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Clean Air Targets: Cities Falling Short


A study conducted by Climate Trends and Respirer Living Sciences indicates that a significant majority of cities are falling short of India’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) targets for clean air.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Study
  2. National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

Key Highlights of the Study

The study presents significant findings regarding air quality in Indian cities, emphasizing various aspects:

PM2.5 Reductions:
  • Among 49 cities with consistent PM2.5 data, only 27 demonstrated a decline, and merely four met or surpassed the targeted reduction set by the National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP) Goals.
  • NCAP aims for a 40% reduction in average PM concentrations by 2026 in 131 cities.
City-Specific Trends:
  • Varanasi, Agra, and Jodhpur exhibited notable reductions, while Delhi reported marginal declines (5.9%) or increased pollution loads.
  • Varanasi showcased the most substantial reduction, with a 72% average decrease in PM2.5 levels and a 69% reduction in PM10 levels from 2019 to 2023.
Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) Vulnerability:

The IGP, housing 18 of the top 20 most polluted cities for PM2.5, remains highly vulnerable to elevated particulate matter concentrations.

Guwahati and Rourkela, outside the IGP, were among the 20 most polluted cities for PM2.5.

Monitoring Station Disparities:
  • The availability and distribution of continuous ambient air quality monitors significantly influence annual pollutant concentrations.
  • Many Indian cities lack an adequate number of monitoring stations, with only four out of 92 cities having more than 10 such stations.
  • Mumbai and Delhi, in contrast, boast several monitoring stations.
Factors Influencing Pollution Levels:
  • Variations in pollution levels are attributed to geographical locations, diverse emission sources, meteorological influences, and the complex interplay between emissions and meteorology, necessitating further investigation.

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in January 2019, represents a pioneering initiative in India for comprehensive air quality management. Key features include:


  • The primary objective is to establish a national framework for air quality management with a targeted reduction in average particulate matter (PM) concentrations.
  • Aiming for a 40% reduction by 2026, the program initially set a goal of 20-40% reduction by 2024, later extending the timeline.


  • The program encompasses 131 non-attainment cities identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • Non-attainment cities are those failing to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for over five years.

NAAQS Standards:

  • NAAQS, established by the CPCB under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, defines standards for ambient air quality.
  • Monitored pollutants include PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2, CO, NH3, Ozone, Lead, Benzene, Benzo-Pyrene, Arsenic, and Nickel.

PRANA Portal:

  • The implementation of NCAP is monitored through the PRANA (Portal for Regulation of Air-pollution in Non-Attainment cities) portal.
  • This portal serves as a central platform for tracking the progress of NCAP initiatives and regulatory measures.

-Source: The Hindu

March 2024