National Clean Air Programme

It is estimated that air pollution in India affected its GDP by 8% (approx) due to losses in labour output and monetarily cost a loss of about Rs 4 lakh crore. This decreasing air quality is also in violation of Right to life (Article 21) as “Right to Clean Air” is included within the ambit of this fundamental right.

To address this stark reality, the government of India formulated the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) as a medium term national level strategy to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner.

Objectives of NCAP

  • Augment and evolve effective ambient air quality monitoring network across India.
  • Ensure comprehensive management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
  • Focus on collaborative and participatory approach involving central Ministries, State Governments, local bodies and other stakeholders.
  • “Technology Assessment Cell” envisaged to evaluate the technologies for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
  • Formulation of City specific air pollution abatement action plans.
  • Setting up of Air Information Centre for data analysis and research apportionment studies.

Significance of the Programme

  • In line with NITI Aayog’s “Breathe India” Action Plan to tackle air pollution .
  • Uses technology to monitor air pollution which is both locally and nationally acceptable.
  • Increased number of monitoring stations will augment the capacity building drive and infrastructure facilities of CPCB and SPCB.
  • Greater data dissemination ensures increased public awareness and participation in planning as well as implementation stage.
  • Recognizes sources of pollution need to be tackled to address the issue.
  • Setting up of national as well as rural monitoring stations.
  • Provided guidelines to address indoor air pollution.

Criticism of the Programme

  • Absence of time bound quantitative national targets to be achieved.
  • Fails to address the inadequate enforcement mechanism dealing with air pollution.
  • Lack of statutory backings to check uninhibited growth of vehicular pollution and inefficient thermal power plants.
  • Lack of feedback mechanism to CPCB to keep tab on grass root efforts.
  • Fails to recognize major point sources of pollution.

NITI Aayog’s “Breathe India” Action Plan

Niti Aayog has proposed a 15-point formula to combat air pollution. Titled, Breathe India, the Niti Aayog action plan seeks "concerted action from all levels of governance".

1.Drive Mobility through ZEVs (Zero- Emission Vehicles)

  • Increase distribution of electric and hybrid vehicles, mandatory replacement of government vehicles older than 15 years to electric vehicles
  • Research in Renewable battery Storage technologies
  • Encouraging existing petrol vehicles to become electric
  • Boost last mile connectivity through e- rickshaws

2.Enact strong measures to curb vehicular emissions

  • Implement large scale Feebate Program from 2020 onwards. A feebate is a policy by which inefficient or polluting vehicles incur a surcharge (fee) while efficient ones receive a rebate.
  • Issue guidelines for private vehicle ownership. Measures like congestion pricing, escalation of taxes and insurances, higher costs of parking need to be employed to reduce private vehicle usage.
  • Switch to low Sulphur fuel (10 ppm) and tail pipe treatment technologies
  • Timely implemention of Bharat VI standards for engine emissions
  • Introducing a vehicle scrapping policy and ensuring fleet modernization

3.Reduce emissions by optimizing the power sector

  • Expedite strategic decommissioning of old and inefficient power plants
  • Upgrade efficient thermal power plants to meet the requirements of dynamic operation
  • Push for rooftop solar and distributed power generation
  • Ensure high grade low polluting coal to the power plant to operate it at higher efficiency
  • Emphasis on improved power reliability in urban areas to eliminate the operation of Diesel Power Generators, thereby reducing cause of urban industrial pollution.

4.Reform regulatory framework for Industrial Air Pollution

  • Revise the standards and practices of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
  • Revised regulatory framework for installation of devices like vortex separators, electrostatic precipitators, settling chambers etc. needs to be developed.
  • Mandatory use of beneficiated coal Promotion of clean coal technologies.
  • Emission standards for Diesel Power Generators
  • Use of Natural gas instead of coal in small boilers.
  • Nationwide ban on usage of highly polluting fuels such as coke and furnace oil
  • Improve audit process and the current practice of self-audit with the industry managing and paying the auditors should be changed.
  • Incentivise law enforcement at the state level against polluting industries.
  • Creation of a competitive ‘Air Pollution Index’ showcasing sources of pollution that can be used to rank the states and create competition through competitive federalism. Also performance-linked rewards to states from a common ‘Clear Air Fund’ can combat air pollution.

