Failing to get approval for the action plan to control air pollution in Bengaluru, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has submitted a revised plan.
The KSPCB had earlier submitted a 44-point action plan involving nine government departments and divided into ‘short-term, mid-term and long-term’ plans. This was following a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order to make action plans for four ‘non-attainment cities’ — urban areas with air quality worse than prescribed standards — Bengaluru, Hubballi–Dharwad, Davangere, and Kalaburagi. The plan include promotion of battery-operated vehicles, induction of electric buses, clearing dust and silt from major roads, a drive against polluting vehicles, and creation of a ‘green buffer’ along traffic corridors.
KSPCB officials said that the plan had not been approved as it was ‘sketchy’ and needed details. “It has been revised as advised by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and submitted,” said an official.
Officials said the KSPCB had been asked to explain what it meant by ‘long’ and ‘short’ term, and to send timelines.
‘Plan lacks vision’
A press statement from the Healthy Air Coalition, a joint initiative of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and St. John’s Research Institute, said Bengaluru is one among the 10 cities for whom approvals are pending.
“The draft action plan published by the KSPCB lacks a vision for clean air. It neither has an ambition to target percentage reduction in pollution nor does it aim for time-bound measures to curb various sources responsible for air pollution. What is more worrying is the fact that it requires multi-tier coordination across departments and administrative divisions. There is no clarity on the accountability mechanism for the list of actions mentioned under the plan,” it said.
In the statement, Dr. Bharath Reddy, Director of a private children’s hospital and Child Health Emerging Leader of International Paediatric Association (IPA), cited ‘a surge in the number of cases’ of asthma and allergy from certain parts of the city, including Whitefield and Inner Ring Road.
“It is important for the clean air plan to have a public health approach to tackling poor air quality, and identify hot spots and sensitive zones in the city where schools and hospitals are located, and to design zone-wise action with the help of health advisories,” he said.
Call for consultation
The Healthy Air Coalition has called for a consultative process that would allow all stakeholders a say.
Prof. Ashish Verma from the Indian Institute of Science was quoted as saying that the current action plan of KSPCB is more like a ‘laundry list’ lacking in “clear understanding of causality, holistic approach, clear assessment of possible impacts, and fixation of accountability in case the set targets are not met.”
Aishwarya Sudhir, Air Quality, Programme lead, HEAL, said it is a welcome move by the CPCB to revise the city’s action plan. “Prior to the process, we would like to urge KSPCB to open up the draft action plan for public consultation and comments. The city is reeling under a severe air quality crisis owing to rampant expansion of road works and Namma Metro. It is crucial that we arrive with a coherent and, most importantly, an implementable action plan for clean air,” she said.