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National Clean Air Programme UPSC NOTE


  • When the Indian government launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in 2019, it was to cut the concentration of atmospheric Particulate Matter (PM) by 20-30% by 2024, from 2017 levels. 

  • This was later revised to 40% by 2026.

  • Under NCAP, cities continuously violating annual PM levels in India need to prepare and implement annual Clean Air Action Plans (CAAPs)

  • To facilitate this, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change has allocated ₹10,422.73 crore. 


  • Most cities proactively submitted their CAAPs yet their implementation has been inconsistent. 

  • On average, only 60% of the allocated funds have been used thus far, according to the Ministry, with 27% of cities spending less than 30% of their designated budgets. 

  • Visakhapatnam and Bengaluru have spent 0% and 1% of their NCAP funds, respectively. 

  • Implementation delays hinder NCAP’s success, particularly delays in approvals from the competent authorities

  • There is also a lack of standard operating procedures for the implementation process. 

  • Time-consuming tasks required to implement control measures and the absence of well-defined timelines create further delays. 

  • Yet other reasons include bureaucratic red-tape and lingering doubts regarding the effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures

  • But overcoming this also requires a systemic approach based on Emissions Inventory (EI), Air Quality (AQ) modelling, and Source Apportionment (SA).

Scientific tools to help

  • Emissions Inventory (EI) and Source Apportionment (SA) studies are critical to identify and understand the origins of pollution. 

  • EIs provide insights into local pollution sources and their contributions, allowing experts to forecast future emissions based on demographic shifts and technological advancements across sectors, among other factors. 

  • EIs also help shape targeted pollution control strategies. 

  • They have their limitations, too, particularly in assessing the impact of transboundary pollution sources — such as when determining the effect of stubble-burning outside Delhi on the city’s air quality.

  • SA studies offer a detailed analysis of contributions from various pollution sources, including those located afar. 

  • However, they aren’t suited for predictive analysis and require substantial resources, including specialised personnel and equipment for chemical analysis

  • SA studies also can’t distinguish between the origins of pollution

Why not using the funds

  • Ideally, the cities should look into EI and SA data to pinpoint air pollutants and prepare mitigation measures targeting each polluting activity. 

  • According to the Portal for Regulation of Air-pollution in Non-Attainment cities, only 37% of cities have completed EI and SA studies, meaning the remaining 63% don’t have a clear idea about what is polluting their air

  • Thus, the effectiveness of CAAPs is questioned if the cities don’t know the individual emissions reduction potentials of their proposed mitigation measures. 

  • Based on the potential and infrastructure requirements, cities need to set proper yearly targets and fund them.

  • Moreover, the NCAP’s reliance on concentration data — a measure of population exposure to harmful pollution — further complicates the situation. 

  • Pollution from high-emitting industries and other sources outside city limits, carried into urban areas by winds complicates urban air-quality management. 

  • Many existing control measures focus only on primary PM emissions, neglecting their secondary precursors

  • A shift towards comprehensive strategies addressing both primary and secondary pollutants is thus important. 

  • Further, although one of the NCAP goals is to set up infrastructure to forecast AQ, no city barring Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, and Ahmedabad has a decision-support system

To Succeed

  • Beyond the need for data and models, swift implementation on the ground is essential. 

  • For this, implementation agencies should seek to reduce bureaucratic red tape by utilising shared, standardised technical evaluations

  • As NCAP funding is linked with the performance of cities (based on the annual average PM concentration reduction), prior budgeting and time management play crucial roles

  • Technical feasibility, budgeting, and time estimates need to be part of the initial plans.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: National Clean Air Programme UPSC NOTE
National Clean Air Programme UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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