India’s Clean Air Program Completes 4 Years – Fails to Keep Pollution in Control

Among the non-attainment cities, the national capital, Delhi, has been ranked as the most polluted city in 2022.

Climate Change
3 min read
Hindi Female

On 10 January 2023, India's National Clean Air Program (NCAP) completed four years. Since its launch over Rs ₹6897.06, crores have been released to 131 cities for air pollution management measures.

Data shows that some of the top polluted cities in 2019 have marginally improved their pollution levels but continue to breach the Central Pollution Control Board’s safe limits, whereas most of the least polluted cities have seen increased levels of pollution.


In 2019, the NCAP set a target of reducing ultra-fine particulate matter levels in non-attainment cities by 20-30 per cent by 2022. This target was moved forward by the Union government in September 2022, to a 40 per cent reduction of pollution levels by 2026.

However, even in 2022, pollution levels in non-attainment cities remained much higher than the Central Pollution Control Board's (CPCB) annual average safe limits.


Top 10 Most Polluted Cities Found in North India

The program was launched in 2019 in 102 Non-Attainment cities which had failed to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) during the periods of 2011-2015.

Since the establishment of the NCAP, 131 cities have been added to the list of non-attainment cities, due to their failure to meet the NAAQS under the the National Air Quality Monitoring Program (NAMP).

As of 2022, some of the top polluted cities from 2019 have seen a marginal improvement in both PM2.5 and PM10 levels.

Among the non-attainment cities, the national capital, Delhi, has been ranked as the most polluted city in 2022.

However, as compared to the annual average PM2.5 levels of 2019, Delhi has seen a 7 per cent improvement in the last 4 years.

Most cities ranked in the top ten most polluted list in 2022 are found in the Indo-Gangetic plain according to the NCAP tracker. All three of Bihar's non-attainment cities--Patna, Muzaffarpur and Gaya, can be found in the top ten most polluted list.

"Real and long-term solutions lie in an airshed approach to address the need for better air pollution management in the region beyond Delhi. It also reiterates the need to check pollution at source to obtain maximum benefit from pollution mitigation efforts," the report said.

Despite the improvement in both PM2.5 and PM10 levels that these cities have shown since 2019, five cities have continued to feature on the list in 2022-- – Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad, Jodhpur and Mandi Gobindgarh.

"Even today, air quality across cities in north India remains very poor to severe. The top four cities with the highest PM2.5 are Delhi and NCR cities and the top 9 are from across the Indo-Gangetic plains. The results are unsurprising, but on detailed examination also bust myths and show that coastal cities like Mumbai are equally affected by air pollution."
Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends

9 Out of 10 of the Least Polluted Cities Breach PM10 Limit

In contrast to the most polluted cities, the list for the top ten least polluted cities in 2022 is visibly more diverse. The cleanest cities with the lowest concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 are Srinagar and Kohima respectively.

Despite being on the list of cleanest cities amongst those under non-attainment, 9 out of 10 cities on the list still breached the CPCB's annual permissible limit for PM10, showing that the air quality in the least polluted cities is still not safe to breath.

"The trend of the most polluted showing improvement and cleanest/least polluted cities showing deterioration holds true for PM2.5 pollutants too, which shows that more vigilance and implementing action plans in the most polluted cities which are monitored is showing results and less vigilance of cleaner cities is making them worse.”
Ronak Sutaria, Founder and CEO, Respirer Living Sciences

Mumbai was ranked as the seventh least polluted city in 2019, however, as of 2022, it is ranked as the twenty-third most polluted city.

Mumbai has seen an improvement in air quality monitoring since 2019, when there were only nine Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS). In 2022, Mumbai has twenty operational CAAQMS.

While many of the rankings on the most polluted cities list have remained relatively constant, the least polluted cities from 2019 have seen a deterioration in air quality in the last four years.

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Topics:  Air Pollution   Pollution   Climate Change 

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