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NCAP should have legal binding, interim milestones: Experts

New Delhi, Nov 27 (PTI) With the Environment Ministry likely to come out with a national action plan to combat pollution next month, experts Tuesday said it was a highly ambitious initiative and all the state and local governments should get involved in the massive task in equal measures.They also said when the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is launched, it should have legal binding and interim milestones.A senior Environment Ministry official had told PTI earlier this month that the NCAP, proposing multiple strategies to combat air pollution, would be launched in December.The key components of the NCAP include specific air pollution abatement action plans for over 100 polluting cities of the country, increasing the number of monitoring stations, data dissemination, public participation in planning and implementation among a host of other measures.Sunil Dahiya, Clean Air Campaigner, Greenpeace India, said it was good to hear that the final version of the NCAP might be released this week but the Environment Ministry's ambition seemed to be reducing, compared to its earlier stand on reduction of pollution levels by 35 per cent in three years and by 50 per cent in five years."It is also important that the NCAP, when announced, should have legal binding and interim milestones. It has taken almost a year since the announcement, the lives of millions and our economy are at stake due to this crisis. We hope the government shows enough seriousness to fight the public health crisis," he said.Professor S Tripathi, heading the Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering in IIT Kanpur, said the NCAP was a highly ambitious initiative and if implemented timely, could make our cities and towns "breathable and the skies blue again"."It is a massive task and all the state and local governments should join it in equal measures for a healthy future generation," he said.Lauri Myllyvirta, Lead Analyst, Greenpeace Global Air Pollution Unit, said in China, strong emission standards for power plants and industries reduced coal consumption and a much strengthened enforcement of regulations achieved an approximately 30 per cent reduction in PM2.5 levels from 2013 to 2017 -- in just four years."It is an excellent sign that India is moving to set meaningful targets to reduce air pollution. Key learnings from China's experience are -- the importance of having an unwavering support from the highest level of leadership, implementing measures to reduce emissions in all key emitting sectors, including power plants, industry, transport, agriculture and households, without delay among others," Myllyvirta said.The other key learnings, Myllyvirta said were addressing pollution at the regional level rather than only in individual cities and investment in clean energy solutions that delivered both a better air quality and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.The Environment Ministry has prepared the draft NCAP with an objective to come up with a comprehensive plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution, and to augment the air quality monitoring network across the country.Various green groups have submitted their recommendations to the ministry on the draft.In February, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan had said the ministry hoped to bring down air pollution in around 100 non-attainment cities by 50 per cent in the next five years under the NCAP.Ashutosh Dikshit, CEO, URJA, said the NCAP came in a series of several such plans and welcome as it was, it would remain an intellectual exercise if steps were not taken to implement it."India is a nation of the young and a whole generation has been facing a silent health crisis. The public needs to see a demonstrable intent from the government which is so far missing."The essence is implementation as well as statutorily recordable mechanisms to monitor the delivery of this massive plan. It will also be important for the states and cities to take ownership and find a way to include air quality management in their plans for the NCAP to be effective," he said.On India's air pollution, Michael H Bergin of the Duke University said the particulate matter concentrations right now were more than 10-fold the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines to protect human health."So, the air is toxic and I think most citizens know that. There is no doubt that the air is also influencing mental health and I am sure that Indian students are having their test scores substantially lowered by the impacts on both physical and mental health."I also think that local trash and refuse burning is a huge source of air pollutants and this needs to be addressed in order to improve the air quality," he said.Bergin maintained that the poor-quality air was ruining several monuments in India, including the Taj Mahal."Worst of all, it is costing roughly USD 1 billion per year in lost solar energy production. So, cleaning the air not only has huge health cost savings but also great benefits to cultural heritage and renewable energy production," he added. PTI TDS RC