National Clean Air Programme: Five Years and the Road Ahead

India’s battle against air pollution has taken center stage with the completion of five years of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). Launched in 2019, the NCAP aimed to tackle air pollution in 131 non-attainment cities (NACs) by 2024. While the journey has been marked by both progress and challenges, understanding the program’s achievements and remaining hurdles is crucial for India’s fight for cleaner air.

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

  •         Goal: Reduce PM2.5 and PM10 levels by 20-30% by 2024 in non-attainment cities.
  •         Revised Target: Achieve 40% reduction by 2026.
  •         Focus: Industries, vehicles, construction, waste burning, etc.
  •         Strategies: Emission standards, fuel upgrades, public awareness, green spaces, etc.

Non-Attainment Cities (NACs)

  •         Cities exceeding National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5 and/or PM10.
  •         Categorized based on the severity of pollution (moderately polluted, critically polluted, severely polluted).

Difference between PM2.5 and PM10

PM2.5 PM10
Fine particulate matter Coarse particulate matter
Diameter: 2.5 microns or less Diameter: 10 microns or less
Health Risks: Significant Health Risks: Harmful, but less dangerous
Penetration: Deep into lungs Impact: Less severe penetration

Five Years of the National Clean Air Programme

A recent report by Respirer Living Sciences and Climate Trends analyzed the NCAP’s progress:

  • Mixed Results: 27 out of 49 cities showed improvement in PM2.5 levels, while 24 out of 46 cities saw progress in PM10 levels.
  • Positive Examples: Varanasi, Agra, Jodhpur, and Talcher witnessed significant reductions in particulate matter concentrations.
  • Challenges Remain: Several cities, including Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi, still struggle to meet NCAP targets.
  • Funding Issues: Delays in fund disbursement to NACs hinder program implementation.

Important Facts for UPSC CSE Preparation

  • NCAP is a flagship program under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • Air pollution is a major public health concern in India, contributing to respiratory illnesses, heart diseases, and premature deaths.
  • UPSC CSE syllabus includes Environmental Pollution and Mitigation Strategies, requiring candidates to understand programs like NCAP.
  •  Analyzing the report’s findings helps assess the effectiveness of NCAP and identify areas for improvement.
  •  Understanding the challenges and complexities of air pollution control is crucial for informed decision-making.


While the NCAP has shown promise in some cities, the battle against air pollution requires sustained efforts and innovative solutions. Addressing challenges like funding gaps, strengthening enforcement mechanisms, and promoting public participation will be crucial for India to achieve its clean air goals. By understanding the progress, challenges, and future directions of NCAP, UPSC CSE aspirants can gain valuable insights into this critical environmental issue.

Additional Resources:

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC): https://moef.gov.in/moef/index.html

Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB): https://cpcb.nic.in/

Respirer Living Sciences: https://www.respirer.in/

Climate Trends: https://climatetrends.in/

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