Within a year, is India’s national clean air plan underway to address air pollution?

by Mayank Aggarwal

After sustained pressure from both civil society and the courts in recent years, the Indian government launched the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) in January 2019. Now, a year later, in January 2020, progress is reported on increasing the number of air quality monitoring stations. However, in terms of pollution control, progress has been slow, experts consider.

The central government had launched NCAP as a long-term, national, long-term strategy to address the problem of air pollution across India in a comprehensive manner, with 20-30 percent reduction targets for particles 10 (PM10) and PM2. 5 concentrations for 2024, keeping 2017 as the base year for the comparison of the concentration.

However, when it was launched, it had been very heavy. review because its objectives are not legally binding.

    Within a year, is India's national clean air plan to combat air pollution underway?

It is estimated that air pollution is responsible for more than one million lives in India every year. Image credit: iMahesh / Wikimedia Commons.

“According to the NCAP, 102 cities without achievements have been identified based on ambient air quality data for the period 2011-2015 and the WHO (World Health Organization) 2014/2018 report. The city’s specific action plans, which include measures to strengthen the monitoring network, reduce vehicle / industrial emissions, raise public awareness, etc., have been prepared and approved for on-site implementation for the 102 cities without achievements, ”said Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. while responding to a query in parliament in December 2019. The cities without achievements are those that constantly violated the National Environmental Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) during the period 2011-2015.

Javadekar also said that for “cities with more than one million inhabitants and a PM10 concentration of more than 90 µg / m³”, the ministry has “assigned Rs”. 100 million (Rs. 10 million rupees) in the current year for several components “, such as the installation and commissioning of continuous monitoring systems for ambient air quality, creating a green buffer zone along the roads, mechanical sweepers, mobile law enforcement units, water sprinklers, public awareness and capacity development activities.

“For cities with a population of less than 500,000, funds of Rs. one million (Rs. 10 lakhs) has been allocated per city and for cities with a population of 500,000 to one million, Rs. two million (Rs. 20 lakhs) were allocated per city, ”said Javadekar.

Under the NCAP, at the state level, a steering committee headed by the chief secretary, a monitoring committee headed by the chief secretary (environment) and an implementation committee headed by the district magistrate or the commissioner of the corporation municipal for its implementation and monitoring of specific city action plans to reduce air pollution.

Further explaining, an official from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) said it is only the first year of the plan.

“Things move slowly as all the basic elements are implemented. Once the allocation is made for all cities and technological solutions are finalized, the work will be rationalized, ”said the MoEFCC official, wishing anonymity.

It is necessary to expand efforts to combat air pollution.

Although the government says it has been doing its part to control pollution by seeking long-term solutions, the central and state governments were back under the scanner in the winter season of 2019, when the air quality in Delhi and the regions adjacent exceeded emergency levels. .

In November 2019, the Supreme Court of India had torn off Central and state governments for not controlling air pollution due to burning stubble. He asked governments if they feel ashamed that people are no longer safe even in their homes. The court had even asked if it is feasible to switch to hydrogen-based fuels to control air pollution.

On January 10, 2020, the climate and energy news aggregator site, Carbon copy threw a NCAP control panel to follow the progress of the national air pollution management plan of India, through a series of parameters such as budget expenditure and improvement in PM levels.

Representative Image Flickr

Stubble burning is considered one of the main reasons behind the high air pollution in Delhi in winter. Image credit: Flickr

According to the NCAP control panel of CarbonCopy (based on the information obtained under the Right to information), Rs. So far, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has disbursed 2,800 million (Rs. 280 million rupees) in 28 cities without achievements, including cities such as Varanasi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

“While Hyderabad has spent the maximum of Rs. 78 million (Rs. 7.8 crore) in increasing monitoring efforts in the 28 cities, Ahmedabad lags behind eight million rupees (Rs. 80 lakhs) in the installation and commissioning of CAAQM (Stations of continuous monitoring of ambient air quality). Meanwhile, Raipur leads the way with green paving activities worth Rs. 42 million (Rs. 4.2 million rupees), while Surat has spent five million rupees (Rs. 50 lakhs) on this activity so far as the only effort one year since the NCAP entered into force, “according to a statement by CarbonCopy.

Delhi has not reached this list so far, the statement said.

This is of particular interest since Delhi and its adjacent regions, in recent years, have become infamous for resembling a gas chamber in the winter season when air quality deteriorates to emergency levels. Repeatedly, studies have shown that high levels of air pollution lead to the loss of more than one million lives each year.

Aarti Khosla, who is the director of Carbon copy He said: “Air pollution is no longer an unknown phenomenon,” since its “effects on public health are being experienced everywhere.”

“China is the closest example for India on how it controlled its emissions and penalized polluters to control the aerial apocalypse in Beijing from 2012 to 2017. If India wants to create a success story in the management and mitigation of air pollution, proper implementation, compliance and execution in NCAP is crucial to that effect, ”Khosla warned.

“This tracker is intended to add transparency in tracking implementation. While India is one of the few countries that is on track to meet its international climate commitments, the country’s greatest health burden due to air pollution makes it imperative that India address this problem at its root and urgently. ” Khosla said in a statement statement.

Can low-cost air quality monitoring sensors help?

Professor Sachchidanand Tripathi of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, who is involved in the implementation of NCAP, explained to Mongabay-India that there are many things that are happening, but there is certainly room for more.

“What we have done is to create a national network of IIT, the best universities and laboratories that will provide scientific input and technical support for the NCAP implementation. After the first round of money allocation in the last year, several states have already moved towards conducting source distribution studies in cities without achievements, “said Tripathi, adding that the central government would soon hold a meeting to review the Progress made far below the NCAP.

Tripathi also revealed that they have also progressed in the development of low-cost air quality monitoring sensors that have received an encouraging response from the government. “This can provide invaluable help since the conventional form of monitoring will take a long time. There is this broad agreement that we need to move quickly with the idea of ​​expanding monitoring air quality, ”added Tripathi.

He said they have developed and implemented a new technology for dynamic distribution of sources in Delhi. He explained that, although the conventional method takes two years to provide source distribution results, the new technology provides it almost in real time and also provides more granular information.

This article was originally posted at Mongabay.com.

Mongabay-India It is a news service on environmental science and conservation. This article has been republished under the Creative Commons license.

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