Greenpeace India, on July 6, 2018, lamented that while China has taken an important step, by releasing its second clean air action plan to fight air pollution, India’s clean air action programme is ‘yet to see the light of day’. The green body said the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) draft released by the Union Environment Ministry, on April 17, 2018, missed setting timelines and emission targets for the most polluting sectors like thermal power plants and industries. It said emissions from thermal power plants were a major contributor to surging primary and secondary particulate matter levels in India, especially the coal power sector being the key contributor to air pollution.
Greenpeace India, along with other civil society organisations, have sent recommendations to the ministry on the NCAP. “The draft NCAP concept note lacks specificity and timelines. It has missed out on emission and sectoral targets, making it feeble. We hope that the Environment Ministry incorporates all recommendations and makes the NCAP a comprehensive plan, to tackle air pollution in a time-bound manner,” Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India, said.
He said while China still had a long way to go to solve its air pollution problem, the progress of the past few years showed what worked – region-wide, time-bound targets that held decision-makers accountable, strong emission standards and strong enforcement, as well as a shift away from polluting energy sources. “The Indian government should learn from these actions to curb air pollution levels internationally and must expedite the enforcement of the National Clean Air Programme, without further delay,” Dahiya added.
Elaborating on China’s action plan, Greenpeace India said China’s first five-year air pollution action plan, implemented in 2013, saw an impressive 33 per cent fall in PM2.5 levels in 74 key cities. Stricter emission standards and a shift away from permitting new coal-fired power plants had a major impact, although nation-wide air quality improvements in China slowed in 2017, due to a smokestack industry rebound. China’s new three-year action plan designates new areas of focus and increases emphasis on structural transition, including restructuring of coal and smokestack industries and transport – the major causes of air pollution in the country.
The new action plan heightens pressure on cities outside the scope of the 2013 action plan and those which performed poorly during the previous five-year period, the green body said. However, the target of an 18 per cent fall in PM2.5 level between 2015 and 2020 will have little or no impact on cities that saw major air quality improvements between 2015 and 2017. Additional targets, specific to these areas, are needed, the body said.
“In India, China and around the world, we must continue to push for effective air pollution solutions, including time-bound targets, strong emissions standards and a shift away from polluting sources. Air pollution is a growing global health crisis and there is an urgent need for solutions that will lead to blue skies,” Dahiya added.