India's National Clean Air Programme Faces Implementation Challenges

India's National Clean Air Programme faces implementation challenges, with delays, lack of standard procedures, and insufficient use of scientific tools. Despite some progress in cities like Varanasi, India still faces significant hurdles in reducing air pollution and meeting NCAP's targets by 2026.

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Rafia Tasleem
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India's National Clean Air Programme Faces Implementation Challenges

India's National Clean Air Programme Faces Implementation Challenges

India's National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), launched in 2019 with the goal of reducing particulate matter (PM) concentration by 40% by 2026, is facing significant challenges in its implementation across most cities. The ambitious program, which initially targeted a 20-30% reduction in PM levels by 2024 based on 2017 levels, has been hindered by delays, lack of standard procedures, and insufficient use of scientific tools.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change allocated ₹10,422.73 crore to facilitate the NCAP initiative. However, despite proactive efforts by most cities to submit their Clean Air Action Plans (CAAPs), the implementation has been inconsistent, with only 60% of the allocated funds used on average "Implementation delays, lack of standard procedures, and insufficient use of scientific tools like emissions inventory and source apportionment studies have impeded progress in most cities," according to the summaries.

The effectiveness of the CAAPs is also questioned due to the lack of emissions inventory (EI) and source apportionment (SA) studies in 63% of the cities, which are essential for identifying and understanding the origins of pollution. Additionally, the NCAP's reliance on concentration data complicates the situation, as it does not account for the impact of pollution from sources outside the city limits.

Why this matters: The success of India's National Clean Air Programme is critical for improving air quality and protecting public health in the country. The challenges faced in its implementation highlight the need for a comprehensive approach that integrates rigorous scientific research, strategic allocation of funds, and prompt and efficient execution of mitigation measures.

Varanasi, a city on the banks of the Ganga river, has seen a steady improvement in air quality and is now considered one of the best cities in the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) and the country. This progress is attributed to an action plan devised by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board under the NCAP, which included cleaning pavements, undertaking tree planting activities, and the presence of the Ganga acting as a sink to reduce air pollution. However, experts raise concerns about the data quality and the positioning of air quality monitoring stations in Varanasi, which may not be capturing the representative ambient air quality of the city.

To address the challenges faced by the NCAP, a multifaceted approach is needed, combining rigorous scientific studies, strategic funding, and swift and effective implementation of mitigation measures. The path towards cleaner air in India, as charted by NCAP, will be challenging but is necessary for the country's environmental and public health. Despite the improvements seen in cities like Varanasi, India still faces significant hurdles in effectively reducing air pollution levels and meeting the NCAP's targets by 2026.

Key Takeaways

  • NCAP aims to reduce PM by 40% by 2026, but faces implementation challenges.
  • Only 60% of allocated funds used, due to delays, lack of procedures, and insufficient tools.
  • 63% of cities lack emissions inventory and source apportionment studies, hindering NCAP effectiveness.
  • Varanasi saw air quality improvements, but data quality and monitoring issues remain.
  • Comprehensive approach needed, combining research, funding, and swift mitigation to meet NCAP targets.