Budget 2020: Nirmala Sitharaman allocates Rs 4400 cr for clean air

Nirmala Sitharaman said India’s commitment towards tackling climate change made at Paris conference will begin from January 1, 2021.
Many of India’s coal-fired power plants are highly polluting.(HT Photo)
Many of India’s coal-fired power plants are highly polluting.(HT Photo)
Updated on Feb 01, 2020 01:29 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByHT Correspondent

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharama in her Budget speech on Saturday read out a riot act to polluting power plants warning them that they would be shut down if they exceed pollution norms and announced a huge allocation for states to fight toxic air.

“Clean air is a matter of concern in large cities. I propose to encourage states to formulate and implement plans to ensure clean air. Allocation for this purpose is Rs 4,400 crores,” she said

She said India’s commitment towards tackling climate change made at Paris conference will begin from January 1, 2021.

Last month, Greenpeace India which surveyed 287 cities in the country said in its Airpocalypse-IV report that Lunglei is also the only Indian city with particulate matter (PM) levels under the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) prescribed level of 20/ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter).

Six of India’s 10 most polluted cities - Noida, Ghaziabad, Bareilly, Allahabad, Moradabad and Firozabad - are in Uttar Pradesh, according to the report. The coal town of Jharia in Jharkhand is India’s most polluted city and closely followed by Dhanbad in the same state.

The 287 cities surveyed had reported more than 52 monitoring days’ data in 2018 during which air pollution exceeded the national ambient air quality safety standards of 60 microgrammes per cubic metre (µg/m3) for the concentration of PM10 (particles less than 10 microns suspended in the air, which can cause ailments).

The Centre’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), launched last year, provides a roadmap to prevent, control, and reduce unhealthy air pollution. The NCAP will expand the national air quality monitoring network, build capacity for air pollution management, and strengthen public awareness about the dangers of air pollution. It is a time-bound, national strategy to bring down levels of deadly particle air pollution (PM 2.5 and PM 10) by 20-30% by 2024 (compared to 2017 levels). The clean air programme was initially launched as a five-year action plan, but it may be further extended after a mid-term review of the outcomes.

Thermal power plants, mostly fired by coal, spew particulate matter and oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, which produce secondary particulate matter. They also produce greenhouse gases that disrupt climatic patterns.

In 2015, the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change notified stricter standards for thermal power plants that use coal, and these had to be met by December 2017. But most existing thermal power plants did not meet the standards following which they were granted extensions, some of which stretch to 2022.

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