QUESTION : Critically evaluate the performance of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) and challenges before it in tackling the air pollution.
Tackling Air Pollution
WHY IN NEWS ?
Recently, the finance Minister announced a ₹4,400 crore package for 2020-21 to tackle air pollution in 102 of India’s most polluted cities. The funds would be used to reduce particulate matter by 20%-30% from 2017 levels by 2024 under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
KEY STATISTICS :
- India accounts for two-thirds of the world’s most polluted cities — 21 of the most polluted 30 cities; 14 of the highest 20; and 6 of the highest 10 — in the 2019 World Air Quality Report released by the pollution tracker AQI and Greenpeace. The ranking is based on a comparison of PM2.5 levels. Among countries, when population is taken into account, average PM2.5 pollution is highest in Bangladesh, followed by Pakistan, while India is at number 5.
- Globally some 9 million premature deaths a year are associated with air pollutants, such as fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5. Regrettably, 14 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in India. The air in Ghaziabad, Delhi, and Noida is particularly hazardous. Last year, a public health emergency was declared as post-Diwali New Delhi’s air quality index approached 500, the “severe plus emergency” category.
- Inadequate allocation:
Though it was the largest-ever yearly allocation by a government to specifically tackle air pollution, only half the money was finally allotted to 15 States till now.
o The rest will be given in January based on how cities achieve certain ‘performance parameters’ that are still being worked out by the Centre.
- Air quality monitors:
Several of the States with the most polluted cities that have been allotted NCAP funds are expected to spend a substantial fraction in the act of measurement.
o Only Delhi has managed to firmly install an extensive network of continuous ambient air quality monitors managed by several government or allied bodies.
o It has also managed to conduct source apportionment studies and now has the minimum data to determine the degree of pollution that is contributed by its internal sources (construction, road dust, vehicle movement) and that brought on from external sources such as stubble burning.
o Lack of data: An analysis by research agencies Carbon Copy and Respirer Living Sciences recently found that only 59 out of 122 cities had PM 2.5 data available.
- Old machines:
Historically, cites have used manual machines to measure specific pollutants and their use has been inadequate.
o Now manual machines are being replaced by automatic ones and India is still largely reliant on imported machines though efforts are underway to make and install low-cost ones.
- Pollution cleaning up:
Funds for pollution clean-up activities and mechanical street sweepers are less. Therefore budgetary allocations alone don’t reflect the true cost of stemming air pollution.
- Improper imposition:
o In the case of the National Capital Region, at least ₹600 crore was spent by the Ministry of Agriculture over two years to provide subsidised equipment to farmers in Punjab and Haryana and dissuade them from burning paddy straw.
o Yet this year, there have been more farm fires than the previous year and their contribution to Delhi’s winter air woes remain unchanged.
NATIONAL CLEAN AIR PROGRAMME (NCAP) :
The NCAP is a programme of the Union Environment Ministry to reduce pollution by at least 20% in 102 cities(2017 level).
- The tentative national level target of 20%–30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024 is proposed under the NCAP taking 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.
- To augment and evolve effective and proficient ambient air quality monitoring network across the country for ensuring comprehensive and reliable database
- To have efficient data dissemination and public outreach mechanism for timely measures for prevention and mitigation of air pollution and for inclusive public participation in both planning and implementation of the programmes and policies of government on air pollution
- To have a feasible management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
NATIONAL AIR QUALITY INDEX (AQI) :
- The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells how clean or polluted the air is.
- The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health Concern.
- Research studies have attributed the key sources of PM2.5 in summer to be: dust and construction activities (35%), transport sector (20%) and industry (20%).
- Would measure
- Particulate Matter 2.5
- Carbon monoxide
- Nitrogen oxide
- Sulpher dioxide
- PM 10
WHAT IS PM2.5?
Includes pollutants, such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon, which pose the greatest risks to human health.
- PM2.5 is a particulate matter in the atmosphere that has a diameter of 2.5 micrometres, which is around three per cent the diameter of a human hair.
- These particulate matters reduce visibility and even cause respiratory problems.
- Owing to its small size, it can easily pass through a person’s nose and throat and cause chronic diseases such as asthma, heart attack, bronchitis and other respiratory problems by making way the circulatory system.
