A recent study found that clean air plans prepared by the 102 unreached Indian cities – those that violate national ambient air quality standards set in 2009 – have “significant gaps”. The plans lack a legal mandate, cross-border coordination, funding, and clear goals and responsibilities.
Air pollution kills more than one million people in India every year.
India launched its National Clean Air Program (NCAP) in January 2019 with the goal of reducing particulate matter (PM) concentration by 20-30% by 2024. If the country can achieve and maintain a reduction of 25 % of air pollution nationwide would increase India’s national life expectancy by 1.6 years.
To achieve nationwide reductions, NCAP proposed that each unmet city develop its own air quality management plan.
All 102 cities submitted these plans and they were approved by India’s main pollution regulator, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
A Delhi-based think tank, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), and an independent research institute, Urban Emissions, together analyzed the 102 plans to see how they work on the essential elements of that plan: framework legal, sectoral reduction targets based on source contributions, the cost-effectiveness of the proposed measures and a clear definition of responsibilities between executive agencies. This June 2020 analysis revealed: Justin Townes Earle, American singer
* Clean air plans at city level represent a set of measures with no specified goals or priorities.
* Apart from the Delhi Clean Air Plan, of which the Supreme Court (CS) partially notified its implementation in January 2018, no other plan has a legal mandate to implement.
* The CPCB approved the plans and instructed the National Pollution Control Committee (SPCB) to implement them. However, without a mandatory implementation deadline, it is not possible to question errors or delays in the implementation of these plans.
* More than 40% of the action points listed fall under the remit of more than one agency, which can lead to fragmented accountability.
* None of the plans offer a regional coordination mechanism, although about 30% of pollution comes from sources outside the city limits.
* Only the clean air plans for 25 cities contain information on the emissions of various pollutants. But this information does not translate into priority actions listed in the plan.
* IndiaSpend has contacted CPCB for their response to the study results.
The board did not respond even after a week of follow-up. We’ll update this story once they respond.
Here are the shortcomings in more detail.
Irresponsibility for lack of legal mandate
Legislation is essential for the effective implementation of clean air plans, as it sets legally enforced goals, procedures and responsibilities. Without it, the failures of the agencies responsible for preparing and implementing clean air plans cannot be questioned, the report said.
The existing provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and the Air .
(Pollution Prevention and Control) Act 1981 give state governments and national pollution control committees the power to “ notify ” and / or provide legal support to city plans created under the NCAP. Once notified under the relevant laws, these plans will acquire a legal mandate and must be implemented on time.
However, apart from Delhi’s clean air plan, which the Committee partially notified for implementation in January 2018, no other clean air plan has a legal mandate for implementation, according to the analysis.
The CPCB approved the plans and ordered the SPCBs to implement them, but without a mandatory timetable, any failure or delay in implementation cannot be questioned, according to the analysis.
In addition to an active long-term Global Action Plan (CAP) for air pollution control, which includes traffic management, the use of cleaner fuels and greater vehicle electrification, Delhi also has response to emergencies, the Graduated Response Action Plan (GRAP), which is activated when pollution exceeds dangerous levels. It includes emergency measures to reduce pollution such as an immediate ban on the burning of waste and the entry of trucks into the city and the closure of power plants, brickyards and stone crushers. GRAP has been notified by the Union Ministry of Environment in accordance with Amb
However, GRAP is intended for cities in the National Capital Region (NCR).
It has been notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) and not by any of the state governments, due to the strategic importance of Delhi and the role of the central government in the management. air quality in the region, said Polash Mukerjee, senior air quality and climate resilience program at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) India, an international environmental group. “The Union Ministry of Environment has the power to notify 102 plans under environmental and air laws, as it has done for Delhi GRAP and various other environmental laws.”
“One of the reasons why there is so far no legal mandate for urban plans under NCAP is simply that – to avoid liability,” Mukerjee said, adding that as the urban plans will be codified in law, responsibility for meeting their emission reduction targets will rest with the state and central pollution control councils, as well as other city and government departments. State.
“It is crucial to note that it was not the NCAP but rather an order of the NGT .
[National Green Tribunal] that mandated the preparation of the air quality plans (NGT 2018). This is because NCAP itself is a program that cannot legally force cities to write clean air plans, ”the report said.
The planning and execution of a national air pollution prevention and control program is one of the main functions of the CPCB, as required by the Air Act 1981. The same act also stipulates that air pollution planning a comprehensive air pollution prevention and control program and its execution are the responsibility of the SPCB. “Despite these arrangements, this was the first time that SPCBs across the country attempted to draft [clean air] plans,” the analysis said.
