NCAP report highlights India’s failure to curb pollution


India’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions have been highlighted in a NCAP report that shows the country is far from meeting its targets.

NCAP, the National Clean Air Program, was a response by the Government of India in 2019 when pollution levels had increased and the country was choking in fumes. It is the first-ever countrywide program that looks to reduce air pollution nationally.

The Central Government launched National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) as a long-term, time-bound, national level strategy to tackle the air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner with targets to achieve 20 to 30 per cent reduction in Particulate Matter concentrations by 2024 keeping 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration. Under NCAP, 122 non-attainment cities have been identified across the country based on the Air Quality data from 2014-2018.  Smart Cities under the Smart Cities Mission are non-attainment cities under National Clean Air Program.

The city specific action plans include measures for strengthening the monitoring network, reducing vehicular/industrial emissions, increasing public awareness etc. Implementation of the city specific action plans are regularly monitored by Committees at Central and State level namely Steering Committee, Monitoring Committee and Implementation Committee.

Air quality of cities is monitored by State Pollution Control Boards. Some Smart Cities have established Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) which are also connected to Air Quality Monitors (AQMs) for effective monitoring.

The initial NCAP target was revised in 2022 to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in PM (Particulate Matter) by 2026.

The latest report ‘Tracing the hazy Air’, published by independent research organisation CERA, was tasked with reporting the progress of India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) and highlights how India is far from achieving its target for 2026.

Highlights of the report include: copied action plans. Almost all cities under the NCAP have an action plan to curb pollution, but most of them have the same points indicating that it might have been copied from each other.

Many cities are under the non-attainment cities list. A total of 132 cities fall in the non-attainment category as they violated the NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) as per the data from National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP) and WHO.

Only four Indian states have specific pollution reduction targets. Only 25 cities of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, and Telangana have defined a specific pollution reduction target, while the others have failed to do so.

Many cities have failed to identify sources of pollution. Only 15 cities from nine states and UTs (Delhi, West Bengal, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Punjab, and Odisha) have completed their Source Appointment (SA) studies. The SA identifies the exact source of pollution and how to prioritise actions.

No non-attainment cities have conducted the capacity study, that helps to know the ability of the city to accumulate and disperse accumulation load and maintain breathable air. No non-attainment city has done this study until now.

Only 73 new manual monitoring stations have been added since NCAP launch. More than 70 per cent of air quality monitoring stations in India failed to collect data for 104 days. Moreover, only 73 new manual stations have been added since the launch of NCAP in 2019.

The NCAP is an important piece of legislation that has to be taken seriously and it has to be implemented effectively if Indian cities are to overcome their daily choking hazards.

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