What happened to Modi’s national ‘clean air’ project? Not much in three years – Newslaundry

/ by Community

What happened to Modi’s national ‘clean air’ project? Not much in three years - Newslaundry


These cities have been divided in two groups: 90 funded by NCAP and 42 million-plus agglomerations or cities under the 15th Finance Commission. According to a government reply in the Lok Sabha in December last year, the central government has allocated Rs 375 crore for 90 cities under NCAP so far and Rs 4,400 crore for the rest under the 15th Finance Commission in 2020-21.

Notably, budgetary allocation was linked to cities’ performance at a later stage by the MoEFCC, which had not suggested any such arrangement in the original plan.

However, Newslaundry analysed an environment ministry report for April and found very low utilisation of funds under NCAP. Punjab, a state infamous for polluting the Indo-Gangetic airshed during winter harvest season, has used just five percent of its Rs 27.5 crore funds under NCAP, followed by Assam’s 11 percent of Rs 12.36 crore and Haryana’s 25 percent of Rs 24 crore. Nagaland, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh are the only five states that claimed 100 percent utilisation for 2019-21. The percentage for other states hovers between 50 and 75, except Chhattisgarh’s 92 percent and Bihar’s 90 percent.

In its latest steering committee report, the environment ministry has tweaked the targets for 90 NCAP cities: increasing the range from 20 to 30 percent in the original plan to 20 to 45 percent and the timeline from 2024 to 2025-2026.

But the ministry official quoted above said the original NCAP targets remained unchanged. When asked about the tweaked targets in the new report, he said: “It [the table] might have got captured.”

Newslaundry‘s questionnaire – on whether the original NCAP targets have been revised – sent to ministry secretary Leena Nandan and CPCB member secretary Prashant Gargava remained unanswered. This report shall be updated if a response is received.

Checking pollution in these cities

The economic and human costs of living in a country whose cities are perennially polluted are greater.

Newslaundry analysed PM levels of 130 of these 132 cities between 2017 and 2020 through data compiled by NCAP Tracker – an online hub tracking the programme’s progress – and found an increase in airborne particles in 22 cities while 27 recorded a decrease by as much as up to 10 percent.

However, it may be noted that pollutants had seen a drastic dip during the Covid-induced lockdowns in 2020. According to Urban Emissions, a research group, air pollution levels had dropped by 20 to 60 percent during lockdown periods.

“The reduction in pollution is quite minimal. The end result is still not there. It might seem that the glass is half full but we are still a long distance from achieving the clean air goal, which is what the NCAP was supposed to achieve by 2024…only two years remain. If the situation remains the same, pollution levels might instead increase by five to 10 percent,” said Aarti Khosla, director of Climate Trends, a strategic communications and capacity building initiative on climate change and environment.

Tripathi said NCAP has laid the groundwork despite the hurdles. “Globally, people have dealt with pollution in 20-30 years. What NCAP has done is to create a good framework. If it is followed by states, it will give good results.”

Meanwhile, Bhargav Krishna, fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank, said until the studies are completed, cities can focus on common sources of pollution such as construction dust and waste burning.



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