Centre calls on cities to deliver on clean air goals in next three yrs
Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar on Monday urged states and cities to deliver on its clean air goals before the 2024 deadline for the national clean air programme (NCAP)
Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar on Monday urged states and cities to deliver on its clean air goals before the 2024 deadline for the national clean air programme (NCAP).
The minister made the appeal during a webinar with principal secretaries of urban development and environment departments of all states and union territories (UTs). The webinar reviewed the progress of activities under NCAP. This was the first review meeting since the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in end-March.
Javadekar said that states and cities should try to achieve the target of reducing particulate matter (PM) concentrations in non-attainment cities by up to 30% by 2024 over 2017 annual average levels.
Non-attainment cities don’t need to meet the national clean air standards.
Javadekar was speaking on the occasion of the United Nations (UN)-designated the first International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, which was observed on Monday (September 7).
There are 122 non-attainment cities, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) out of which 48 cities exceed the PM standard by 100% and 35 cities by 50%.
Prashant Gargava, member secretary, CPCB, said air pollution action plans for 122 cities had been approved that are focused on management of pollution hotspots, public transport and fleet modernisation, paving of roads, cleaner fuels for industries etc.
The 15th Finance Commission has allocated Rs 4,400 crore, which is largely meant for state pollution control boards and urban local bodies for clean air projects.
Javadekar said though pollution woes caught the government’s attention since 2014, the problem persisted for decades. He cited that under the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime until 2004 industries were moved out of the national capital and public transport had made a switch to compressed natural gas (CNG).
In 2014, PM Modi gave attention to the (pollution) problem again. The following year, we launched the air quality index (AQI). We accepted the problem and were never in denial. We started NCAP as well. India has leapfrogged to Bharat stage (BS)-VI while skipping BS-V emission norms for vehicles. It’s a huge step. In the last six years, several road projects have been launched in a bid to ease traffic congestion,” he said.
The minister urged states to focus their resources on public transport, electric mobility, zig-zag technology for brick kilns etc. He also said states could impose tax on polluters.
“PM Modi had announced on Independence Day that at least 100 cities will achieve clean air goals in four years. Let’s strive to make a difference in three years,” he added.
The New Delhi- based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a not-for-profit public advocacy organisation, in an analysis released on Monday said the government needs a “green recovery” strategy to achieve and even exceed its NCAP goals.
Two of the main interventions would be to revive public transport and a road map for electric vehicles to be scaled up, the analysis stated.
All clean air action plans have included a bus transport strategy to cut transport sector emissions. But the public transport systems have nearly collapsed in several cities, the analysis showed.
A survey conducted by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) of 14 State Road Transport Undertakings (SRTUs) showed that 81% of the operators have reported no ridership at all during the Covid-19-induced lockdown phases, while others have reported 90% reduction in ridership from the pre-Covid-19 level. Ridership of SRTUs in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Delhi, and Hubli-Dharwad Bus Rapid Transit System (HD-BRTS) are still below 90%. Recovery of ridership is expected to be slow due to fear of contagion, but the government needs to have a plan, the analysis added.