WAY FORWARD :
Collaborative, Multi-scale and Cross-sectoral Coordination between relevant Central Ministries, State Government and local bodies.
- Focus on no Regret Measures, Participatory and Disciplined approach
- As India begins to direct resources towards addressing the post-pandemic economic crisis, policymakers should display political and economic commitment towards addressing the multi-dimensional impact of air pollution.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has only emphasised the need to proactively invest in public healthcare and resilient development.
- The air pollution crisis will require innovative, collaborative solutions from public, private, and civil society stakeholders.
- Institutions, governments, philanthropies, and members of the academe have been fighting the battle for clean air for decades; it is time to tap into the power of a multi-stakeholder framework to hurdle this challenge.
- The ORF programme is an effort to mainstream conversations on the issue of air pollution, and influence public discourse on improving the air quality in the country in post-Covid era.
The funds don’t account for the trained manpower and the support system necessary to effectively maintain the systems and these costs are likely to be significant. While funds are critical, proper enforcement, adequate staff and stemming the sources of pollution on the ground are vital to the NCAP meeting its target.
QUESTION : Considering Act East Policy of India highlight the areas of concern in India-Bangladesh and India-Vietnam relationship and measures to improve them.
What India can learn from Vietnam-Bangladesh growing trade
WHY IN NEWS ?
Bangladesh has become the second largest apparel exporter after China, while Vietnam’s exports have grown by about 240% in the past eight years.
VIETNAM’S SUCCESS STORY – REASONS :
- A less inexpensive workforce
- Open trade policy mainly through Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) which ensure that its important trading partners like the U.S., the EU, China, Japan, South Korea and India do not charge import duties on products made in Vietnam
- Domestic laws modified to attract foreign firms: Foreign firms can compete for local businesses. For example, EU firms can open shops, enter the retail trade, and bid for both government and private sector tenders. They can take part in electricity, real estate, hospital, defence, and railways projects.
- FDI linked export strategy: In 2019-20, Vietnam received investments exceeding $16 billion. As a result, Vietnam’s exports rose from $83.5 billion in 2010 to $279 billion in 2019.
SUCCESS STORY OF B’DESH :
- In Bangladesh, large export of apparels to the EU and the U.S. make the most of the country’s export story.
- The EU allows the import of apparel and other products from least developed countries (LDCs) like Bangladesh duty-free.
- India, as a good neighbour, accepts all Bangladesh products duty-free (except alcohol and tobacco).
- Sadly, Bangladesh may not have such advantages in four to seven years as its per capita income rises and it loses the LDC status. Bangladesh is working smartly to diversify its export basket.
ELEMENTS OF BOTH COUNTRIES’ MODELS CAN INDIA EMULATE :
- Supporting Large firms: The key learning from Bangladesh is the need to support large firms for a quick turnover. Large firms are better positioned to invest in brand building, meeting quality requirements, and marketing. Small firms begin as suppliers to large firms and eventually grow.
- Focus on Specific Sectors to kick start trade: Vietnam has changed domestic rules to meet the needs of investors. Most of Vietnam’s exports happen in five sectors which has helped increase its growth in trade. In contrast, India’s exports are more diversified which are slow to grow but nevertheless provides resilience to global shocks in long term.
Vulnerabilities in Vietnam’s growth model
- High export to GDP ratio (EGR). Vietnam’s EGR is 107%. Such high dependence on exports brings dollars but also makes a country vulnerable to global economic uncertainty.
- The EGR of large economies/exporting countries is a much smaller number. The U.S.’s EGR is 11.7%, Japan’s is 18.5%, India’s is 18.7%. Even for China, with all its trade problems, the EGR is 18.4%
- Lack of Organic economic growth: The quick build-up of exports in Vietnam resulted from large MNC investments. But most of its electronics exports are just the final assembly of goods produced elsewhere. In such cases, national exports look large, but the net dollar gain is small
- For India, the focus is on organic economic growth through innovation and competitiveness.
- With reforms promoting innovation and lowering the cost of doing business, India is poised to attract the best investments and integrate further with the global economy