Govt Launches National Clean Air Programme
In order to control the deteriorating air quality across the Indian cities, the government finally launched the much awaited the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) on January 10. Earlier, the Centre on December 25 allocated Rs 300 crore for the implementation of the plan as an overall cost of taking multiple air pollution abatement measures in 102 cities in next 15 months. The Centre has set a mid-term target to reduce air pollution by 20-30 per cent by 2024.
The initial amount will be spent in expanding air-quality-monitoring capacities in states, and setting up national emission inventory and conducting source apportionment studies in cities which are important to identify nationwide pollution hotspots, figuring out exact sources of pollution and conduct its own scientific studies on health effects of air pollution.
Here are some important details about the NCAP:
The program launched by the Ministry of Environment is a 20-point plan that would focus on meeting the annual average ambient air quality standards at all locations in the country. The tentative national level target of 20–30 per cent reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024 is proposed under the NCAP taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.
While the Central government has conveniently shifted the onus to the state government, the plan also focusses on collecting authentic data on pollution sources, monitoring of rural air pollution and implementing an institutional framework at the centre and state level to take preventive steps. The objective of the programme is to have a comprehensive plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution, and to augment the air quality monitoring network across the country.
The program is India’s first step to fight air pollution in a coordinated way that would require all the states to come up with their own plan. The plan also mentions the time frame for implementing measures but does not have any directives for the states in their action plan.
Under the project, an apex committee will be formed under the environment ministry, a steering committee under the Environment Secretary and a monitoring committee under the Joint Secretary. There would be separate state-level committees with scientist and trained personnel. All the programs framed by states will have to be funded by their own.
The other side
While the centre has finally shown its intention to address the depreciating air quality, the environment bodies have condoned the plan as ‘dreamy’.
The Indian wing of Greenpeace, a global environmental group, has said that the absence of pollution reduction targets is a grave concern. “While this is a big achievement for the people who have been at the receiving end of the air pollution issue, the absence of absolute pollution reduction targets of 35 per cent in three years and 50 per cent in five years is a cause of concern. We believe the ministry will rectify those in the final version of the programme," said Greenpeace India.
The Society for Environmental Communications has also slammed government for not quantifying targets. According to SEC, “It will be interesting to observe whether NCAP’s well-intended and ambitious initiatives without quantified targets would result in significant impact or not. The merit of backing action planning with city-specific data cannot be discounted, but, generating data on source contribution and preparing city-level emission inventories is a continuous and time-consuming process that should not delay the clean air action planning process.”