New Delhi: India’s Swachh Bharat Mission, launched in 2014 to promote cleanliness and sanitation, has achieved remarkable results in transforming the urban landscape of the country. The latest evidence of this is the annual Swachh Survekshan survey, which ranked Indore and Surat as the joint cleanest cities in India for the year 2023. This is the seventh consecutive time that Indore has bagged this prestigious award, while Surat has improved its ranking from second in 2022 to first in 2023. The survey, conducted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, covered 4,242 cities and towns and assessed them on various parameters such as waste management, citizen feedback, and direct observation.
The President of India, Draupadi Murmu, presented the awards to the winners at a ceremony held at Bharat Mandapam in Delhi on Thursday. The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mohan Yadav, received the award for Indore, along with Urban Administration Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya, Indore Mayor Pushyamitra Bhargava, and Municipal Commissioner Harshika Singh. The award for Surat was received by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, along with Urban Development Minister Kaushik Patel, Surat Mayor Hemali Boghawala, and Municipal Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani. Navi Mumbai, which secured the third position in the survey, was represented by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, along with Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, Navi Mumbai Mayor Jaywant Sutar, and Municipal Commissioner Abhijit Bangar.
The survey also ranked the states based on their overall performance in urban cleanliness and sanitation. Maharashtra emerged as the cleanest state in the country, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. This is the first time that Madhya Pradesh has reached the second spot, while Chhattisgarh has maintained its third position for the third consecutive year. The states were evaluated based on the average score of their cities in the survey, as well as their progress in implementing the Swachh Bharat Mission.
Apart from cleanliness, another aspect of urban well-being that has seen significant improvement in recent years is air quality. India’s National Clean Air Program (NCAP), launched in 2019 to reduce air pollution, has released a list of 49 cities where the concentration of PM 2.5, a fine particulate matter that can cause serious health problems, was the highest in 2017. According to the list, the most remarkable reduction in the levels of PM 2.5 and PM 10, another harmful pollutant, has been observed in Varanasi, the spiritual city of India located on the banks of the Ganga River in North India.
An analysis by Climate Trends and Respir Living Sciences, a non-profit organization working on environmental issues, revealed that Varanasi has seen a 72 percent decline in PM 2.5 levels and a 64 percent decline in PM 10 levels between 2017 and 2023. The analysis attributed this remarkable achievement to various factors, such as the implementation of the NCAP, the expansion of the metro rail network, the promotion of electric vehicles, the ban on diesel generators, and the strict enforcement of emission norms. The analysis also noted that improvement in PM 10 levels was seen in 24 other cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad.
The NCAP, which has a budget of Rs 9,631 crore, aims to reduce the average particulate matter by 40 percent by 2026 (compared to 2017) in 131 cities that have been identified as non-attainment cities, i.e., cities that do not meet the national ambient air quality standards. The NCAP involves various measures, such as augmenting the air quality monitoring network, strengthening the enforcement of pollution control regulations, enhancing public awareness and participation, and promoting clean and renewable energy sources.