CSTEP to help deal with air pollution

Enters into MoU with BBMP and KSPCB for efficient implementation of National Clean Air Programme

Bumper-to-bumper traffic, major road and other civic works taken up simultaneously have often seen the city turn into a dust bowl. Air pollution continues to be dangerously high despite widespread improvement in air quality during 2019 and 2020.

Now, under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) action plan for 120 cities, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) for efficient implementation of the programme.

CSTEP has been picked as an Institute of Repute (IoR) to work with Urban Local Bodies and State Pollution Control Boards. The recent development comes as the ‘World Air Quality Report, 2020’ compiled by IQAir has revealed that Bengaluru’s pollution levels were above the WHO prescribed limit in 46.7% of the days. The city’s annual average stands at 27.5 µg/m3, nearly three times the prescribed limit.

As part of the initiative, CSTEP will refine and help implement KSPCB’s 44-point action plan, involving nine government departments and divided into ‘short-term, mid-term and long-term’ plans. The plan, which was submitted to the Union government had not been approved. Officials said the KSPCB had been asked to explain what it meant by ‘long’ and ‘short’ term, and to send timelines. Later, they submitted a revised plan.

BBMP Special Commissioner (SWM) D. Randeep said the three-way MoU is a “purely non-financial technical support MoU”, wherein the IoR will help with implementation of the programme. “This is a time-bound programme. Apart from cleaning the streets, we also want to install air pollution monitors across the city, which will help us intervene in the right places with air mitigation efforts. We are also looking at a central command centre for BBMP,” he said.

Last year, it was revealed that an action plan for nine projects amounting to ₹279 crore and aimed towards reducing air pollution has been drawn up by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Action Plan Committee. Some of the projects including improving pedestrian facilities, using water sprayers and mechanical street-sweeping machines to tackle dust pollution, making urban spaces more green and keeping a check on open-air burning of municipal waste. The projects are being funded by the Centre under the Urban Local Body grant as recommended by the 15th Finance Commission.

In the first instalment, the Union government has released ₹2,200 crore, of which ₹139.5 crore has been sanctioned to Karnataka and transferred to the BBMP.

Pratima Singh, research scientist who leads the Air Pollution domain at CSTEP, told The Hindu that the NCAP, launched in 2019, is envisaged as a collaborative, cross-sectoral and multi-stakeholder programme to tackle air pollution, and an Institute of Repute (IoR) will function as a technical partner and provide technical assistance to the ULB and SPCB.

“CSTEP will provide knowledge, advice and performance assessment, among others to BBMP and KSPCB. The BBMP’s action strategy includes procurement of mechanical sweepers, improvement of road infrastructure to reduce traffic congestion, and installation of water fountains at traffic junctions, and they have initiated work on this. Going forward, we will be preparing a more extensive action plan and implementation strategies for the city,” she said. The CSTEP has been working on similar plans for 80 cities, including Davangere and Kalaburagi in Karnataka.

Pollution arising out of transportation is a big challenge in major cities, she said. “More public transportation infrastructure is needed, which is not petrol and diesel driven. Dust is another major concern – arising out of roads, construction and demolition. Road dust reduction strategies, like end-to-end road pavement and covering the mud or soil on dividers with plants, are some of the measures that can be looked into,” she added.

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