New Delhi: Air pollution is one of the biggest global environmental challenges today and is posing a major threat to the public health nation-wide. According to a World Health Organisation air quality study in 2018 of over 4,000 cities in the world revealed that nine out of the top ten most polluted cities were in India. The study was based on a comparison of the average amount of PM2.5 — a particulate matter considered being of 2.5 micron that can enter the lungs and cause serious health problems. The levels of air pollution are hazardous in India, especially during winters.
As citizens choke on the hazardous smog in different parts of the country, several experts in the past have stressed on the need for a year-round plan to check the air quality instead of introducing action plans when it’s already severe. Taking this into consideration, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has finally unveiled their flagship plan – National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). The programme was first announced in 2017 with the main aim of improving the air quality by 20 to 30 per cent in the next five years.
After many alterations and missing several deadlines, a time-bound national level strategy for pan India implementation across 102 most polluted cities has been launched recently by the Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in New Delhi.
After missing multiple deadlines #NCAP (National Clean Air Programme) is expected to be announced today by @moefcc #India
This thread looks at how it has moved since #December2017 when it was mentioned first in Parliament@greenpeaceindia @DelhiBreathe @Jhatkaa @Brikesh @a_khosla
— Sunil Dahiya (@Sunil_S_Dahiya) January 10, 2019
While the minister maintained that the plan will not be legally binding, he said besides reducing air pollution concentration, pollution monitoring networks will be enhanced and activities will be put in place to improve awareness.
2017 has been set as the base year for the comparison of the concentration of the Particulate Matter (PM) and Mr Vardhan further added, that “the tentative national level target of 20 to 30 per cent reduction of PM 2.5 and PM 10 concentrations by 2024 is proposed under the NCAP,” he said.
Collaborative & participatory approach involving relevant union ministries, state govts, local bodies & other stakeholders with focus on all sources of pollution form the crux of the programme. #NCAP @moefcc @PMOIndia #cleanair pic.twitter.com/Cu3gEeBK2f
— Dr. Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) January 10, 2019
Seven Things To Be Implemented Under NCAP To Improve Air Quality:
Objective: The overall objective of the programme is to work for prevention, control and reduction of air pollution besides boosting the air quality monitoring network. The aim also involves strengthening the awareness about the air pollution among the citizens.
Duration: The NCAP is a five-year action plan starting from 2019 and the approach for the program includes collaboration and coordination between the central ministries, state governments and local bodies.
City- specific action plan: Out of the 102 problematic cities, as identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 43 smart cities have been recognised where the Smart Cities Program strategies will be used to implement NCAP. All the listed cities have begun preparing for city-specific action plans in consultation with CPCB.
Budget: The Environment Ministry has announced a budget of Rs 300 crore for two years. The NCAP will continue to evolve based on the additional scientific and technical progress in the coming years.
Implementation: NCAP will be implemented by the efforts of government and non-governmental agencies. These agencies include Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, NITI Aayog, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), experts from the industry, academia, and civil society. The program is also expected to partner with international organisations, philanthropic foundations and leading technical institutions to achieve its outcomes.
Additional Implementation Efforts: Sectoral working groups, national level Project Monitoring Unit, Project Implementation Unit, state level project monitoring unit, city level review committee under the Municipal Commissioner and District Magistrate level Committee in the Districts are to be constituted under NCAP. These units, while executing the program, will unite existing policies and programs like National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and other initiatives of Government of India in reference to climate change.
Key Features: Other components of NCAP include, increasing number of monitoring stations in the country. These would include rural monitoring stations, technology support, emphasis on awareness and capacity building initiatives, setting up of certification agencies for monitoring equipment, source apportionment studies, emphasis on enforcement and specific sectoral intervention.
Amitabh Kant, CEO NITI Aayog, who was also present at the launch said that NCAP is a path breaking initiative and one of the most critical and significant program, as it addresses one of the most alarming challenges of urbanisation – air pollution.
Today cities occupy just 3% of the land, but contribute to 82% of GDP and responsible for 78% of Carbon dioxide emissions; cities though are engines of growth and equity but they have to be sustainable and it is in this context that NCAP being a very inclusive program holds special relevance, said Mr. Kant.
According to the MoEFCC, the international experiences and national studies indicate that significant outcome in terms of air pollution initiatives are visible only in a long run, and hence the program may be further extended to a longer time horizon after a mid-term review of the outcomes.
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