Star Rating Program—a first-of-its-kind initiative in India to rate large industrial units based on their emissions—has come a long way since it was launched in Maharashtra in June 2017. From only a handful of industries to almost 300 industrial units across 12 sectors, the Star Rating Program has fast expanded its reach, covering some of the most polluted cities such as Chandrapur, Kolhapur, Nagpur, Nashik, and Pune.

So far, both the industries and citizens have evinced support for the program, thus enabling it to reach a wide spectrum of people and encourage them to create awareness about air pollution in their respective communities. As an ancillary activity under the program, about 650 people—including NGOs, industry professionals, engineering students, journalists—have been sensitized so far through focused workshops.

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The program—which is a collaborative effort of researchers from the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago (TCD), Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago’s India team (EPIC-India), and other academic institutions—has gained acceptance by virtue of providing citizens with critical information about industrial pollution levels. With a growing number of people visiting the Star Rating website and disseminating information across social media, this program has already triggered citizen activism. It has also received endorsements from city mayors, members of the Parliament, celebrities, and politicians.

Taking cue from Maharashtra’s success, the government of the Odisha state in India also lapped up the opportunity to sign up for the Star Rating Program. Unlike Maharashtra, which rates industrial units based on periodic manual inspections, the star rating for Odisha’s industrial units is based on data received from continuous emissions monitors, installed in the smokestacks of the industries, which are relayed in real time to the regulators.

“I am optimistic about reducing pollution through the new program as it will encourage industries to adopt clean technologies and strengthen the pollution control board’s regulatory efforts.”

Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha

The star rating program is leveraging the benefits of peer comparison that encourages all industrial units to improve compliance. By joining this program, both Maharashtra and Odisha have embraced transparency and information disclosure as a regulatory tool, and they might create a model for other states to capitalize on and improve air quality.