New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday stepped up its efforts to combat air pollution by launching a five-year action plan with a tentative target of 20-30% reduction in concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 by 2024, with 2017 as the base year.
The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) was launched by Union minister for environment, forests and climate change, Harsh Vardhan with an initial budget of ₹ 300 crore for the first two years.
“So far we had only been looking at National Capital Region (NCR) to mitigate air pollution, but now we have attempted to reach out to different parts of the country. It is a comprehensive plan that is specific to each city," said secretary, ministry of environment, C.K. Mishra.
The plan includes 102 non-attainment cities, across 23 states and Union territories, which were identified by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.
Non-attainment cities are those which have been consistently showing poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. These include Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Noida, Muzaffarpur, and Mumbai.
As part of the programme, the Centre also plans to scale up the air quality monitoring network across India. At least 4,000 monitors are needed across the country, instead of the existing 101 real-time air quality (AQ) monitors, according to an analysis.
The government also proposes to conduct studies across 102 non-attainment cities to ascertain pollution sources and extent of their contribution.
The apex committee in the ministry will periodically review the progress of these components on the basis of appropriate indicators, which will be evolved. However, it is not binding on the state governments as it is not a legal document, Mishra said.
“It is a scheme that we are implementing for the ministries to take mitigation measures. Each city will develop its own action plan for implementation based on sources of pollution. As far as activities related to the Air Act and Water Act are concerned, the CPCB already has provisions and teams to monitor action," he said.
The plan proposes a three-tier system, including real-time physical data collection, data archiving, and an action trigger system in all 102 cities, besides extensive plantation plans, research on clean-technologies, landscaping of major arterial roads, and stringent industrial standards.
It also proposes state-level plans of e-mobility in the two-wheeler sector, rapid augmentation of charging infrastructure, stringent implementation of BS-VI norms, boosting public transportation system, and adoption of third-party audits for polluting industries.
The government’s zeal to combat air pollution seems to have reduced compared to its earlier stand of reducing pollution levels by 50% in the next five years, said Sunil Dahiya, clean air campaigner, Greenpeace India. “Also, it was important that the document was made legally binding. Millions of lives are at risk because of this crisis. We hope the government shows enough seriousness to fight the public health crisis," he said.