New global review of regulatory approaches to implement regional action released India needs to adopt a regional air quality management framework as cities alone cannot meet their clean air

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New global review of regulatory approaches to implement regional action released India needs to adopt a regional air quality management framework as cities alone cannot meet their clean air

New global review of regulatory approaches to implement regional action released
India needs to adopt a regional air quality management framework as cities alone cannot meet their clean air targets if the regional influence of the airshed is not minimised, the CSE emphasised in the review.

Milan Sharma {indiatoday.in/magazine}
New Delhi

On the occasion of the UN International Day of Clean Air for the blue sky, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has warned that air has no boundaries – because of this, clean air action plans that draw hard boundaries around cities for the clean-up job are failing to address the major pollution sources in the larger orbit. They are fighting a losing battle, even as pollution from the larger airshed continues to invade and undermine local efforts.

The airshed concept is when states need to recognise that they share a common air space and that they need to minimise the effect of air pollution spreading from one space into another.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director for research and advocacy at the CSE, said, “The science of the regional influence of pollution has begun to take shape in India. The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) has taken on board the principle of regional air quality management.”

“But there is no regulatory framework to enable multi-jurisdiction management for aligned action and to establish the upwind and downwind responsibilities of state governments to improve regional air quality. The deadly winter smog that wraps the entire Indo-Gangetic plain every year is a lasting reminder of this regulatory gap,” she added.
ndia’s NCAP has recognised the idea of a regional approach and inter-state coordination. It mentions that a comprehensive regional plan needs to be formulated incorporating input from regional source apportionment studies.
It has listed a series of measures that will cut across multiple jurisdictions and are regional in nature. These include the implementation of policies related to transport, like stringent norms for fuel and vehicles, a shift from road to rail, waterways, fleet modernisation, electric vehicle policies, clean fuels, bye-passes, taxation policies, etc.

Industrial sector measures include stringent industrial standards, clean fuels, clean technology, enforcement, and continuous monitoring.

All these measures need enhanced LPG penetration and control of agricultural burning and regional level inter-state coordination, specifically for the Indo-Gangetic plains. But while the idea has been taken on board, the framework for formal adoption of integrated management of airsheds is not yet in place.

Such an approach has a legal underpinning. This framework requires a clear portrayal of the region for aligned and coordinated action. This in itself is challenging, as the scientifically delineated airshed may have several administrative and political overlaps in the real world and may be an obstacle to establishing a legal framework to align regional action and responsibilities within a delineated zone. This will require an operative framework.

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“Technically, identification of critically polluted areas is permitted within the existing provision of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, that can be leveraged for the purpose of airshed management,” said Roychowdhury.

“But this is currently applied with a very narrow scope to only the industrial areas. This can be expanded to cover a larger region on the principle of airshed-based action,” added Roychowdhury.

Such a precedent has not been set at an executive level in India yet. Only the public movement, judicial intervention and the subsequent setting up of the air commission for the Delhi-NCR and beyond have established the principle of a regional approach and integrated planning by encompassing Delhi and sub-regions of three other states in the NCR region. This is an experiment that needs to be leveraged to create a framework.

“This is needed to establish upwind and downwind movement of pollution and its effect and how this science can inform regional action and planning. This will also require strong science to assess and model air quality transport within a region, identify region-wide pollution sources, the impact of atmospheric conditions and factors on a local build-up of pollution and regional transport to understand the down-wind and up-wind character of the pollution movement, among others. This science is in a very nascent stage in India though some valuable shreds of evidence have begun to emerge,” emphasised Roychowdhury.

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