Clean air plan for Mumbai: Study raises concerns over accountability

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s (MPCB’s) clean air action plan for Mumbai lists 58 measures across 16 different agencies.
The Centre’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) seeks to reduce particulate matter (PM) concentration by 20-30% by 2024.(Reuters file photo)
The Centre’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) seeks to reduce particulate matter (PM) concentration by 20-30% by 2024.(Reuters file photo)
Updated on Jul 01, 2020 11:08 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Mumbai | By

A latest study by think tank Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and air pollution research group Urban Emissions has revealed that the mitigation actions entrusted on multiple state agencies to improve the city’s air quality could fragment accountability.

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s (MPCB’s) clean air action plan for Mumbai lists 58 measures across 16 different agencies. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been accounted for 41% of the activities, while 22% accountability lies with the transport department and the state’s pollution control regulatory body is in-charge of only 20% mitigation actions. The remaining responsibilities have been delineated to the district administrations and urban local bodies.

“Mumbai’s action plan contains information on sources and lists financial requirements for implementations. However, the plan fails to highlight any measures to ensure regional coordination, even though independent estimates suggest that close to a third of the city’s air pollution originates outside city limits,” said Kurinji Selvaraj, research analyst, CEEW.

However, MPCB chairman Sudhir Srivastava said this was not the case.

“Accountability will not be an issue as action plan monitoring committees have been formed for every non-attainment city, which is headed by the municipal commissioner and municipal council head. Committee members include representatives from state agencies. Monthly meetings will help take stock of actions by different stakeholders.”

The Centre’s National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) seeks to reduce particulate matter (PM) concentration by 20-30% by 2024. It identified 18 of 122 non-attainment cities from Maharashtra, the highest across India. Non-attainment cities are those with PM concentration consistently below the national ambient standards. The CEEW-Urban Emissions analysis approved action plans by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for elements responsibility delineation and cost-effectiveness of action plans, among other measures for each city.

The analysis charted out the key components missing from the state’s air action plans, such as none of the 17 approved plans have a legal mandate for implementation, 65% plans had not outlined financial requirements for actions proposed, 70% plans do not include crucial information on air pollution sources and there is no regional coordination mechanism.

Researchers identified key efforts that could help refine action plans and improve accountability.

“Scaling up air pollution monitors, outlining specific tasks for each action point among agencies, fixing sector-wise emission reduction targets and developing a protocol for reporting progress could help meet the rising democratic demand for clean air in Maharashtra,” said Sarath Guttikunda, founder, Urban Emissions.

Srivastava said agencies needed to separately chip in (with resources and funds) for their respective duties assigned as per the plan.

“Dust suppression measures, treatment of construction and demolition waste, open burning of solid waste are all the responsibilities of civic bodies. Traffic management and pollution under control (PUC) checks are looked after by the transport department. Reduction in industrial pollution is MPCB’s outlook. Thus, well-defined targets for each agency will enhance accountability,” he said.

CPCB has published the plans of all non-attainment cities in the state except Thane, the study said.

“The action plan for Thane is ready, and will be sent to the CPCB for approval soon,” said VM Motghare, joint director (air quality), MPCB.


    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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