Within three years of campaigning, fact-finding research and documentation, and active lobbying to protect our right to clean air, the government has not only recognized air pollution as a national health hazard but also promised the release of a National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). Clean air citizen groups welcomed the shift from a Delhi centric approach to a systematic, time-bound national initiative to address air pollution.

Finally, the National Clean Air Programme is HERE. So let us geek out now. What is this ‘NCAP’?

A GOOD start here’s why:

Augmenting Air Quality Monitoring Network

Yes, thank you for this. We need more data and information, if people do not know what air they are breathing, it is unlikely they would want to do anything about it. The latest number on the monitoring network is exemplified by this tweet




The inclusion of Air Quality Management Plan for 100 Non-Attainment Cities

Applause! We have the addition of more cities now. It's fantastic to know that the action plan is directly talking about 100 cities, to begin with.

The allocation of a specific budget for strengthening air quality monitoring and forecasting mechanism along with other activities under section 7.2 of the Concept Note.

Gibberish? Let’s break it down:

It speaks of approximately 70- 80%  of monitoring. This is great compared to other countries facing a similar crisis. For example in China, the monitoring network consists of more than 1500 stations. The focus on monitoring is a really good step as it gives more information and accessibility of data to the public

BUT, this is not enough, we need to see more accountability on specific targets, here comes the critical analysis

An absence of pollution reduction targets of 35% in three years and 50% in five years, is a grave concern, which was deliberated in MOEFCC as per the file notings and was also communicated by the Minister to the press earlier.

Hmmm yes, so according to this press conference by the MoEFCC, these reduction targets were supposed to be included, but clearly they are not present in the final draft. The absence of these targets makes NCAP ambiguous and feeble.

The NCAP needs to have clear interim milestones for all the activities it's proposing- like city wise action plans.

Seriously, this is not rocket science for it to be deleted from the NCAP. Milestones are crucial, especially now that a plan of 100 cities have come into place. How are they going to measure if it is going the right way? Only interim targets can lead to reassessment of these plans to check if they are actually working.

NCAP has outsourced all responsibility to the states by only focussing on 100 cities.  It has ignored polluting sectors like industry and coal thermal power plants which are regulated by the central government.

Erm, passing on responsibilities, are we? And completely ignoring some vital elements like sectoral ones. For the NCAP to be effective, it has to take a regional approach. Emissions from industry and power sectors have high impact at the regional level and not at a city level. To tackle long ranging pollutants, it will be crucial to have detailed plan for sectors outside city limits. Especially because a lot of huge polluting power plants are not always sitting inside the cities, by not mentioning sectoral targets, is the MoEFCC deflecting from thermal power plant pollution? Food for thought?

Moreover, central government must own up to the NCAP, if sector wise sources are not dealt with, how is it going to help in overall reduction of emissions and improvement of air quality? It is very convenient to put cities at the forefront, make the states accountable, but the power plant emissions, vehicular standards, and other policies will largely remain with the central authority.

NCAP is a good first step, finally here, open to public comments.

NCAP is not comprehensive, focussed on sectors, missing key targets on pollution reduction.

So much more to be done, we cannot afford to wait!

Ruhie Kumar leads the Communications and Media team at Greenpeace India.