Slow but steady choke: India’s toxic air is shortening lifespans by an average of a year and a half
Image credit: Indian Express

India finally has a national action plan to tackle air pollution

After much delay and public pressure driven by national media, though centred mostly around air pollution in Delhi, India finally announced its National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), providing a clean start to  2019. The plan sets up a national level target of 20-30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024, taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentrations.

The NCAP will be activated in 102 non-attainment cities, identified by the Central Pollution Control Board for not meeting the pollution standards set by the MoEF. It will also be a mid-term 5-year action plan with 2019 as the first year. The plan builds on the Air Act of 1980 and Environment Act of 1986 and is not legally binding on the 23 states it targets.

It is a well meaning document which mentions a broad range of sources and industries — transport, thermal power plants, biomass burning, afforestation, electric vehicles and renewables — but with a budget of Rs. 300 crore (approx. USD 45 million) for 2 years, its effectiveness will lie in execution.

The NCAP is a welcome step towards recognition of the air pollution crisis from the centre but strong enforcement will be crucial. Delhi has a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) which has not proved effective. Unless the focus on implementation is improved, the NCAP will fail to the address the crisis the country is currently facing.

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