India’s battle to reduce dangerous levels of air pollution is at a turning point. In a major step at the national level, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) recently launched the National Clean Air Program (NCAP). At the local level, cities across India are fed up with air pollution and are starting to fight back. Both national and city level actions are a major topic at the World Sustainable Development Summit, held in New Delhi this week.
Air Pollution in India
Air pollution is a serious issue in many Indian cities. In 2018, the WHO reported that 14 out of world's most polluted 15 cities are from India. Also, a recent Lancet Report led by national experts estimated that air pollution caused 1.24 million deaths in 2015.
The NCAP aims to reduce harmful particulate matter pollution by 20-30% by 2024 (compared to 2017 levels). The NCAP brings a much needed focus to city actions that can help the country achieve cleaner air. Under the NCAP, city-specific action plans will be developed for all 102 reported cities that exceed national air quality safeguards.
City Actions on Air Pollution
As high levels of air pollution continue in many parts of India, several cities are leading efforts to address the air pollution crisis. These actions include strengthening air monitoring networks, adopting electric vehicles to reduce pollution from the transportation sector, bolstering regulatory compliance, and better controlling industrial emissions.
To highlight city efforts and share knowledge among cities, NRDC and partners at the Public Health Foundation of India and Indian Institute of Public Health-Gandhinagar (PHFI and IIPH-G) released an updated factsheet: Clearing the Air: Highlighting Actions to Reduce Air Pollution in India. NRDC’s President Rhea Suh released the factsheet at the World Sustainable Development Summit 2019, hosted by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
Key updates of this year’s factsheet include:
- The capital city of Delhi formed 52 cross-government teams to ensure implementation of its Graded Response Action Plan during peak pollution season. The Supreme Court-appointed Environment Protection and Control Authority (EPCA) also halted all construction from November 1-10, 2018, and ordered closure of the polluting Badarpur Thermal Power Plant. The EPCA also banned use of diesel generator sets.
- The city of Ahmedabad implemented its health-based plan to protect citizens from high levels of air pollution. The city’s proposed budget for FY19-20 has earmarked funds for actions that will address air quality of the city; these include procuring 1000 electric buses, 30,000 electric rickshaws, an capping a smoldering landfill—Pirana—that contributes to the city’s air pollution woes.
- Nagpur, in partnership with the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), has developed a comprehensive action plan to reduce air pollution in the city. The actions suggested in the plan will target reduction of pollution from vehicular emissions, re-suspended road dust, industry, construction, solid waste management (trash, biomass, landfill burning), domestic fuel burning, diesel generator sets, and bakeries.
- Pune is making efforts to reduce traffic congestion and near-roadway air pollution by promoting non-motorized transport. Recently, the city has begun the process of securing 500 electric buses and procured 8000 bicycles, with the goal of eventually making 20,000 such cycles available. It is also improving local street design by building cycle-only tracks and developing a pedestrian movement policy. To curb waste burning, the city has banned open dumping practices and has adopted 20 biomethanation plants that help reduce trash burning and polluting emissions from landfills and generate clean energy.
- Raipur has achieved a reduction in local particulate matter pollution over two consecutive years. Continuous stack emission monitoring systems were installed in over 145 industries and 118 rolling mills while enforcing a legal restriction on particulate matter emission to less than 50 µg/m3.
- Furthermore, closure notices were issued to ten industries and 40 rolling mill units in 2017 for violating environmental standards. The Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board disconnected power for several violators and served notices to 163 others that were out of compliance with air regulations.
Indian cities will play a key role in implementation of the National Clean Air Plan program over the coming years. This factsheet highlights the range of local efforts that can yield major benefits for air quality, public health, and climate change mitigation if actions are designed, implemented, and scaled up effectively.
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