the-cost-of-clearing-the-air

Context: Recently, the finance Minister announced a ₹4,400 crore package for 2020-21 to tackle air pollution in 102 of India’s most polluted cities. The funds would be used to reduce particulate matter by 20%-30% from 2017 levels by 2024 under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

Concerns:

  • Inadequate allocation: Though it was the largest-ever yearly allocation by a government to specifically tackle air pollution, only half the money was finally allotted to 15 States till now. 
    • The rest will be given in January based on how cities achieve certain ‘performance parameters’ that are still being worked out by the Centre.
  • Air quality monitors: Several of the States with the most polluted cities that have been allotted NCAP funds are expected to spend a substantial fraction in the act of measurement. 
    • Only Delhi has managed to firmly install an extensive network of continuous ambient air quality monitors managed by several government or allied bodies. 
    • It has also managed to conduct source apportionment studies and now has the minimum data to determine the degree of pollution that is contributed by its internal sources (construction, road dust, vehicle movement) and that brought on from external sources such as stubble burning. 
    • Lack of data: An analysis by research agencies Carbon Copy and Respirer Living Sciences recently found that only 59 out of 122 cities had PM 2.5 data available. 
  • Old machines: Historically, cites have used manual machines to measure specific pollutants and their use has been inadequate. 
    • Now manual machines are being replaced by automatic ones and India is still largely reliant on imported machines though efforts are underway to make and install low-cost ones.
  • Pollution cleaning up:Funds for pollution clean-up activities and mechanical street sweepers are less. Therefore budgetary allocations alone don’t reflect the true cost of stemming air pollution.

  • Improper imposition: 
    • In the case of the National Capital Region, at least ₹600 crore was spent by the Ministry of Agriculture over two years to provide subsidised equipment to farmers in Punjab and Haryana and dissuade them from burning paddy straw. 
    • Yet this year, there have been more farm fires than the previous year and their contribution to Delhi's winter air woes remain unchanged. 

The funds don’t account for the trained manpower and the support system necessary to effectively maintain the systems and these costs are likely to be significant.While funds are critical, proper enforcement, adequate staff and stemming the sources of pollution on the ground are vital to the NCAP meeting its target.

National Clean Air Programme

The NCAP is a programme of the Union Environment Ministry to reduce pollution by at least 20% in 102 cities(2017 level).

  • The tentative national level target of 20%–30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024 is proposed under the NCAP taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.

Objectives

  1. To augment and evolve effective and proficient ambient air quality monitoring network across the country for ensuring comprehensive and reliable database
  2. To have efficient data dissemination and public outreach mechanism for timely measures for prevention and mitigation of air pollution and for inclusive public participation in both planning and implementation of the programmes and policies of government on air pollution
  3. To have a feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.

Approach

  • Collaborative, Multi-scale and Cross-Sectoral Coordination between relevant Central Ministries, State Government and local bodies.
  • Focus on no Regret Measures, Participatory and Disciplined approach.

Image source: TOI

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Q.1) Critically analyse the performance of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). (150 words)