Government’s new clean air programme: All you need to know

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The Centre has launched a new 5 year programme to combat air pollution in 102 cities with a budget of Rs 300 crore for the next two years. A draft National Clean Air Program (NCAP) was released in April last year and the recently unveiled NCAP lays down tangible goals for its mid-term plan.

According to a WHO report released in May 2018, 14 out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are in India. The NCAP seeks to respond to the immediate challenges that India faces on the environment front, especially in the cities that occupy only 3% land area but account for 78% of carbon dioxide emissions. Although urban centers contribute 82% of GDP, making them engines of growth, it is also important that they are sustainable.

The target 102 cities covered in the first phase include 42 Smart Cities that have shown consistently high air pollution levels between 2011 and 2015 as per the the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, such as Delhi, Noida, Varanasi, Muzaffarpur, Bhopal, Kolkata, and Mumbai. According to Union Minis

According to Union Minister Harshvardhan, the programme will involve strengthening the air quality monitoring network across the country along with generating awareness and conducting capacity-building activities. Therefore, it is likely that the number of air quality monitoring centres will go up across the country in the coming years. Environmental analysts have pegged this number as 4000 monitors as against the existing 1010 real-time air quality monitors. The aim is to reduce PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels by 20-30% in major cities.

The programme will be institutionalized by respective ministries and inter-sectoral groups including the likes of Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Health,Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, NITI Aayog, experts from the industry, academia, and civil society. However, the government is being criticized for not making the NCAP legally binding. Now, it remains to be seen whether the NCAP will be another intellectual exercise.

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