The Central Government has increased the target for reducing urban air pollution (particulate matter (PM) concentrations) from 20-30% by 2024 to 40% by 2025-26. The revised target may encourage states to raise their ambitions through city-based action plans under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
GS Paper 3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation,
Describe the key points of the World Health Organization’s recently released revised Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) (WHO). What makes these updates different from the last one in 2005? What changes are needed in India’s National Clean Air Programme to meet revised standards? (250 Words)
Concerning the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP):
- The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, launched NCAP in 2019.
- It is India’s flagship programme, outlining a long-term, time-bound national strategy to address the country’s air pollution problem comprehensively.
- It aims to achieve a 20% to 30% reduction in PM concentrations (PM10 – coarse particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometres or less and PM2.5 – fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less) by 2024, using 2017 as the baseline year for comparison.
- The current annual safe limits for PM2.5 and PM10 in the country are 40 ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) and 60 ug/m3, respectively.
- The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will carry out this nationwide programme in accordance with the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981.
- Under NCAP, 131 non-attainment cities have been identified across the country, as they did not meet the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for 2011-15 under the National Air Quality Monitoring Program (NAQMP), including Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Noida, Muzaffarpur, Mumbai, and others.
- City-specific action plans have been created, including measures to strengthen the monitoring network, reduce vehicular or industrial emissions, raise public awareness, and so on.
- The Steering Committee, Monitoring Committee, and Implementation Committee of the Central and State Committees regularly monitor the implementation of city-specific action plans.
- State Pollution Control Boards monitor city air quality and publish their findings on a regular basis. • Some Smart Cities have established Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) that are also linked to Air Quality Monitors for effective monitoring (AQMs).
- The Center intends to expand India’s air quality monitoring network as part of the programme.
- In addition to the existing 101 real-time AQMs, at least 4,000 monitors are estimated to be needed across the country.
Summary of Recent Events:
- The central government recently revised the targets based on the performance of 95 cities that showed improvement in air quality in 2021-22 compared to 2017 levels.
- According to a recent MoEFCC analysis of NCAP cities, 20 cities (including Chennai, Madurai, Nashik, and Chittur) have even met the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which establish an acceptable annual average limit of PM10 at 60 ug/m3.
- However, the analysis was devoid of the more dangerous PM2.5 because it is not monitored in all NCAP cities. Under NAAQS, the annual average prescribed standard for PM2.5 is 40 ug/m3.
- The new goal was communicated to states at a recent national conference of Environment Ministers in Ekta Nagar, Gujarat.
- During the national conference, the MoEFCC decided to rank these 131 cities on a yearly basis based on various actions taken to improve air quality, such as solid waste management, road dust management, construction and demolition waste management, control of vehicular emissions, and industrial pollution.
- The revised target is intended to eventually achieve acceptable limits for both PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations.
- Even a 40% reduction in PM concentrations compared to 2017 levels would result in unacceptable air quality in Delhi and other NCR cities, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow, and Kanpur.
- However, many cities, such as Varanasi, are expected to achieve much higher reductions, such as the highest 53% reduction in PM10 levels in 2021-22. (over 2017 levels).