Maharashtra has spent only a third of NCAP funds
Official data also points to the underutilisation of funds obtained by Maharashtra at the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission. Maharashtra has been allotted a total of ₹2,981 crore specifically to address air pollution in the state’s ‘non-attainment’ cities
Mumbai: Maharashtra had utilised only about 31% of the funds it received under the Centre’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), as of December 2022. This is according to data obtained from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) by independent experts under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and shared with Hindustan Times.
A total of ₹29.92 crore has been spent so far across 17 non-attainment cities, leaving an unspent balance of ₹66 crore. The majority of the funds have been spent in Mumbai and Pune, largely on source apportionment studies, and local action like street-sweeping and water sprinkling in dust-prone areas. The least amount of funds was spent in Kolhapur and Solapur.
VM Motghare, joint director (air), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), did not respond to requests for comment on the slow pace of fund utilisation, four years into the Programme’s launch. Pravin Darade, Maharashtra’s environment secretary and member secretary, MPCB, also did not respond to requests for comment.
The unspent balance is currently lying with 17 urban local bodies (ULBs), which are expected to take the lead on bolstering city-level action against air pollution, with a focus on measures like dust mitigation, traffic regulation, waste management and so on. NCAP does not have a legal mandate but aims to achieve a 20% to 30% reduction in PM 2.5 (respirable pollution particles) concentrations over 2017 levels in over 100 cities by 2024.
Official data also points to the underutilisation of funds obtained by Maharashtra at the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission. Maharashtra has been allotted a total of ₹2,981 crore specifically to address air pollution in the state’s ‘non-attainment’ cities, meaning those where pollution levels did not meet the prescribed standards as per the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for at least five years.
The funds are to be utilised by the end of the financial year 2026. Of the ₹2,773 crore which the state government plans to spend by the end of FY 2025, 80% (or ₹2,218 crore) is proposed to be spent on the EV Policy, primarily on electrifying bus fleets in major urban clusters. Of this amount, the state had received ₹1234.34 crore at the end of FY22, but had spent just ₹8.85 crore.
“There has been an increase in utilisation of the XVFC funds over the last year, but the full expense will come to light after data from all the various ULBs have been collated next month,” said an MPCB official privy to the development. They did not, however, clarify whether any of the XVFC funds have indeed been used to electricity the state’s bus fleet.
Despite requests, transport department officials -- including state transport commissioner Vivek Bhimanwar -- did not respond to requests seeking clarity on the use of clean air funds to procure electric buses. Late last year, the Asian Development Bank approved a loan of around ₹2,900 crore to the state for the procurement of at least 5,000 electric buses.
In Mumbai, where at least 400 e-buses are already operational, the BEST will add around 2,100 e-buses to its fleet, at a cost of about is ₹3,675 crore.
The balance of ₹555 crore that remains of the XVFC funds is proposed to be spent on local interventions, such as increasing Maharashtra’s air quality monitoring network (3%), implementing dust control measures (8%), and regulating construction (4%), industries (2%), bakeries and crematoria (3%).