In order to link the central funding to urban local bodies for the improvement of air quality and solid waste management, the 15th Finance Commission is working on a plan to set up a 69,000-crore corpus. Basically, this corpus will ensure that a city receives funding depending on its particulate matter (PM) 10 levels and solid waste management plans. The green ministry has thus decided to establish a linkage between the PM 10 levels and annual grants provided to a city. They have also asked for special funding in the Indo-Gangetic plain because of their poor air quality records.
Discussions of setting up ‘metropolitan funds’ are also in place because these urban cities are not only an important part of the economy but millions of people living here are affected by the air quality. More than one million people reside in each of the 51 big cities in India. This number accounts for 36.1% of the total population inhabiting the main urban sector of the economy. The investment in such cities is directly or indirectly affected by their ambient air quality, drinking water, and solid waste management plans. The Finance Commission is closely consulting the ministry of housing and urban affairs and the ministry of forest and climate change to link grants to air quality and waste management.
The states in the Indo-Gangetic plain suffer from an inherent disadvantage of having poor air quality because of their geographical location as they are land0-locked. Thus, the environment ministry has decided to give these states more weightage. Disadvantaged states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Rajasthan should be given at least 60% of the total air pollution grants, the ministry suggested. The incentives will be decided by the concentration levels of PM 10 annually.
The environment ministry has said that PM 10 is identified as the most critical environmental risks globally, but they have been reluctant to link the pollution levels to health impact. PM 10, on the other hand, is still dangerous as it is associated with morbidity and mortality due to respiratory, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. They reiterated that using PM 10 is a favourable as it is reliable and robust data on PM 10 levels are available across the country. However, the PM 2.5 levels, which is considered to be more harmful is still not tracked as closely as PM 10 by the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme.