National Clean Air Program (GS- 3)

Why is it in the news?

It has been four years since the central government launched the NCAP (National Clean Air Campaign). The experts and analysts have observed that the program's progress is slow and that pollution has been reduced incrementally in most cities. 

What is NCAP?

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) started the NCAP in January 2019.
  • It is directed by the NGT (National Green Tribunal). 
  • The goal is to reduce air pollution by 20-30% by 2024. 
    • To reduce PM10 (largest coarser particles) and PM2.5 (small yet more dangerous) by at least 20% in the coming five years while using 2017 as the base year.
    • One hundred thirty-one cities that were the most polluted in India in January 2019 were targeted. 
      • These cities are called non-attainment cities since these cities did not meet the NAAQS (the National Ambient Air Quality Standard) in 2011-15 under the NAMP (National Air Quality Monitoring Program).

What are the target levels?

  • The current and annual average limit for the two main classes of PM (Particular Matter), PM10 and PM2.5, are
    • 40 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3)
    • 60 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3)
  • In September 2022, the NCAP set the new target of a 40% reduction in PM. Concentration by 2026. 
  • The central government has allocated a budget of Rs 6,897.06 crore to meet these targets for cities.
  •  The CPCB manages the funds and looks at the city's PM10 levels.
  • It was required for the cities to show improvement of 15% or more in reducing the annual average of PM10 and increasing the "good air" days for at least 200 from 2020-21.
    • Less than 15% would be considered low, and the funds will be reduced. 

What is the role of NGT?

  • The timeline should be reduced to reduce pollution by 20–30%.
  • The targeted reduction should be increased. 
  • The suggestion to the Ministry was to take action towards shifting to e-vehicles and CNG vehicles. 
  • To guide and direct the state pollution control board to assess and install the real-time Ambient Quality Monitoring Systems in 6 months.
  • Assist the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) in designing the source apportionment model and carrying capacity assessment for non-attainment cities within two months.

What are the observations?

  • PM2.5 are not monitored more vigorously due to the need for more equipment. 
  • The analysis was done by the CREA (Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air)
    • Only 38 cities were able to reduce the annual pollution which was targeted,
    • Thirty-seven cities have completed the source apportionment studies (the studies list out and assess the major sources of pollution in the city).
  • Any of these data were available for the public domain, and plans have remained the same with the information from these reports.
  • The CREA estimated that more than 300 manual air quality monitoring stations need to be installed each year to reach the goal of an NCAP of 1500 monitoring stations by 2024.
  • One hundred eighty monitoring stations have been installed in the last four years. 

Is NCAP able to reduce pollution?

  • The NCAP tracker has been monitoring the progress to achieve the clean air target of 2024, which is set under the NCAP.
  • Delhi, the National Capital, was ranked the most polluted city in 2022.
    • The annual average PM2.5 concentration of 99.7 (ug/m3)
    • Its PM2.5 concentration has improved by 7% in comparison with 2019.
  • The top ten most polluted cities in 2022 were all located in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. 
    • All the non-attainment cities of Bihar, Patna, Muzaffarpur, and Gaya were on the list based on PM2.5.
  • Nine out of ten cities on the list of the most polluted cities in 2019 have reduced their PM2.5 and PM10. 
    • Although the level is higher than the safe limit assigned for PM2.5 and PM10 by the CPCB,
  • In 2022, the Centre for Science and Environment report showed that only;y 14 out of 43 (NCAP) cities registered a 10% or more reduction in PM2.5 level between 2019-2021. 

        Only 43 cities were considered; only these cities have adequate data to observe the trend.


  • 21 out of 46 non-NCAP cities showed significant improvement in their annual PM2.5 and PM10.
  • It was observed that both non-NCAP and NCAP are polluted, and NCAP has limited effectiveness.




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