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Will The National Clean Air Campaign Really Help In Combating Pollution?

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Air pollution is a known phenomenon in India and if you stay in the National Capital Region then you consider air pollution as not only a phenomenon but also a season. So for Delhiites, pollution is like a season which starts around the Diwali festival and then stays till the winter ends. Smog covers the whole city, people wear masks, newspapers carry bold headlines and authorities blame either each other or poor farmers or come up with random plans.

I know it sounds ridiculous but it is true. So, the Union Government of India has come up with a program called National Clean Air Campaign or NCAP. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has come out with the concept of this program on April 17.

The focus of this plan is to maintain the average ambient air quality throughout the year all over the country. A number of authorities who cannot maintain a moderate air quality in the Capital have come up with a nationwide plan, that’s really interesting, isn’t it.

Let me tell you the how many authorities are working to combat the air pollution only in Delhi. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) it is a Supreme Court authorized body, Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), Delhi Government and National Green Tribunal (it handles various cases on pollution).

So as all these authorities technically could not do much hence the Union Government has come up with NCAP. However, among all these authorities the EPCA is the prime body with some wonderful minds who have really worked hard to come out with a plan named Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). This is the one and only competent plan and all the other authorities more or less follow this.

So now the question arises that will the NCAP really help to combat the air pollution of India? The experts and the environmental scientists have found that it is just a “paper tiger” and nothing else. The Clean Air Collective, people from various NGOs and environmentalists have submitted their recommendations to the government. If we follow the recommendations we will understand that without these steps there is no way NCAP can work.

1) Emission Targets

The union government should incorporate 35% reduction in three years and 50% reduction in five years as targets to make NCAP effective and impactful.

2) Sectoral Targets

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.

3) Interim Milestones

Milestones are crucial for evaluating NCAP and the same interim milestones should also be extended to sectors like industry and power plants.

4) Stubble Management

NCAP must have a holistic approach to tackle the issue of stubble management. Currently, the approach is isolated. 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 NCAP.

5) Strengthening Non-Motorised Transport

“Road Widening and supporting development of such infrastructure (flyovers) within cities” as suggested under the letters issued to SPCBs/PCCs in 2015 and 2016 are likely to result in an increase in emissions, as they promote private ownership and use of vehicles. 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).

6) Waste Management

A comprehensive urban waste minimisation and segregation policy should be integrated with NCAP to control air pollution. Define the process of selection of non-attainment cities – there needs to be a second look at the process of selection of non-attainment cities as draft NCAP misses out on including highly 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.

7) Statutory Act

The NCAP must be linked to some statutory Act, like Air Act, 1981 – to make it enforceable so that if the public wants to address the fact that NCAP has not been implemented, they can approach the court.

8) Language Barrier

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 at-least in those languages, which are widely spoken by the community most impacted by hazardous pollution levels. Hence, NCAP should be translated into regional languages and extend the deadline for public consultation by at least one more month.

Commenting on the plan, Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “The first and foremost priority for the ministry should be to set time-bound emission targets to reduce air pollution. NCAP is the ultimate framework to ensure compliance with 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.”

Some of the experts have also noted that there is a double standard of the government in this whole program.

Talking about the government’s double standards on emission norms for thermal power plants, Ritwick Dutta, of LlFE 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 a 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.”

With all these points it is much clear that NCAP is a plan without a vision and it can neither change the pollution condition of the Capital nor of India.

The Greenpeace India has also come up with a five-minute explainer of NCAP, let’s have a look.

NCAP in 5 Minutes

Urgent action needed: 2 DAYS left to send an email to the Environment Ministry asking for a stronger action plan for #CleanAir: #IndiaCleanAirPlan

Posted by Greenpeace India on Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Let’s have a look.


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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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        Find out more about her campaign here.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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