries together can take a collaborative initiative in the future if the air quality impact increases or the government of countries individually can form their own Air Pollution Reduction Policies in the future to control the Air Quality impacts.

The unpleasant Air Quality affects the right to life by drawing the life to face chronic and respiratory diseases but in India, we have the speedy remedy provided by the Indian Constitution i.e. Article 32 and this remedy is only available for the Fundamental rights in context to this paper it is Article 21 Right to life and Pollution free air15.

Thought this deadly virus has provided a rare idea to improve the air quality and has improved it which has provided an adorable increase in the Oxygen levels naturally but on the other side it has breached the right to life and has drawn many families to death, many family members to death, many children have become orphan due to this pandemic as they have lost their families and parents16.

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