Enviornment Prelims 2021 Prelims cum Mains

New Permanent Body to tackle NCR Air Pollution

In News

  • The central government has notified an Ordinance to constitute the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Adjoining Areas.
  • The Commission has been formed to monitor and check air pollution levels in the NCR and the adjoining region.
  • Through the Ordinance, the Centre has also dissolved the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) for the NCR.

Background

  • Rising levels of air pollution in NCR have been a cause of concern for many years.
  • The monitoring and management of air quality in the Delhi NCR region has so far been done in partial ways by multiple bodies and there is a lack of a permanent, dedicated and participative mechanism to tackle air pollution.
  • Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) was the body with powers similar to the new Commission.
  • However, EPCA was not a statutory body and was set up on the orders of the Supreme Court, as part of the judgment in M C Mehta vs Union of India (1988).
  • A major weakness, in tackling air pollution in Delhi and the surrounding region, has been the inability of agencies such as the CPCB and the EPCA to consistently enforce rules in various States.
  • For example, there are rules to deal with the problem of stubble burning and to prevent pollution from thermal plants, but they are not strongly enforced in States.

About: The Commission for Air Quality Management

Jurisdiction of the new Commission:

  • The EPCA, which was set up in 1998, for management of air pollution in the NCR. However, the jurisdiction of the new Commission extends to states of Delhi Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The ordinance makes it clear that state as well as central bodies will not have jurisdiction over matters related to air pollution in these regions.
  • Thus, the Commission, will supersede (take the place of) bodies such as the central pollution control board (in these regions) and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.

Powers of the new Commission:

  • It will look at coordination between states, planning and execution of policy, operations of industry, inspections, research into the causes of pollution
  • It will have the power to specify parameters for the quality of air and restrict any industry or operation as part of safeguard measures.
  • Moreover, it will have the powers to issue directions to these state governments on issues related to air pollution.
  • Thus, it will now be compulsory for state governments to follow the directions of the Commission regarding air quality management.
  • The ordinance also gives the commission the authority to impose fines of up to ₹1 crore or five years of prison, in case of any violation.

Composition of the Commission:

  • The 18-member Commission will have at least six permanent members and it will be headed by a former or current Secretary to the Government of India, or a Chief Secretary to a State.
  • Three representatives of NGOs with experience in combating air pollution will also be included in the panel.
  • It will also have members from several Ministries as well as representatives from the States.
  • It will have three sub-committees — on ‘monitoring and identification’, ‘safeguarding and enforcement’ and ‘research and development’ — to tackle air pollution

Benefits:

  • The move is a much needed step, as it will help to address the key problem of lack of coordination among the states.
  • It is hoped that the new commission will be more effective in addressing the entire ‘airshed’ issue. In an airshed, activities in one state affect the air quality of other state in the region.
  • It will facilitate effective implementation of various rules as the permanent Commission is a multi-sectoral, public participatory and multi-state body for combating pollution.

Issues

  • Concerns have been raised on the fact that the ordinance was promulgated in a very short time frame, without the required discussions with important stakeholders.
  • The Commission has a large number of members from the central government, which will reduce the participation and influence of States in the overall process to combat air pollution.
  • Similar to EPCA, the major issue with the commission will be with respect to implementation. The EPCA had similar powers but did not succeed in cleaning the air even after being in force for more than 20 years.

Way Ahead

  • In the ultimate analysis, the effectiveness of the Commission will be determined by the choice of its permanent members.
  • It is important to ensure that these members have the capability to bring the States together for air quality solutions that can and will solve the air quality problems.

About: Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA)

  • The EPCA was constituted with the objective of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing and controlling the environmental pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR).
  • It also assisted the Supreme Court in various environment related matters in the NCR.
  • The EPCA was empowered to take suomotu (on its own) action or on the basis of complaints made by any individual, representative body or organisation functioning in the environmental issues sector.

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