Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)


Geography & Environmental Studies

Program Name/Specialization

Environmental Science


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Robert McLeman

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Margaret Walton Roberts


Delhi, India, and the surrounding cities of Noida, Gurugram, Faridabad, and Ghaziabad consistently rank among the world's most polluted cities. For many parts of the year, air pollution levels are so high as to cause significant harm to human health, economy and the environment. Despite overwhelming evidence of the severity and consequences of air pollution, institutional measures to control it remain insufficient.

There is growing evidence that environmental degradation has the potential to generate migration of people out of affected areas. However, the links between environmental factors and migration are complex, with migration often being a result of interactions between economic, social and political factors with changing environmental conditions (Mcleman et al., 2021). This raises the question of whether air quality in the Delhi region is having an influence on out-migration.

This paper describes findings of my exploratory research to see if there is potentially evidence of links between air quality and people’s intentions to migrate from Delhi to international destinations. The evidence gathered for this study included:

  • A review of the available scholarly studies, government and media reports
  • Interviews conducted remotely with five individuals based in Delhi who work directly with migrants and in the environmental field. These include scientists, education advisors and counsellors, physicians, immigration consultants and environmentalists.
  • Monitoring of social media posts in Facebook groups dedicated to people considering migration out of Delhi, between the dates November 1- 15, 2019.
  • A Twitter poll that was conducted from March 7- 8, 2022 in which 78 people responded to identify the most pressing environmental issue in Delhi.

Collectively this evidence suggests that air pollution is a significant and growing factor that influences migration decisions, alongside other economic, social and/or political factors. Findings are described in detail, with recommendations made for future research.

Convocation Year