Need of policy and leadership efforts to tackle air pollution issue of India

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By Dr. Radha Goyal

Deputy Director, Indian Pollution Control Association (IPCA) Secretary, Society for Indoor Environment

New Delhi: Air pollution is now not a unique problem of Delhi NCR. However, it is the problem of almost entire India, where more than 132 million plus cities are facing the poor air quality issue and come under the category of non-attainment cities with annual average PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations are well beyond the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). It implies that almost 1.4 billion population of India is exposed to unhealthy levels of PM10 and PM2.5. Besides that, 15 most polluted cities of the world are also from India and all of them lying in Indo-Gangetic plains (IGP). The severity of air pollution in IGP during winters every year explains clearly the amalgamation of all possible contributing factors that includes all major sources of air pollution like motor vehicles, industries, power plants, brick kilns, municipal waste burning and construction dust, the geography of the area and the weather conditions. Once, we know all the facts, just endlessly blaming the stubble-burning from the neighbouring states as the main culprit to deteriorate the air quality of Delhi NCT will not be able to solve the problem.  Instead, central and state governments together should look to the problem of air pollution holistically and should prepare the action plans to control the air pollution levels in entire affected area forgetting their judicial boundaries as the air pollution does.

Need to strengthen Air Act of 1981

It is now high time for the government to further strengthen the Air Act of 1981 with clear reflection of impacts of air pollution on public health. Simultaneously, effective implementation of existing policies and National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) irrespective to cities and states boundaries is the need of an hour with appropriate allocation of funds

based on magnitude of the problem as well as on the performance of different local, regional and state level agencies/ departments in adopting and effectively implementing the control measures under different contributing sectors.

India needs to follow the holistic air-shed management approach, where coordinated actions are required at interdepartmental, inter cities and inter states levels with timely enforcement of air quality control measures. There should be the provision of allocation of funds for incentivization of committed interventions and control measures to meet the compliance.

Citizens are main stake holders

Citizen lead Air Quality management approach is the need of an hour as they are the most important stakeholders and it is the dire need to educate and aware the citizens about the best practices and efforts to inculcate the responsible behavior among citizens towards the environment to tackle the local level air quality issues and concerns.

Following the success stories from other parts of the world to curb the air pollution within a defined time frame, India needs to take greater stride in controlling emissions from all major sources by enforcing pollution norms with clear and aggressive timelines.

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