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National Clean Air Programme and Way Forward for India

"Connect with movement and stop Pollution."

Under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Conservation and preservation of the environment within the horizons of targeted goals on environmental sustainability is demonstrated in a way that several regulatory measures, including enactment on water and air pollution, are under implementation along.

From the past three decades, India has been experiencing a period of accelerated industrial activities. Development in urbanization and industrialization has prompted complex increments in pollution issues, specifically air pollution.

Air pollution is one of the most important topics of concern for the last few years. It refers to several types of contaminants in the air, such as dust, smoke, Sulfur Dioxide, and many more dangerous gases like this, which is very toxic to human beings, plants, and animals.

The significant causes of air pollution are widely divided into two categories, i.e., Natural sources like carbon monoxide from forest fires, methane emission volcanic eruption, and

Man-made sources, including the burning of fossil fuels, thermal power plants, factories, automobiles, construction, agricultural activities, and so on. Adverse effects of air pollution are respiratory and heart problems, eutrophication, depletion of the ozone layer, impact on wildlife, and global warming.

What is NCAP?

The Government of India launched the "National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)" to overcome air pollution. For pan India, NCAP is a time-bound methodology to handle the increasing air pollution issues across the country.

It is a midterm national-level strategy implemented by India's government to control air pollution, a five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. This program is community-oriented and covers all sources responsible for pollution.

It aims is to attain annual average air quality within a specific timeframe with the target of 25% to 30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024 is imposed under NCAP, and 2017 is taken as the base year to compare concentration.

Objectives of NCAP

⮚ Across the nation, various ambient air quality monitoring systems are established and expanded for ensuring a broad-ranging and reliable database.

⮚ A proper plan for the management of air pollution.

⮚ To have efficient data dissemination and public outreach mechanism for timely measures for prevention and mitigation of air pollution and inclusive public participation in planning and executing the programs and arrangement approaches of government on air pollution.

To make a firm command with a solid legitimate back up for urban areas and regions to execute NCAP in a specific time for significant air pollution reduction so this program will not be notified under the Environment Protection Act or any other related activities. Around 102 non-attainment cities are included under this plan.

These non-attainment cities were recognized by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) based on their ambient air quality data collected for the year 2011- 2015. Cities that have been continually demonstrating more inferior air quality below National Ambient Air Quality standards are considered non-attainment. Delhi, Noida, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bhopal, Varanasi, and Muzaffarpur fall under non-attainment cities with low ambient air quality.

Various committees are associated with a national plan like the steering committee governed by the secretary (environment), an apex committee headed by the environment minister, and the monitoring committee that comes under a joint secretary. The scientists and trained personnel are also associated with monitoring committees at the state level.

Enactment of NCAP

Under section 162 (b) of the Air prevention and control Act, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will execute this National Clean Air Programme. As a feature of the program, the CPCB improves the quality of air planning to scale up air quality monitoring systems across the nation. According to an analysis, there are currently 101 real-time air quality monitors, but 4000, more monitoring systems are required.

In 102 cities three-tier system has been introduced under this plan that consists of 3 components, i.e., real-time physical collection of data, archiving of data, and action trigger framework. It also presents state-level projects of e-mobility in the two-wheelers sector, rapid enlargement of charging infrastructure, adoption of third-party audits, and improving the public transport system.

We all should join hand in hand to achieve the government's target and protect our environment, "Let's be a part of the solution, NOT part of the Pollution." Switch to an available transportation mode, use energy-efficient devices, put more emphasis on clean energy resources, and conserve energy.

Under NCAP, 102 non-attainment cities have been identified based on ambient air quality data for the 2011-2015 and WHO (World Health Organisation) report 2014/2018.

It is encouraging to see that the NCAP this time has listed comparatively more total action points than the very minimalistic and very generic 42 action points of CPCB that were put out earlier.

Some loopholes of the NCAP strategy

1) The disappointing part of NCAP is the absence of a robust funding policy. The government has assigned a pity amount of Rs 300 Crore. This amount cannot be sustainable, nor can it gain strength or make a difference on a longer-term basis if it does not have a clear fiscal strategy.

2) One other point is that it is also unclear if the proposed allocation is one-time or continuous support. It is also astonishing that NCAP has not provided innovative financial statements at the state/central level.

3) NCAP is not notified under any Act {The Environment (Protection) Act 1986 or The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981} and thus not binding on any authority or pollutants.

4) But overall, NCAP is an excellent initiative by the Ministry of Environment. It is encouraging to see that it has finally proposed support for health impact studies. NCAP has now taken on board the National Health Environmental Profile of 20 cities that the MoEF & CC initiated along with the Indian Council of Medical Research, focusing on air pollution and health.

5) The NCAP document misses out on an opportunity to get on track concerning tightening regulations for coal-based power plants and even goes a step further by setting a deadline of 2024 to phase out old coal-based power plants.

6) The NCAP mentions improved fly ash utilization by prescribing action points, but the same is conspicuously absent from the implementation table for agencies and their timelines.

China is winning after declaring war on air pollution.

China released a national air quality action plan that required all urban areas to reduce concentrations of fine particulate matter pollution by at least 10 percent, more in some cities.

The Beijing area was needed to reduce pollution by 25 percent, and the city set aside an astounding $120 billion for that purpose. They were successful in improving air quality according to recent studies. In particular, cities have cut concentrations of fine particulates in the air by 32 percent on average, in just those four years.

Practical steps taken by them in achieving success are:

1) China prohibited new coal-fired power plants in the country's most polluted regions.

2) The country also reduced its iron- and steel-making capacity and shut down coal mines.

3) Large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, restricted the number of cars.

4) Existing plants were told to reduce their emissions.

Suggestions that would make NCAP a great hit

1) Flex its authority to ensure all NCAP indicators are integrated with multi-sector and inter-ministerial programs.

2) NCAP should not become only a top-down prescriptive approach.

3) State governments and city authorities should be encouraged to take those extra steps to meet local targets.

4) NCAP will also have to join all critical dots with clarity.

5) NCAP will also have to be more nuanced and adopt appropriate approaches for small and big cities.

Through its effective measures and strict policies, china and some other countries were successfully able to control their air quality, and India could also achieve success if it tries its level best in making NCAP a considerable success.

In a nutshell, with more strategic implementation, financial mechanisms, and strict policies, NCAP is bliss for our country because it is necessary to take immediate steps for controlling decreasing quality rates of air.

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