The coronavirus lockdown helped achieve 95% of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) targets for 2024 in just 74 days in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, according to a CarbonCopy and Respirer Living Sciences analysis of CPCB AQI data.
In a bid to improve the air quality, the National Clean Air Programme was proposed in 2019 with an aim to reduce particulate matter, which is too small to be filtered out of the body, by 20-30 per cent by 2024.
Researchers analyzed the average air quality during the four phases of the national lockdown in the four cities. PM 2.5, PM 10, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and benzene were tracked to monitor the implementation of the program.
The entire data was sourced from air quality monitors set up by the state pollution control boards under the aegis of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
The drastic drop in pollution levels in the period teaches lessons on management that need to be incorporated to achieve clean air targets. Levels can be brought down dramatically if India focuses its energy towards a green recovery model which is less emission-intensive, researchers say
Experts also say that the lockdown allowed them to understand background pollution levels.
Four of the eight primary polluting sources, such as construction and industrial activity, brick kilns and vehicles, were completely closed, during the period.
The tracker analysed PM2.5 and PM10 levels in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to demonstrate the effectiveness of NCAP in bringing down pollution, taking levels in 2017 as the base year.
While Kolkata witnessed an approximate 24% improvement in PM levels in 2019 in comparison to 2018, Mumbai averaged at 16%, Bengaluru at 19.8% and Delhi at 6.4% but fell short of the NCAP targets.
“The lockdown period helped us understand the effects of anthropogenic (human-generated) emissions to our environment. All four cities managed to better their 2024 NCAP target by around 30 per cent, with Kolkata bettering their target by over 50 per cent during the lockdown. This period is a marker for policymakers on how they can achieve what has been planned for in the coming four years, in a relatively shorter period,” Ronak Sutaria, CEO Respirer Living Sciences told media.