The 20-point programme shifts the onus of fighting air pollution to the state governments, emphasises on collection of authentic data on pollution sources, introduces monitoring of rural air pollution and a new institutional framework at the central and state levels to monitor air quality and take preventive steps.
The programme, India’s first attempt at working out a coordinated system to curb air pollution, requires all the states to frame their own Clean Air Programmes. While the national programme lays down the time frame for measures such as setting up of additional centres to monitor air quality across 100 cities, it does not have any directives to the states on their action plan.
The national plan proposes setting up of an apex committee under environment minister, a steering committee under the secretary (environment) and a monitoring committee under a joint secretary. There would be project monitoring committees at the state level with scientists and trained personnel.
“The Centre has to come up with a stronger and more focused compliance strategy,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy at the Centre for Science and Environment.
“It has shifted the onus to the state governments to frame their own clean air programmes. But it should spell out a time frame – a time-bound programme – for the states to reduce air pollution. It needs to specify requisite scale and stringency of the Clean Air Programme.”
Chowdhury said while the Centre has shown its intention to financially support studies on ambient air quality, it has left it to the states to frame and fund their own programmes.
“The Centre can play a bigger role in supporting the programmes at the state-level and play the pivot for the national strategy,” she said.
The national programme emphasises on the need for authentic data collection and acknowledges uncharted territories such as rural pollution. “Air quality in rural areas remains a neglected issue. The common belief is that rural areas are free from air pollution. On the contrary, air quality in the rural areas all over the world and particularly in the developing countries may be more polluted than some of the urban areas,” says the plan document.
“Indoor air pollution exists in rural areas where the main source of air pollution is domestic fuel used… It is proposed to set up 50 such stations (to check ambient air quality) in rural areas,” it says.
The programme proposes better monitoring of particulate matter. According to the document, particulates are the deadliest form of air pollution due to their ability to penetrate deep into the lungs and blood streams unfiltered, causing various health issues.
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