Cities choking still as India’s clean air plan spends Rs 6897 cr in 4 yrs


Delhi’s (AQI) on Tuesday was near the danger mark of 421, repeating a trend seen in winters and that has made the city India’s most polluted for the last four years.

It is not just Delhi though: neighbouring Noida and Ghaziabad, Varanasi in east UP, Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Howrah and Kolkata in West Bengal count among the 10 worst polluted cities and they have not shown any improvement in air quality. This despite the National Clean Energy Program (NCAP) which started in 2019 and has released almost Rs 6,897 crore to 131 cities, said a report by the Centre’s NCAP Tracker.

NCAP addresses in 131 non-attainment cities, so called for not meeting the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for the period of 2011-15 under the National Air Quality Monitoring Program (NAMP).

India’s annual average safe limits for PM 2.5 (ultra-fine particulate matter) and PM 10 are 40 micrograms/per cubic metre (ug/m3) and 60 micrograms/per cubic metre. The NCAP has set a target of reducing key air pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 by 40 per cent in these cities by 2026. (CPCB) is a government body which collates and integrates the air quality data on its portal and has also set the standards.

According to the data collated by NCAP Tracker, only 77 cities have data available on the CPCB portal. “Of these, 57 cities have an uptime greater than 50 per cent for PM10, and 54 cities have an uptime greater than 50 per cent for PM2.5,” it said.

Among these cities, Delhi ranked the most polluted in 2022, with an annual average PM 2.5 concentration of 99.71 ug/m3, said the report, adding PM 2.5 levels in the city however showed an improvement of close to 7 per cent over 2019.

According to the Tracker, most cities in the top 10 list of 2022 are in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. “This demonstrates that real and long-term solutions lie in an airshed approach to address the need for better management in the region beyond Delhi. It also reiterates the need to check pollution at source to obtain maximum benefit from pollution mitigation efforts,” the report said. The levels in these cities remain much higher than CPCB’s annual average safe limits for PM2.5 and PM10.

All three of Bihar’s non-attainment cities–Patna, Muzaffarpur and Gaya–feature in the top 10 most polluted cities based on their PM 2.5 levels.

The cleanest city with a PM 2.5 concentration of 26.33 ug/m3 is Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. Nagaland’s Kohima, with a PM 10 concentration of 26.77 ug/m3, was also the cleanest city in the country. Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh, also features in the clean cities list for both PM 2.5 and PM 10.

NCAP Tracker is a joint project by Climate Trends and Respirer Living Sciences to create an online hub for the latest updates on India’s clean air policy, the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).


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