In countries like the United States of America, which have been successful in managing air quality, regional or state plans have proven to be very effective in the country’s efforts to achieve healthy air nationwide. The United States Clean Air Act legally requires a master plan for all areas of the country and specific plans for all inaccessible areas.
“This legal constraint is currently – and seriously – absent from the air quality management framework in India,” says CEEW’s analysis of urban emissions.
Multiple agencies, fragmented responsibilities
“Studies have often cited the lack of coordination and integration in planning between relevant agencies and departments as the reason that regimes introduced by central and state governments have failed in the past,” the report said.
All clean air plans list the agencies responsible for each action point.
But more than 40% of the listed activities are shared by multiple agencies, making it difficult to hold a single agency responsible for the progress of the work, according to the analysis.
Only 24% of the activities of the clean air plan have been entrusted to pollution control organizations.
60% of the activities are entrusted to the local urban authorities (ULB), including municipal enterprises and development authorities, and the transport service, including the traffic police. The remaining 16% are with various agencies, according to the analysis.
This disproportionate allocation of assets to ULBs is problematic due to the country’s underdeveloped municipal finances, the report says, citing that local authorities have limited fiscal autonomy because state governments can control their financial assets.
Indian ULBs are among the weakest in the world in terms of fiscal autonomy and ability to cope with increasing urbanization and rapid economic growth, as “the constitutional provisions for devolution in India have been very weak”, according to a 2019 study Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), an economic policy think tank.
Municipal revenue / expenditure in India has stagnated at around 1% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for over a decade.
In comparison, municipal revenues and expenditures in Brazil represent 7.4% of GDP and in South Africa 6%, the ICRIER study indicates.
When multiple agencies are involved, it is essential to define accountability and establish a coordination mechanism, the report says. However, the existing plans “do not have such a clear definition of responsibilities”.
There should be a state-level review and monitoring committee under the leadership of the chief secretary of state, a district-level committee under the district binder, and a district-level review committee. city under the direction of the municipal commissioner, in accordance with the institutional framework prescribed in the NCAP to implement clean air floors. But the NCAP does not specify the composition and strength of these committees, making it difficult to assess their executive powers, the report said.
But the analysis revealed an overlap of responsibilities in the picture.
For example, the pollution control action plan covering the 15 towns not reached by Uttar Pradesh identifies the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) as the main body for monitoring the implementation of the plans. But state councils are only required to enforce actions while a state-level committee monitors them. “This highlights an apparent overlap between the state-level review and monitoring committee [under the leadership of the chief secretary] and the responsibility the plan places on the UPPCB,” the analysis says.
In general, when it comes to industrial pollution management in India, pollution control committees play both monitoring and enforcement roles. These councils have the power to issue instructions that require compliance, but they cannot impose penalties for non-compliance. Only criminal courts can impose penalties, which severely limits the powers of commissions “because the absence of a credible threat of execution due to limited enforcement powers discourages compliance,” according to the analysis.
Environmental protection agencies should have the legal authority to punish and prosecute violators.
For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has a dedicated enforcement and compliance cell that can choose to take non-judicial or judicial action against violators as it sees fit, according to the report.
The contribution of external sources to the concentration of particles in cities could vary from 15 to 50%. However, none of the plans contain clear guidelines for establishing regional coordination beyond state borders.
For example, the Delhi plan lists action points to mitigate pollution from regional sources.
The state governments of the NCR and the state government of Punjab are responsible for the implementation of these points; however, there is no clear definition of responsibilities, nor guidelines for institutionalizing coordination among state governments, according to the analysis.
China gave an example of how regional coordination can contribute to air quality management.
The State Council of China, the main administrative authority in the country, has supported the establishment of the “Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Coordinated Air Pollution Prevention and Control Mechanism (BTH) and Surroundings” to ensure the regional coordination and achieve alignment between pollution control measures. Simply put, BTH can be compared to NCR in India.
Through coordinated planning, common emission standards and information sharing, the annual average concentrations of PM 2.5 – a toxic particle that can make people sick or kill people – in the BTH region and its surroundings fell nearly 25% four years through 2017, says the analysis report.
Little information on emission sources
A quantitative understanding of pollution sources and their contribution is essential for planning emission control interventions. Information on sources should be available through emission inventories and source sharing studies. These studies help establish sector-specific emission reduction targets.
Only the clean air plans of 25 cities contain information collected on the sources of emissions, the analysis says.