Creating jobs while managing air quality
Highlights from a new report released by iFOREST
9 Sep 2022
An old coal-fired power plant has been dumping vast quantities of ash out in the open for many years. (Image: Lundrim Aliu/ World Bank; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On the occasion of the third International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST), hosted an event to highlight the importance of building capacity in India for air quality management. The event also focused on the progress that India has made so far, while highlighting future needs and opportunities.

At the event, a report titled ‘Jobs for Clean Air: National Programme for Capacity Development for Air Quality Management’ was also released. The report, prepared by iFOREST with the support of the World Bank Group, 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 1 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.

Highlights of the report

  • The report has mapped the Air Quality Management (AQM) sector, which includes government agencies/organisations and industries. This is the first attempt of its kind to map an environmental sector in the country.
  • The agencies, organisations and industries working in the AQM sector, which the report covers include, ministries and departments of the government, state pollution control boards, urban local bodies, air polluting industries, and air pollution control industries.
  • The report found that there are at least 2.8 lakh organizations and industries across the country that require personnel for AQM.
  • It has identified 42 specific job roles that are required to control air pollution in the country. These include a wide range, from municipal workers involved in dust control and Construction and Demolition waste management, to specialists in transport planning, air quality modelling and forecasting.
  • In total 2.2 million jobs are required to manage air pollution in the country. A large number of these jobs, about 1.6 million, already exist. However, many of them have never been trained to manage air quality, such as the municipal workers and PUC operators, who can be at the frontline.
  • There is a further need to employ thousands of people to meet the requirements of the growing number of industries, ULBs, consultancy and government. The report estimates that AQM sector requires at least 50,000 new jobs, ranging from researchers and analysts to air quality supervisors in ULBs and regulators on pollution control boards.

The report found that there is no structured capacity-building programme in the AQM sector. It has recommended a National Programme for Capacity Development for Air Quality Management to train about 1.0 million workers, operators and professionals over the next five years.

The jobs in the AQM sector can be divided into direct jobs and indirect jobs. The total number of jobs required to adequately service the implementation of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)/ National Mission for Clean Air (NMCA) is estimated to be 2.02 million. A large majority of these jobs are indirect jobs (1.55 million); direct jobs are about 0.47 million. The National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) level of these jobs ranges from level two to level eight.

About 1.55 million of the total jobs, mostly indirect, are in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). The second-largest number of jobs are in air polluting industries (3,76,000) and the air pollution monitoring and control industry (about 57,000). The number of jobs in Central government ministries, state government departments, and pollution control boards amounts to about 10,000.

Most of the indirect jobs already exist like the municipal workers who are engaged in garbage management, road sweeping, plantation and maintenance of green spaces. But these workers have never been trained in their role in managing air pollution in cities. Similarly, some direct jobs like that of the Pollution Under Control (PUC) operator already exist, but no formal training has been provided to them.

But there are a large number of jobs, mostly direct jobs, that do not exist currently such as in ministries, departments, pollution control boards, research institutions, and consultancy firms. Similarly, a large number of new jobs will be required in the industries and mines.

So, the challenge in the AQM sector in India is that the people working in indirect jobs have not been trained and a large number of direct jobs that are required do not exist.

“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 Chandra Bhushan.

Considering the vastness of air pollution as a subject, there is only a limited variety of courses currently available in India. In a sample of 96 training courses analysed to understand the variety of trainings available, a quarter pertains to basic induction courses on managing air quality. This is followed by specialized technical training in air pollution modelling and forecasting (16 per cent), and monitoring techniques (14 per cent). Most of the courses target a general and broad base of trainees. More than two-thirds of these courses are being delivered by international institutions and multilateral organizations.

The capacity of Indian organizations to develop and deliver courses is limited in many areas. For example, there are no national institutions/organizations that have developed training courses on managing air pollution from area sources or on the economic aspects of AQM. Similarly, a limited number of institutions have competencies in sectors such as mobile sources, health, air quality planning, and policy and regulation.

“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. While a lot of the existing jobs lead to the destruction of the environment, we now have to start creating jobs to protect the environment. Our report shows the vast opportunity that exists in developing the environment sector as a vibrant economic sector” emphasized Bhushan.

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