MoEF releases details of National Clean Air Programme

The details of NCAP were released after 17 Parliament members wrote to Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan asking him to quickly notify the ambitious scheme

The Union Environment Ministry on Tuesday released the details of its Rs 637 crore National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which aims to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner.

The details of NCAP were released after 17 Parliament members wrote to Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan asking him to quickly notify the ambitious scheme so that its implementation can start at the earliest.

However, the document released by the green ministry has no reference to the target it internally conceived and publicly announced – a reduction of air pollution by 35% in 100 cities in the next three years and by 50% in the next five years.

The stated goal of NCAP now is “to meet the prescribed annual average ambient air quality standards at all locations in the country in a stipulated time frame.” There is no mention of any specific target and time frame.

After releasing the plan, an environment ministry official said specific targets would now be introduced after assessing “how much of the target we can meet practically.”

On March 8, the ministry informed the Supreme Court that the NCAP, which would deal with the rising air pollution levels across the country would be finalized within four weeks.

Ten days after the deadline, the government released a draft of the programme opening it for public comments till May 17.

The NCAP has proposed a budget and time-bound targets for its components. For instance Rs 150 crore has been allocated to improve the manpower and infrastructure for Central Pollution Control Board as well as several state pollution control boards.

Nearly Rs 100 crore has been allocated for “source appointment studies” for 94 cities to identify specific contributors to pollution to each of these cities in the next two years. For the remaining six cities, such surveys exist. Another Rs 120 crore has been proposed to purchase continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations in two years.

Currently, there are 691 manual monitoring stations. The plan is to add another 1000 in the next two years at a cost of Rs 24 crore. Similarly, 100 more continuous ambient air quality monitoring stations and 50 rural stations are to be added to create a large national network of stations to monitor air quality.

Cutting across the party lines, the Parliamentarians in their letters showed concern on the lack of interim timelines to achieve 50% reduction of emission in next five years.

“I am a bit unsure about how we will achieve this target of 50% reduction in five years,” wrote Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in his April 10 letter. “The commitment of reducing particulate levels by 35% in the next three years and by 50% in the next five years is very ambitious and requires a coordinated action plan with fixed timelines,” wrote BJP MP Kirti Vardhan Singh on April 5.

A study published in the Lancet in 2017, suggests that 18 lakh Indians are killed each year by foul air alone.

 

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