No mention of regional coordination to curb air pollution in 102 city plans, finds study

Sources from outside a city’s boundaries account for at least 30% of pollutants in that city, according to study 

By Shagun
Published: Thursday 11 June 2020

None of the 102 city-specific clean air plans in India proposed a regional coordination mechanism across state boundaries to curb air pollution, a new study published by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) on June 10, 2020 stated. 

Pollution sources from outside a city’s boundaries account for at least 30 per cent of the pollutants there, according to another study. Yet, there are no clear guidelines on establishing a mechanism to address the issue.

Outside sources can contribute about 15-50 per cent pollutants to a city, according to a research. Delhi, for example, experiences severe pollution due to stubble burning in the neighbouring states.

The city plans were approved under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). NCAP is a five-year action plan by the Union government with 2017 as the base year. It was started in 2019 and aims to reduce concentration of particulate matter 2.5 and 10 by 20-30 per cent by 2024.

Delhi’s action plan lists three action points for mitigating pollution from regional sources. But there is a catch.

“There is neither a clear delineation of responsibilities nor any guidelines for institutionalising coordination between state governments,” the study, How Robust are Urban India’s Clean Air Plans? An Assessment of 102 cities, said.

It is an evaluation of the approved city action plans based on four components — legislative framework, accountability, source information and cost of measures.

Clean air plans for only 25 cities contain collated information about emission sources, the absence of which has resulted in plans being replicated. The review indicated that nine states with multiple non-attainment cities have used the same set of action points and timelines across all cities. 

Cities that consistently show poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are termed non-attainment cities.

“Uttar Pradesh has 15 non-attainment cities, the second highest after Maharashtra. With the exception of Anpara, all have identical plans with the same 56 actions for transport, road dust, vehicles, waste burning, industries, and construction and demolition. They are all without any interim targets. Similarly, Rajasthan has five non-attainment cities and identical plans for all five,” it said.

The study also underlined that the residential sector, despite its sizeable contribution to air pollution, has not received much attention. For instance, studies have identified that addressing residential emissions, such as biomass for cooking will help with achieving the NAAQS. 

Even after the launch of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in 2016, the number of households across Indian states that use Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) as a primary fuel remains low.

“Most action plans have targeted LPG coverage while neglecting the wider adoption of LPG as a primary fuel,” the report said. 

Moreover, 90 per cent of the city specific plans have no budget outlines. Only plans for nine citie s have listed budgetary requirements for executing all action points.

“The cost of execution of the plans ranges from Rs 89 crore in Dimapur, across these nine cities, the least densely populated city, to Rs 16,780 crore in Mumbai, the most densely populated city,” the study noted. 

It also reiterated the problematic absence of a legal mandate for implementation and reviewing of the NCAP. Apart from Delhi’s clean air plan, other city-specific clean air plans do not have a legal mandate.  

“Unlike in the United States and the European Union, where states and member nations are legally mandated to periodically update clean air plans for regions that violate air pollution standards, city clean air action plans in India were drafted in response to an order by the National Green Tribunal. Therefore, there is cause for concern that the preparation of plans might remain a one-time exercise,” it said. 

Multiplicity of agencies was another problem with the absence of a single body or agency that could be held responsible for the implementation of each city’s clean air plan.

Over 40 per cent of the action points listed fall under the purview of multiple agencies. Pollution control boards are in charge of only 24 per cent of the mitigation activities listed in the plans, while 37 per cent come under the ambit of municipal corporations and urban local bodies, which are infamous for underdeveloped finances. 


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