City specific plans not enough, regional approaches to control pollution need to be emphasised while including other non-attainment cities under NCAP

New Delhi, January 21:  Fourth version of Airpocalypse report by Greenpeace India, has identified 231 Indian cities out of 287 with more than 52 monitoring days data in 2018 under National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP), where air pollution levels exceeded the 60 µg/m3 limits for PM10 as prescribed under National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

According to the report, Jharia in Jharkhand tops the list, faring as the most polluted city in India in terms of PM10. Delhi shows signs of improvement compared to last two years but still remains more than 3.5 times more polluted than the NAAQS and more than 11 times the WHO prescribed limits for PM10. The report also highlights that almost all states including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka, TamilNadu and Bihar have a bigger number of non-attainment cities compared to the current number included under National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

In January 2019, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), released the first ever NCAP for India. Under the programme the cities are expected to reduce air pollution levels by 20-30% by 2024 from 2017 levels. However, Airpocalypse – IV Report highlights that CPCB has identified only 122 non-attainment cities and 102 of them included under NCAP till now. These 122 cities are spread across 28 states and 9 union territories and is incomplete leaving 116 more cities which exceeding 60 µg/m3 limit prescribed by NAAQS according to 2018 annual data and should be included in the non-attainment category.

Report is a clear indication that MoEFCC needs to include all non-attainment cities under the fold of NCAP. While all the cities listed under NCAP have submitted city specific clean air action plan, which have been approved by CPCB for ground implementation, but almost none of these action plans till date have a definite overall percentage reduction target for 2024. The plans also misses out on interim targets for absolute pollution reduction, or sectoral emission load reduction targets; diesel and coal consumption caps and reduction targets etc.

Commenting on the worsening state of affairs, Greenpeace India’s Senior Campaigner Avinash Chanchal said, “ It’s worrying to see that more than 80% cities had PM10 levels exceeding the 60 µg/m3 limits for PM10 prescribed under National Ambient Air Quality Standards. If we want to make NCAP truly a ‘national program’, then we have to include all polluted cities into it and implement it with the addition of specific pollution and emission reduction targets in a time bound manner.”

The city level action plans provided by the non-attainment cities under NCAP also lacks regional and air-shed level approach and are too city centric i.e, of course vehicular emissions within the city are a part of the problem but the major emitters in the nearby regions should not be ignored. More emphasis needs to be laid on the regional and air-shed approach for air quality control.”

“What is the use of conducting 102 source apportionment studies for non-attainment cities if we are going to ignore regional sources of pollution and only quantify sources with the city’s administrative boundaries and are not including the sectoral targets and policies for emission reductions?,” added Avinash Chanchal.

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