The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which proposes multiple strategies to combat air pollution, is estimated to cost Rs 637 crore, the environment ministry on Thursday said, with its Minister of State Mahesh Sharma asserting that the plan is expected to play a “crucial” role in addressing the menace. The ministry, which recently released the draft of the NCAP and invited comments from various stakeholders by May 17, was also criticised by Greenpeace India that said the absence of pollution reduction targets of 35 per cent in three years and 50 per cent in five years in the plan was a cause of “grave concern”.
Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan had said in February that the ministry hopes to bring down air pollution in around 100 non-attainment cities by 50 per cent in the next five years under the NCAP. The non-attainment cities are areas which have air quality below the national ambient air quality standard. Inaugurating a two-day stakeholder consultation on the NCAP at New Delhi on Thursday, Sharma emphasised the need to translate the outcome of the deliberations in the form of suggestions on the ground.
“The NCAP is expected to play a crucial role in addressing the increasing air pollution across the country in a comprehensive manner,” he said while emphasising the impact of air pollution on health and general well-being of humans, floral and faunal population. “Stakeholders are and must act as ‘givers’ to the society,” he said.
Union Environment Secretary C K Mishra pointed out that while as a nation, there is a need to be concerned at the quality of air,but as a government, there is a need to have that commitment to ensure that there is a defined time-frame that may be set after Thursday’s discussions.
“Technology is one of the critical elements of the NCAP. Let us together find solutions that are nationally acceptable, but more importantly, which are locally possible,” Mishra said, adding all the states and stakeholders need to spread the campaign for clean air across the country. The stakeholder consultation involves all the state governments, considering that the NCAP is a pan-India programme and inputs from the states will be useful in evolving an effective implementation strategy, an official statement said.
The overall objective of the NCAP is comprehensive management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution, besides augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country. The NCAP focuses on collaborative and participatory approach covering all sources of pollution and coordination between relevant central ministries, state governments, local bodies and other stakeholders, it said.
“The focus is on intensive awareness, training and capacity-building drive, with specific impetus on augmentation of manpower and infrastructure facilities of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the state pollution control board (SPCBs) under the capacity building component of the NCAP. “Separate components with emphasis on three-tier mechanism for a review of monitoring, assessment and inspection for effective implementation under the NCAP. A credible, transparent and accountable data collection and monitoring system that is available for timely swift action is to be ensured,” the statement said.
Greenpeace India had earlier said that the targets, which were deliberated in the environment ministry as per the file noting and was also communicated by the minister to the press earlier, was lacking in the draft. “After much anticipation, the environment ministry has finally uploaded the concept note on the NCAP on its website on Tuesday for public comments,” Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India, Sunil Dahiya said.
“While this is a big achievement for the people who have been at the receiving end of the air pollution issue, the absence of absolute pollution reduction targets of 35 per cent in three years and 50 per cent in five years is a cause of concern. “We believe the ministry will rectify those in the final version of the programme,” Dahiya said. The key components of the NCAP include city-specific air pollution abatement action plan for 100 polluting cities of the country similar to one for Delhi, increasing the number of monitoring stations, data dissemination, public participation on planning and implementation. among others.
The other components include setting up of air information centre for data analysis, resource apportionment studies, national inventory and rural monitoring stations, besides guidelines for indoor air pollution. “The ministry has formalised the NCAP as a long-term, time-bound, national-level strategy to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner. The total tentative cost of NCAP is estimated at Rs 637 crore,” the statement said.
Representatives from the World Bank, The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), Secretary, Ministry of Coal, Susheel Kumar, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, A.K Jain and other top officials of various state governments and agencies took part in the inaugural session of the meet on Thursday.