Q. Do you think National Clean Air Policy will help Indian cities in combating air pollution?
Introduction – Mention the seriousness of air pollution and details about what exactly is NCAP
Agreement – On how it will help to combat air pollution
Disagreement – On its limitations to combat air pollution
Way Forward – Suggest other measures to combat air pollution
Conclusion – End on a positive note
According to State Of Global Air Report 2019, entire Indian population lives in areas with PM2.5 concentrations above the WHO Air Quality Guideline of 10 μg/m3, and only about 15 percent of the population lives in areas with PM2.5 concentrations below the WHO’s least-stringent target of 35 μg/m3.
Over 1.2 million Indians died early due to exposure to unsafe air in 2017.
Air pollution is now the third-highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking, in India.
The Lancet has reported that air pollution killed an estimated 1.24 million people in India in 2017.
The average life expectancy in India would be 1.7 years higher if the air quality was improved.
According to WHO, some 25% of households in less-developed cities are reliant on solid fuels for cooking.
Those households face a double air pollution burden – polluted air outdoors as well as the polluted air inside the home.
NCAP is the first ever effort in the country to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
It proposes a framework to achieve a national-level target of 20-30 percent reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by between 2017 and 2024.
This is an inescapable concern in a country where air pollution is the top killer.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shall execute the nation-wide programme for the prevention, control, and abetment of air pollution within the framework of the NCAP.
The approach for NCAP includes collaborative, cross-sectoral coordination amongst the relevant central ministries, state governments, and cities.
It aims to leverage existing policies and programs including the National Action Plan on Climate Change and other central government efforts to mitigate climate change
The plan covers 102 non-attainment cities, across 23 states and Union territories, which were identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.
NCAP – POSITIVES
It might play a positive role in combating air pollution as –
The NCAP attempts to pull all previous air pollution control plans together under a single strategy that focuses on improving the air quality in 102 ‘non-attainment cities’ across the country.
The policy was launched by the environment minister, but it is massively cross-cutting, involving the ministries of road transport and highway, petroleum and natural gas, new and renewable energy, heavy industry, housing, and urban affairs, agriculture, and health.
The programme will partner with multilateral and bilateral international organizations, philanthropic foundations and leading technical institutions.
It is to bring down particulate matter 10 and 2.5 levels in the 102 non-attainment cities by 30% by 2024.
City-specific action plans
NCAP – POSITIVES
The overall objective of the programme includes comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution besides augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country and strengthening the awareness and capacity building activities.
NCAP – CONCERNS
But their certain concerns associated as well such as –
The review by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) shows that the actual reduction target needed in most cities is much higher than the NCAP target.
It’s not legally binding.
NCAP is a top-down prescriptive approach.
NCAP has not provided for innovative financing mechanism at the central and state/city level.
The funds allotted are meagre which cannot sustain the grand plans.
Hence, the NCAP will have to be reinvented, to be on mission mode for well-aligned action across sectors with a clear budgetary provision, clearer role of the Central government, stronger reporting, monitoring and compliance mechanisms for on-ground changes
Other measures like –
Faster and seamless adoption of BS VI norms
Encourage a shift from private passenger vehicles to public transport
Faster and seamless adoption of new emission standards for thermal plants
Follow the Gujarat government which has launched ‘Emission Trading Scheme’ (ETS), under which a firm which reduces emissions below the stipulated limit can sell its surplus ’emission permits’.
Clean cooking and heating
Renewables for power generation
Energy efficiency for households
Continuous ban on stubble burning, burning of waste in open spaces, landfill sites, etc.
Suppress construction and road dust
Increase in green areas, etc
Should also be considered and adopted for improvement in air quality.
A pragmatic approach is required to reduce pollution levels.
Improving air quality demands consistent, sustained and coordinated government action at all levels.
Government has been working in the right direction but much more needed to overcome this situation.