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Hope to cut air pollution in 100 cities by 50 per cent in next 5 years, says Harsh Vardhan

"Climate change issue will be a priority. On various forums outside the country, we have said that we are very ambitious to lead that movement... We are sincere about the issue," Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan said.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Published: February 13, 2018 8:21 pm
Harsh Vardhan focuses on cutting air pollution in 100 cities by 50 per cent Union minister Harsh Vardhan. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

The environment ministry hopes to bring down air pollution in around 100 non-attainment cities by 50 per cent in the next five years under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), Union minister Harsh Vardhan said on Tuesday. Non-attainment cities are those considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

To tackle the challenges posed by climate change, the ministry has also drawn up an initiative, under which it plans to plant 1,000 crore saplings from 2021 to 2030. “We will strengthen the National Clean Air Programme in around 100 non-attainment cities where parameters (air quality) are not right and requires attention. “In the coming three years, we hope that through this, we will bring down pollution in these cities by 35 per cent and in the next five years by 50 per cent,” Vardhan told reporters.

The programme will include expanding monitoring network, conducting air pollution health impact studies, setting up of air information systems, certification of monitoring institutes, air quality forecasting systems, awareness and capacity building drives, among others.

It will also include networking of technical institutions who specialise in this area, carrying out source apportionment studies, support for strict implementation of identified actions for abatement of air pollution from all sources in furtherance of management plans and increase international cooperation, among others.

The NCAP focuses on a collaborative and participatory approach comprising all sources of pollution and coordination between relevant central ministries, state governments, local bodies and other stakeholders. For tackling climate change, making the rivers clean and perennial, and enriching forests in the river basins, River Basin Catchment Area Treatment Plan will be taken up.

Vardhan said clean air programme has been taken up in Delhi and the ministry is trying to make it a model. Experiences gained from it will be replicated year long in Delhi as well as in other cities of the country, the minister said. Informing the reporters that an initiative has been planned to tackle the challenges posed by climate change, he said, “The plan envisages planting 1,000 crore saplings over a period of 10 years, from 2021 to 2030.”

“The plantation will be carried out in different parts of the country under programmes like CAMPA, Green India Mission (GIM), National Afforestation Programme, as well as plantation along highways and railway tracks,” Vardhan said. On the budgetary allocation for the ministry this time, Harsh Vardhan said for a restructured National Bamboo Mission, an outlay of Rs 1,290 crore has been made to promote the bamboo sector in a “holistic” manner.

Recently, the government has removed bamboo grown outside forest areas, from the definition of trees. He said Rs 160 crore has been earmarked for the Green India Mission (National Afforestation Programme), an increase of 48.8 per cent over the previous allocation.

In the 2018-19 budget, Green India Mission (GIM) will contribute to the Nationally Determined Contribution for the period 2021-2030 to intensify the efforts for achieving our contribution on forestry to sequester additional 2.5 to 3.0 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the forestry sector by the year 2030. “This budget has also allocated Rs 67.50 crore for Eco-Task Force, which is a whopping 125 per cent increase,” the minister said.

Vardhan also underlined that Rs 20 crore has been earmarked for the Centres of Excellence, which is an 11 per cent increase over the previous year. He said on the wildlife front, Rs 175 crore has been earmarked for Development of Wildlife Habitat – a 10 per cent increase.

Rs 66 crore has been set aside for conservation of aquatic ecosystems, an increase of 10 per cent, the minister said, adding Rs 350 crore has been allocated in Budget 2018-19 for Project Tiger, while for Project Elephant Rs 30 crore has been allocated, which makes for a nine per cent increase. He said a massive tree plantation programme in the catchment area of the Ganga river has been planned for five states, through which the river flows.

Harsh Vardhan also said that some allocations made in the Budget 2018-19 to other ministries that may indirectly help environment include Namami Gange, fund for tackling stubble burning, higher target for Saubhagya (power connection to all) and Ujjwala scheme (LPG). He said the campaign for green good deeds is also being taken up on a large scale.

“Climate change issue will be a priority. On various forums outside the country, we have said that we are very ambitious to lead that movement… We are sincere about the issue,” Vardhan said.

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