Delhi may miss this assistance despite figuring among the most polluted cities in the country as the fund would only be meant for ‘million plus’ population cities in states.
The national capital, will, however continue to get support from the National Clean Air Programme (pollution control scheme) of the environment ministry and other schemes of the agriculture ministry to deal with stubble-burning.
Under the pollution control scheme, the environment ministry has, however, been allocated just Rs 460 crore for 122 ‘non-attainment’ cities across the country. Non-attainment cities are those which do not meet the national ambient air quality standards.
At Rs 488 crore, share of Mumbai local body will be higher than the total money (Rs 460 crore) earmarked for the entire NCAP of the environment ministry. Besides NCAP, the Centre has in its budget for 2020-21 allocated Rs 4,400 crore to the urban development ministry for taking up clean air measures in ‘million plus’ cities.
The break-up of financial assistance for these cities is recommended by the 15th Finance Commission. Forty-two of 50 such cities in states will get assistance from the fund. Remaining eight cities are kept out of its ambit as air quality is not a major issue there.
Noting the critical issue of air pollution in Delhi-NCR, the Commission recommended the Centre to constitute a committee, consisting of ministries of finance, environment and agriculture, state governments of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, to “devise, implement and monitor a time-bound action plan for pollution mitigation”.
After Mumbai, the second highest amount from the urban development ministry’s fund will be allocated to Kolkata (Rs 385 crore), followed by Bengaluru (Rs 279 crore), Hyderabad (Rs 234 crore) and Patna (Rs 204 crore).
Half of the earmarked assistance will, however, be given to these cities based on their performance in year-on-year improvement in air quality. “The environment ministry will soon publish benchmarks for this purpose,” said an official, adding the performance related grant will be based on improvement in average annual concentrations of both PM 10 and PM2.5 (equal weightage of 50%) as calculated in January 2021.
The environment ministry had launched NCAP in January last year and set a mid-term (five-year) target to reduce air pollution by 20-30% by 2024, taking 2017 as base year.
The first instalment to the cities from Rs 4,400 crore fund will be used for taking multiple air quality improvement measures, including capacity- building of local bodies.