Working Paper

Improving air quality in cities through transport-focused low- and zero-emission zones: Legal pathways and opportunities for India

This study identifies and discusses legal pathways for implementing low-emission zones (LEZs) and zero-emission zones (ZEZs) in India at the national, state, and city levels. The authors partnered with an environmental law expert to identify relevant provisions in Indian law to build the legal pathways, and each of the five primary pathways presented can be applied as a mandate.

The first pathway is the most authoritative, as the central government directly notifies various cities as LEZs and ZEZs. The second pathway includes a national-level program for LEZs and ZEZs in which the central government requires various state governments to work with cities to plan and implement LEZs and ZEZs. The third pathway begins with state governments declaring various cities or regions as air pollution control areas. In the fourth pathway, the state government empowers cities to impose restrictions on polluting vehicles under the Central Motor Vehicle Act. Finally, under the fifth pathway, municipal corporations could plan and implement LEZs and ZEZs without any state or national mandates, although the state government could also initiate the process under the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act.

The paper compares the various pathways in terms of scale of impact, design flexibility, complementarity with other sectors, and more, and also highlights some legal provisions that can support enforcement and enhance the effectiveness of LEZs and ZEZs.