5.Implement a National Emissions Trading System based on concept of “polluter pays”

6.Adopt Cleaner Construction Practices

  • Mandate Environmental Risk Assessment for construction projects
  • Revise parameters of Green Building Ratings to include construction processes.
  • Set up smog free towers that clean the polluted air in areas around it. These can be installed at the point sources of construction activities.
  • Enforce use of ready-made concrete to eliminate the negative externalities of using Site Batch Concrete.

7.Implement a business model to utilize crop residue

  • Direct procurement of crop residue by large agro-waste management companies.
  • Encourage new markets for purchase of crop residues from farmers and setting up of new plants of agro-waste management companies in major paddy and sugarcane farming States.
  • State governments need to utilize the Green Climate Fund (GCF) for this purpose through NABARD.
  • Mandate an inter-State trading model for paddy stubble
  • Reward PRIs with performance-based incentives, where zero-burning incidences are observed.

8.Implement an Integrated Waste Management Policy

  • Enact Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR),to ensure a life cycle approach to products.
  • Adopt landfill taxes and regulation.
  • Incentivise waste to energy systems.
  • Decentralize waste processing, as demonstrated by waste segregation in Bengaluru, pipe and aerobic composting in Alappuzha
  • Pilot blockchain initiatives in waste management.

9.Tackle City Dust through Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)

  • Undertake mechanical dust removal by deploying dust absorbing and water spraying vehicles on roads
  • Convert collected dust into bricks and relocation of brick kilns
  • Ensure Water spraying on roads and eliminating manual sweeping of roads
  • GPS enabled vehicles for real time tracking
  • Third party evaluation and certification
  • Covering landfills with vegetation and undertaking reforestation
  • Planting vertical gardens using pollution absorbing plant varieties
  • De-silting of Drains

10.Integrate efforts to tackle forest fires

  • Comprehensive National Policy for Prevention and Control of Forest Fires needs to be finalized
  • Provide Pre-Warning Alarm System and danger Ratings
  • Mandatory training and pre-fire season workshops
  • Procurement of fire-fighting equipment and field vehicles
  • Provide mandatory provisions of fire breaks and fire lines
  • Creation of water harvesting structures

11.Encourage clean cooking practices

  • Encourage the use of cleaner fuels through Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
  • Promoting distribution of fuel efficient chulhas
  • Ensuring well-ventilated homes to maintain healthy air quality. This approach may be integrated with Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).

12. Drive Public Ownership through Behavioural Change through a targeted, national-level IEC campaign

13. Develop Consistent and Quantified National, Sub-National and Sectoral Plan

14. Improve Air Quality Monitoring Systems

15. Develop Graded Contingency Action Plan that will serve as a response mechanism to the changing levels of pollution in urban agglomeration.

WAYU: New Device to Tackle Pollution

  • The Ministry of Environment inducted an air pollution control device called “Wind Augmentation Purifying Unit (WAYU)”, in New Delhi. The device seeks to dilute the air pollution at high traffic zones like traffic intersections and parking areas by removing poisonous gases such as volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide. The device works on two principles namely, ensuring constant air flow to dilute air pollutants as well as oxidizing the volatile organic compounds. National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) the Nagpur-based laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), developed the device to tackle the “Street Canyon” Effect.
  • “Street Canyon” Effect: It has been noticed that in most traffic density zones, emissions coming from vehicle tail pipes as well as road dust do not get diluted and remains suspended in the air. It was later found out that the presence of high rise building near these traffic zones restrict the flow of air, giving rise to a phenomenon called Street Canyon Effect.

National Energy Storage Mission

NESM was released by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy with the objective to strive for leadership in energy storage sector by creating an enabling policy and regulatory framework that encourages manufacturing, deployment, innovation and further cost reduction. The Mission has proposed three stage solution approach i.e creating an environment for battery manufacturing growth; scaling supply chain strategies and scaling up of battery cell manufacturing. The main areas where energy storage application would be vital include:

  • Integrating renewable energy with distribution and transmission grids
  • Setting Rural micro grids with diversified loads or stand-alone systems
  • Develop storage component for electric mobility plans like electric vehicles