February 4, 2021 8:19:31 pm
Pune is among the six cities in Maharashtra which will receive the share of funds allocated to the state in the Union Budget for air pollution control. Dr V M Mothgare, joint director of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), told The Indian Express that state would get approximately Rs 790 crore for air pollution control.
“Funds would be given to cities like Mumbai — Rs 232 crore- and others would get in the range of Rs 40 to 50 crore each,” said Dr Mothgare.
He also warned that the phase-wise allocation of funds would be stopped if cities did not perform as per their respective air quality improvement programme. Apart from Mumbai and Pune, the other cities are Nagpur, Nashik and Aurangabad and Vasai-Virar, Mothgare said.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while presenting the Union Budget for 2020-21, had said that air pollution was a major concern and earmarked a sum of Rs 2,217 crore for tackling air pollution in 42 urban centres.
According to Mothgare, 50 per cent of the funds will be transferred to the state Urban Development Department which will then give it to respective corporations for implementation of the city air quality improvement programme as per the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) guidelines.
“There is a grading system for each city for actions to be initiated for controlling vehicular emissions, biomass burning, controlling industrial air pollution and other criteria,” Mothgare said. Performance of these cities will be then graded as per the actions taken, he added.
He also said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, funds to the tune of approximately Rs 40 crore, provided by the Ministry of Environment for NCAP implementation for 18 non- attainment cities (hose with particulate matter concentration consistently below the national ambient standards) in the state, will be carried forward till March 31 this year.
“The money was not utilised and MPCB will distribute the funds to the respective corporations of the 18 non-attainment cities,” said Mothgare.
Experts in Pune, however, said the budget allocation for improving air quality may not be adequate given the scale of improvements needed. “Allocations should be linked to a clearer statement of actions and targets of improvement. The air quality improvement target is 30 per cent reduction over pollutant levels in 2017. Much needs to be done to achieve this scale of improvement,” Sanskriti Menon, senior programme director of Pune-based Centre for Environment Education, a national institute set up in 1984 as a centre of excellence by the Ministry of Environment, told The Indian Express.
“In Pune, the largest contributor of PM 2.5, a major pollutant, is transport. Reducing tailpipe emissions from transportation is a key mission for Pune, including street design to reduce road dust, and improving facilities for walking, cycling and public transport. The bicycle plan should also be implemented to quickly create a city-wide cycling network. Only with a proper network and safe facilities can we expect more people to cycle. But it appears that only four new cycle tracks of 10 km are budgeted this year,” she said.
“Ironically, Rs 150 crore have been allocated for flyovers, saying newly-added areas need connectivity. This will be counter-productive as it will mostly help to increase private transport and soon result in congestion. This Rs 150 crore could have been allocated specifically to improve bus services to these areas,” said Menon.
Other important actions are eliminating waste burning by extending SWACH’s doorstep collection services, and support to poor households and neighbourhoods to shift to community solar water heating or cleaner fuels for water heating instead of burning twigs and waste materials.An effective public engagement strategy is crucial so that local authorities and people can work together to bring about the extensive changes needed, said Menon.
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