Air pollution is one of the biggest global environmental challenges of today. A time bound national level strategy for pan India implementation to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner in the form of National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) was launched by India's Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, in New Delhi.
The NCAP will be a mid-term, five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. However, the international experiences and national studies indicate that significant outcome in terms of air pollution initiatives are visible only in the long-term, and hence the programme may be further extended to a longer time horizon after a mid-term review of the outcomes. The approach for NCAP includes collaborative, multi-scale and cross-sectoral coordination between the relevant central ministries, state governments and local bodies. Dovetailing of the existing policies and programmes including the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) and other initiatives of Government of India in reference to climate change will be done while execution of NCAP.
There will be use of the Smart Cities program to launch the NCAP in the 43 smart cities falling in the list of the 102 non-attainment cities. The NCAP is envisaged to be dynamic and will continue to evolve based on the additional scientific and technical information as they emerge. The NCAP will be institutionalized by respective ministries and will be organized through inter-sectoral groups, which 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, CPCB, experts from the industry, academia, and civil society. The program will partner with multilateral and bilateral international organizations, and philanthropic foundations and leading technical institutions to achieve its outcomes.
City specific action plans are being formulated for 102 non-attainment cities identified for implementing mitigation actions under NCAP. Cities have already prepared action plans in consultation with CPCB. Institutional Framework at Centre and State Level comprising of Apex Committee at the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change in the Centre and at Chief Secretary Level in the States are to be constituted.
In addition, 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 DM level Committee in the Districts are to be constituted under NCAP for effective implementation and success of the Programme.
Other features of NCAP include, increasing number of monitoring stations in the country including 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, specific sectoral interventions etc.
While the centre has finally shown its intention to address the depreciating air quality, the environment bodies have condoned the plan as ‘dreamy’.
The Indian wing of Greenpeace, a global environmental group, has said that the absence of pollution reduction targets is a grave concern. “While this is a big achievement for the people who have been at the receiving end of the air pollution issue, the absence of absolute pollution reduction targets of 35 per cent in three years and 50 per cent in five years is a cause of concern. We believe the ministry will rectify those in the final version of the programme," said Greenpeace India.
The Society for Environmental Communications has also slammed government for not quantifying targets. According to SEC, “It will be interesting to observe whether NCAP’s well-intended and ambitious initiatives without quantified targets would result in significant impact or not. The merit of backing action planning with city-specific data cannot be discounted, but, generating data on source contribution and preparing city-level emission inventories is a continuous and time-consuming process that should not delay the clean air action planning process.”