[Solved] What are the key features of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) initiated by the Government of India? (UPSC GS-3 mains 2020)

The Central Government launched National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) as a long-term, time-bound, national-level approach to tackle the air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner with targets to achieve 20% to 30% reduction in Particulate Matter concentrations by 2024 keeping 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration. Under NCAP, 122 non-attainment cities have been identified across the country based on the Air Quality data from 2014-2018.

What are the features of the programme?

Objective – The overall objective of the programme includes comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.

  • It also aims to augment the air quality monitoring network across the country and strengthen the awareness and capacity building activities.
  • Also, city-specific action plans are being formulated for 102 non-attainment cities that are considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
  • The Smart Cities programme will be used to launch the NCAP in the 43 smart cities falling in the list of the 102 non-attainment cities.
  • Target – It proposes a tentative national target of 20%-30% reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
  • However, the government has stressed that NCAP is a scheme, not a legally binding document with any specified penal action against erring cities.
  • Implementation – NCAP talks of a collaborative, multi-scale and cross-sectoral coordination between central ministries, state governments and local bodies.
  • The CPCB will execute the nation-wide programme for the prevention, control, and abatement of air pollution within the framework of the NCAP.
  • NCAP will be “institutionalised” by respective ministries and will be organised through inter-sectoral groups that will also include the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health, NITI Aayog, and experts from various fields.

Other features of National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) include –

  • Increasing the number of monitoring stations in the country including rural monitoring stations
  • Technology support
  • Emphasis on awareness and capacity building initiatives
  • Setting up of certification agencies for monitoring equipment
  • Source apportionment studies
  • Emphasis on enforcement
  • Specific sectoral interventions.

What are the proposed mitigation measures?

  • Enforcement – It calls for stringent enforcement through a web-based, three-tier mechanism that will review, monitor, assess and inspect to avoid any form of non-compliance.
  • The experience indicates lack of regular monitoring and inspection as the major reason for non-compliance.
  • Trained manpower and regular inspection drive will be ensured for stringent implementation purpose.
  • It also calls for an “extensive plantation drive” at pollution hotspots and execution.
  • However, it is not made clear how much air pollution this will seek to reduce.
  • Elaborating existing schemes–While some of the strategies are not new to India, NCAP appears to be targeting effective implementation.
  • For example, it talks of “congestion management” at traffic junctions by the traffic police, solid waste management by municipal corporations, and stringent industrial standards put in place by concerned ministries.
  • For power sector emissions, it refers to emission standards set by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for Thermal Power Plants in December 2015 to be implemented within a two-year period.
  • It notes that this has since been extended to December 2022.
  • For agricultural stubble burning, it highlights the initiatives already in place by way of the central assistance of Rs 1,151 crore for in situ management of crop residue and provides for general action points to be explored.
  • Focus – National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) calls for a city action plan that needs to be guided by a comprehensive science-based approach involving source apportionment studies.
  • It also advises that state capitals and cities with a million-plus population be taken up on priority.

What are the concerns?

  • NCAP takes into account available international experiences and national studies.
  • It notes that internationally, actions have been “city-specific” rather than country-oriented, and cites examples such as Beijing and Seoul that saw 35%-40% PM2.5 reductions in five years.
  • However effective this might have been abroad, reductions by similar levels might leave Indian cities still heavily polluted.
  • Delhi’s very severe pollution levels are four times the permissible limits now, and a 30% reduction by 2024 would still leave it very dangerous for health.

Initiatives under National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

Augmenting Air Quality Monitoring Network : National air quality monitoring network to be revisited, past data to be analyzed for rationalization of monitored parameters, and monitoring needs be reassessed for augmenting the monitoring network adopting optimum blending of techniques such as manual, continuous, sensor & satellite based techniques.

Air Quality Management Plan for 100 Non-Attainment Cities : The city action plans need to be guided by a comprehensive science based approach involving (i) identification of emission sources; (ii) assessment of extent of contribution of these sources; (iii) prioritizing the sources that need to be tackled; (iv) evaluation of various options for controlling the sources with regard to feasibility and economic viability; and (v) formulation of action plans.

Indoor Air Pollution Monitoring & Management : It refers to the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of air in the indoor environment within a home, building, or an institution or commercial facility.

  • Air Pollution Health Impact Studies
  • Setting up Air Information Centre
  • Certification system for monitoring instruments
  • Air Quality Forecasting System
  • Extensive Plantation Drive
  • Issuance of Notification on Dust Management (Road dust and C&D)
  • Intensive Awareness, Training and Capacity Building Drive
  • Three tier mechanism for review of monitoring, assessment and inspection for implementation

National Emission Inventory : An emission inventory is an accounting of the amount of pollutants discharged into the atmosphere. An emission inventory usually contains the total emissions for one or more specific air pollutants, originating from all source categories in a certain geographical area and within a specified time span, usually a specific year. Emissions and releases to the environment are the starting point of every environmental pollution problem.

Network of Technical Institutions : Knowledge Partners Network of highly qualified and experienced academicians, academic administrators and technical institutions in the area of air pollution will be created to provide holistic services for the establishment and operation of policies and programmes of Government of India on air pollution.

Technology Assessment Cell : Technology Assessment Cell is being envisaged to evaluate the technologies having significance in reference to prevention, control and abatement of pollution. The cell is expected to focus on both indigenous and international monitoring and abatement technologies. It is also expected to contribute towards evaluating the technology and devising the mechanism of technology transfer under various bilateral and multilateral agreements.

International Cooperation including sharing of International Best Practices on Air Pollution

Extending source apportionment studies to all non-attainment cities : Source apportionment study, which is primarily based on measurements and tracking down the sources through receptor modelling, helps in identifying the sources and extent of their contribution. Source apportionment studies which have been initiated in six major cities viz. (i) Delhi; (ii) Mumbai; (iii) Chennai; (iv) Bangalore; (v) Pune; and (vi) Kanpur at present is planned to be extended to all 94 non-attainments.

Review of ambient air quality standards and emission standards

Institutional Framework: An effective institutional framework that basically refers to formal organizational structures is the precondition for the successful implementation of pollution specifically air pollution-related intervention tools and therefore needs to be considered in particular.

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