Various green groups today submitted their recommendations to the environment ministry on the draft National Clean Air Programme, which proposes multiple strategies to combat air pollution, calling for polluting sectors such as industry and coal thermal power plants to be brought under its regulation.
The NCAP is only a "paper tiger" without time bound targets, Clean Air Collective- network, an umbrella organisation of 80 groups, including farmers' and citizens groups, said, as it sent its 20-point recommendations on the draft NCAP, which was put up on environment ministry's website for public comments.
The draft has been framed by the ministry with an overall objective of a comprehensive management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution, besides augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country.
The collective also recommended the coverage of NCAP should not just be limited to the list of 100 cities as mentioned in the concept note and should be extended to other polluted geographies as well.
In a statement, the Collective recommended that the ministry should incorporate 35 per cent reduction in three years and 50 per cent reduction in five years as targets to make NCAP "effective and impactful".
"Draft NCAP has ignored polluting sectors like industry and coal thermal power plants, which are regulated by the central government. Highly polluting industries and industrial clusters should be regulated under NCAP with clear timelines and targets for implementation," it said in its recommendations.
It also recommended that the NCAP must have a holistic approach to tackle the issue of stubble management which is presently an "isolated approach".
Both 'in-situ crop residue management' and creation of infrastructure and market for the use and management of stubble outside of the field (ex-situ management) should be incorporated in the NCAP, it said.
"Road Widening and supporting development of such infrastructure (flyovers) within cities as suggested under the letters issued to state pollution boards in 2015 and 2016 are likely to result in an increase in emissions, as they promote private ownership and use of vehicles, the Clean Air Collective Network said.
"To decongest the traffic more emphasis must be given on promoting/strengthening the Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) and public transportation, which are long term sustainable solutions also highlighted under NUTP (National Urban Transport Policy)," one of the recommendations said.
It said that a comprehensive urban waste minimisation and segregation policy should be integrated with the NCAP to control air pollution.
"Define Process of Selection of non-attainment cities -- there needs to be a re-look at the process of selection of non-attainment cities as draft NCAP misses out on including high polluted cities like Gurgaon, Faridabad, Bulandshahar, Muzzafarnagar, Patna, Gaya and Muzaffarpur etc.
"Beyond 100 non-attainment cities -- the coverage of NCAP should not just be limited to the list of 100 cities as mentioned in the concept note and should be extended to other polluted geographies as well," it said.
A non-attainment area is an area considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
One of the recommendations said, "The NCAP must be linked to some statutory Act, like Air Act, 1981 -- to make it enforceable so that if public want to address the fact that this NCAP has not been implemented, they can approach court."
The draft NCAP is only in one language, English, which does not allow the impacted population to be part of the process for even commenting on the draft, it should have been made available in other regional languages as well, the collective said.
"Hence, NCAP to be translated into regional languages and extend the deadline for public consultation by at least one more month," it recommended.
"NCAP is the ultimate framework to ensure compliance to their commitment towards tackling air pollution from the source. Missing of emission as well as sectoral targets is making NCAP not only redundant but pointless," he said.
Talking about the government's "double standards" on emission norms for thermal power plants, Ritwick Dutta, of Legal Initiative For Forest And Environment (LIFE) said, On one hand government is launching the NCAP. On the other hand, it continues to kill its own air pollution norms. Emissions from power plants are significant contributor to air pollution.
"The government is killing the 2015 emission standards for coal-based power plants. NCAP only speaks high words. It neither has any clear strategy nor targets even when pollution is reaching toxic levels across India. The plan is too techno-centric without any target and without any detail on action against violations," he said.
Other studies have time and again pointed out that air pollution claims 7 million lives every year. Nine out of ten people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants worldwide, it said.
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