Government submits Maharashta plan to breathe easy
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has submitted air pollution mitigation plans for 17 cities in the state four months after the deadline, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) said.
The suggested measures include adopting the most advanced emission standard for automobiles, daily pollution checks for vehicles and increasing the tree cover.
If approved by the CPCB, it will be implemented immediately in Mumbai and Aurangabad before being replicated in the other cities.
The 850-page document looks at sector-wise pollution sources for 17 cities, the highest number for any state in India.
“MPCB submitted a comprehensive action plan earlier this week, which identifies the major sources of air pollution across 17 cities, a timeline for 25% reduction for each source through mitigation measures by 2022. The agencies required to take action for each source have also been listed with individual responsibilities and time-bound targets,” said VK Shukla, in charge of air quality management, CPCB, and one of the scientists who developed the National Clean Air Action Plan, released by the Union environment ministry in January.
The action plan suggests swift adoption of Bharat Stage VI (most advanced emission standard for automobiles), implementation of carpooling, electric buses for office complexes with more than 100 employees, and daily pollution checks for vehicles.
“On ground execution of the action plan has begun with meetings already completed with the state transport secretary and Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) commissioner addressing vehicular pollution and construction dust. We will make Mumbai and Aurangabad model cities to implement the plan and replicate it across the remaining 15,” said E Ravindran, member secretary, MPCB.
CPCB, which is part of a committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) earlier this year, is expected to review the plan submitted by the MPCB this month. “If they [the action plans] are approved, CPCB will ask the state board to implement them immediately,” Shukla said.
According to the action plan, half of the pollution in the 17 cities is attributed to vehicular pollution (30%) to construction activity (20%). The remaining 50% comprises industrial emissions, cement batching plants, biomass burning (residential and open), the contribution of aviation, shipping, open waste burning and windblown dust from dry and arid regions.
“Keeping these sources in mind, the action plan suggests targets for reducing pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), sulphur dioxide (Sox) and nitrogen dioxide (Nox) below or at least at par with CPCB safe standards by 2022,” said Ravindran.
He said reducing vehicular pollution and biomass burning were priorities along with making stringent norms to mitigate point source emissions from industries, factories and cement plants.
Other measures include increasing tree and vegetation cover near industries and open spaces, treating domestic waste at source, allocating sparsely-populated areas for construction waste dumping and processing, auditing all newly-constructed and under-construction sites across 17 cities.
Experts said the development was encouraging but along with agencies, citizen participation is important.
“It is high time that state governments begin implementing city and region-based clean air action plans for an effective reduction in pollution,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi.