CSE releases new report on tracking and reporting air pollution under the National Clean Air Action Plan (NCAP) at ongoing Anil Agarwal Dialogue 2020

Report released by Bhure Lal, chairperson, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) 

Breathing Space: How to track and report air pollution under the National Clean Air Programme asks what is the official method, standard operating procedure and legal requirement for cities to report air quality trends against the NCAP target 

Nimli (Alwar), February 10, 2020: The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) has completed a year, at the end of which 122 non-attainment cities have been asked to reduce particulate pollution by 20-30 per cent by 2024 from 2017 levels – they are expected to achieve an annual reduction of at least 6 per cent per year to meet the target. 

Says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, CSE: “The cities are expected to immediately begin reporting on their annual progress; but for that, they must know the methods and standard operating procedures for such reporting. How will cities know if their pollution levels are rising or declining? This is what our report tries to address.” 

Roychowdhury was speaking at the release of CSE’s new report -- Breathing Space: How to track and report air pollution under the National Clean Air Programme – at the 2020 Anil Agarwal Dialogue and Annual Media Conclave being held in Nimli, near Alwar. The Conclave was inaugurated yesterday by Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot. Today’s report was released by Bhure Lal, chairperson, Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA). 

Roychowdhury adds: “The report reviews global methods and demonstrates their application to Delhi’s real-time data to assess the changes in air quality, and draws lessons for other cities.” 

Currently, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) releases annual average of stations and spatial average for cities based on analysis of only manual monitors. Real-time data is available on its portal, but it is not yet used for legal reporting. As the monitoring network expands for both manual and real-time monitors – says the CSE report -- cities need to know what monitors should be used, how data should be averaged and what geography they should represent. 

While air quality monitoring has begun to expand under the NCAP to address the data deficit, without a methodical system for reporting, the data will remain unusable and cannot drive change in cities. Says Roychowdhury:Given the limitation of missing data, India requires methods for addressing data gaps, as other governments do, to meet the legal requirement of air quality trend reporting and compliance. India has not adopted such methods yet.”  

Highlights of the study 

  • Poor data capture for reporting air quality trends in India: Manual monitors require at least 104 days of monitoring, which is 28.5 per cent of the days in a year. But CSE’s assessment of the latest available manual data for all cities show that as much as 73 per cent of monitoring stations do not meet this requirement. 
  • Growing volume of real-time data accessible on CPCB website, but cannot be used for reporting trends: There is no explicit method for using real-time data – which is lot more continuous and voluminous than manual data – to establish a long term trend. Real-time data is used only for daily reporting of spatial averages against the national air quality index, but that too with a rider that this is the most scientifically sound method. 
  • No official method for compliance reporting by cities/states: Even though monitoring network is expanding, there is no official notification on how cities will use manual and real-time monitors for compliance reporting. 
  • No official method for addressing data gaps for reporting: The Indian monitoring system also faces problems of data gaps -- missing or inaccurate data. Globally, there are established official methods to address data gaps to construct a trend for compliance reporting. India is yet to do that. 
  • Review of global methods and application of that method to Delhi’s real-time database for PM2.5: CSE has examined methodologies for compliance and trend analysis -- especially protocols to address data gaps -- used in the US, Europe, Canada and Australia. The US method was found to be most applicable to address data gaps in India. Based on its global review, CSE has demonstrated how such methods need to be adopted and how their application to Delhi’s real-time data can show the change in air quality during the last decade. 
  • Pollution curve in Delhi is bending, but a much bigger cut needed: Even after a quarter drop, Delhi still needs cut of 65-75 per cent to meet its PM2.5 standards. Multi-sectoral action – closure of power plants and big industry, natural gas transition across sectors, phase-out of old vehicles, reduction in truck numbers, BS-VI fuels and BS-IV standards, and more, has bent the curve, Significantly more disruptive action is needed for clean energy and technology transition, mobility transition and waste management to get the next big cut. 

Says Roychowdhury: “We are also arguing for stronger awareness about the nature and direction of action to drive change more strategically and for effective impact. CSE has carried out a rapid citizen’s perception survey to show that there is a disconnect between growing awareness about the problem of air pollution and the nature of action unfolding to understand what is needed to meet the clean air targets.” 

We need regional action for more sustained improvement in air quality. Establish a legal framework for such intervention.  

CSE’s 2020 Annual Media Conclave and Anil Agarwal Dialogue on the State of India’s Environment (February 9-11, 2020) has brought together some key experts on the subject. To see their presentations, visit www.cseindia.org. 

The Down To Earth State of India’s Environment Annual 2020 is available here on sale: https://csestore.cse.org.in/books/state-of-india-s-environment/soe-2019-in-figures-and-soe-2020-combo-offer.html 

To reach our experts and access other CSE resources, please contact
Sukanya Nair, the CSE Media Resource Centre, at sukanya.nair@cseindia.org, 8816818864.