Breathing Space

February 10, 2020

How to Track and  Report Air Pollution Under the National Clean Air Programme

We have asked a few simple but fundamental questions in this policy paper. If cities have to report compliance with targets set under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)—seeking 20–30 per cent reduction in particulate pollution by 2024—what method(s) will regulators use to assess and report air quality trends to establish whether pollution levels are rising or declining? How will they determine if cities are on track to meet the NCAP targets or the larger National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)?

It is important to ask these questions not only because the current reporting system is weak and nebulous, but also because the manual and real-time monitoring network in India has expanded and will continue to expand. Without officially defined methods and analytics, how can cities decide if they need to average out data from all stations, or focus on the worst locations, or identify primary monitors for trend reporting to represent entire cities and airsheds? How can cities leverage and use manual and real-time data for trend reporting? What should be the criterion for minimum data availability at stations? How do we address gaps if data availability falls short of the benchmark? How do we bake the answers to these questions into legal and regulatory frameworks? India needs to answer these questions—and fast—because each set of answers will take India down a different methodological trajectory.

Globally, many governments have codified extensive rules for air quality trend and compliance reporting. As an example, and to start the conversation, we have applied the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) method (which is the most elaborate method to date) to Delhi’s long-term real-time air quality data.

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