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The Centre has launched a programme to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024. The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which was formally unveiled on Thursday, is envisaged as a scheme to provide the States and the Centre with a framework to combat air pollution.
The National Clean Air Programme is a pollution control initiative that was launched by the Ministry of Environment with the intention to cut the concentration of coarse (particulate matter of diameter 10 micrometer or less, or PM10) and fine particles (particulate matter of diameter 2.5 micrometer or less, or PM2.5) by at least 20% in the next five years, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
Following reports by WHO and the air quality data obtained, 102 cities from 23 States and UTs have been chosen as non-attainment cities. With the exception of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, most of those chosen are tier two cities.
Maharashtra tops the list with 17 cities in the list, including Pune and Nagpur, while Uttar Pradesh is second with 15 cities chosen, including Lucknow and Varanasi. A city from Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal too are in the list. Meanwhile, no cities from Manipur, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura, Kerala, Goa and Haryana figure in the list.
Apart from experts from the industry and academia, the programme is expected to be a collaboration between the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, NITI Aayog, and Central Pollution Control Board.
Critics have pointed out that the absence of clarity on funding provisions and lack of legal framework might dilute the effectiveness of the programme. That only a paltry amount of Rs. 300 crore has been set aside for this too has been roundly criticised.
“It is good to see the final version of NCAP out after a long wait with the vision of reducing air pollution levels across the country. The silver lining in the plan is the potential reduction of 20 – 30% by 2024,” said Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner of Greenpeace India. However, he pointed out that it was expected to be much stronger in providing sector wise targets, specific targets for cities. Similarly, the lack of strong legal backing to take action against non implementation is also absent, he observed.