Breathe India, a Niti Aayog action plan to fight air pollution
Highlighting that five most polluted cities of the world are in India, Niti Aayog has proposed a 15-point formula to combat air pollution. Titled, Breathe India, the Niti Aayog action plan seeks "concerted action from all levels of governance". It has cited a WHO report to state that Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Varanasi and Patna are most polluted cities in the world.
The report further says that nine out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, which causes almost seven million deaths a year. The 15-point formula includes measures like replacing all petrol-diesel vehicles in use at government offices by electric and hybrid vehicles, streamlining power plants, encouraging solar panels on rooftops and feebat schemes.
How Niti Aayog wants India to fight air pollution: 7 points
- Niti Aayog's draft plan says that government should increase focus on electric and hybrid vehicles. The procurement of electric vehicles (EVs) should be mandatory for vehicles for central government use and certain public facilities. All central government offices should replace existing fleets older than 15 years to electric vehicles in the next three years, that is, by April, 2021.
- The report underscores the need to enact strong measures to curb vehicular emissions. "Prohibit transition traffic in these cities and phase out private diesel vehicles by 2022," it says.
- Niti Aayog has suggested a carrot-and-stick policy towards air pollution adopted in many European countries including the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and France. It has called for implementing a large scale feebate programme beginning 2020. A feebate is a policy that entails levying a surcharge or fee on inefficient or polluting vehicles and giving a rebate on efficient ones.
- Niti Aayog has favoured setting up smog-free towers in cities for providing quick relief from sudden spike in air pollution. Delhi saw a sudden deterioration of air quality last month. It was caused by a ground-level dust storm in Western India. Every year, air quality of Delhi plummets to very poor levels during winter season. Smog-free towers are, Niti Aayog says, an innovative technological solution deployed across Europe, which cleans the polluted air in an area around it.
- Construction dust is a major contributor to pollutants in air in expanding cities. In Delhi, the share of construction dust goes upto 45 per cent of all pollutants. To deal with this situation, Niti Aayog has asked the government to enforce use of ready-made concrete. Many Chinese construction firms are using ready-made concrete to minimise environmental impacts of building activities.
- The public policy think tank has recommended strategic decommissioning of inefficient power plants, primarily running on coal. It says that old and inefficient power plants contribute heavily to air pollution. These plants should be decommissioned and replaced by efficient super-thermal plants or with power generators that are based on renewable energy.
- The draft plan has suggested the government to give a push to rooftop solar panel power generators. Niti Aayog has recommended simplification of rules, regulations and leasing policy for operations and called for power distribution reforms. It says that the increasing solar power generation is a critical measure that needs to be adopted in order to reduce air pollution.