- The National Clean Air Programme has been sanctioned for Rs 637 crore
- State governments have been given authority to form clean air programmes
- The programme has found favour among air pollution experts
New Delhi: After months of speculation and several rounds of discussion between the Ministry of Environment and the high-level committee on air pollution, the Union government has finalised plans for a National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), worth Rs 637 crore. The programme will look to improve overall air quality across India. Air pollution has been a major environmental challenge for India, causing over 9 million deaths in 2017 alone. The same year, the air pollution crisis reached unprecedented levels across north India, affecting the states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and many others.
One of the biggest problem with regard to air pollution in India is the complete lack of data with state governments on the sources of air pollution, reach of its effects. Recognising this hindrance as the biggest obstacle to tackle air pollution, the Union government has asked state governments to emphasise on collecting authentic data. The state governments have been asked to monitor rural air pollution and set up air pollution solution committees and Clean Air programmes in each state to counter air pollution. Air quality monitoring networks will be set up in 100 cities to continuously monitor air pollution.
The programme lays down rules which are to be followed by the Centre, rules to be followed by the state and rules where both the Centre and states need to cooperate. Data collection for states is very important and the National Clean Air Programme gives states the provision to collect their own data and share with us, said a Ministry of Environment official.
The national plan also has provisions for setting up an apex committee with the Union minister for Environment heading the body. Two more committees will be formed under the secretary and the joint secretary, to monitor progress made by the states under the programme. Every state has been asked to induct scientists and trained personnel in their road safety committees for them to undertake research and development on management and reduction of air pollution.
“PM 2.5will be monitored across the country, not just in capital or major cities. The state monitoring networks will be able to keep a count of PM 2.5 across locations in the city, and aid in research on the source of the polluting elements and how their count could be minimised,” said the Ministry official.
The NCAP has found favour among pollution experts, who have opined that this is the most comprehensive plan to combat air pollution in India. The plan has involved not just the Centre, but the states as well, which is a big step towards combating air pollution in India.
The strategy employed by the Centre is more focused. State governments have been rightly asked to form their own clean air programmes, which will put some responsibility on their shoulders. The Centre has also shown support towards financially sponsoring research on air pollution. States can now utilise these funds to sponsor research on air pollution as reasons differ from state to state, on varying geographical conditions, said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, Centre for Science and Environment.
The Centre’s plan consciously distances itself from any quick-fix solution, something which air pollution experts have been advocating for quite some time. Air pollution demands a well-conceived and strategic plan which will be effective only when implemented for a prolonged time period. It remains to be seen how the states take up the plan and implement it.