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Ordinance for setting up commission to manage NCR air quality

Topics Covered: Pollution and conservation related issues.

Ordinance for setting up commission to manage NCR air quality:


Context:

President signs ordinance for setting up commission to manage NCR air quality.

  • The ‘Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020’ was introduced by the Centre.

The proposed Commission:

Composition:

Chairperson: To be chaired by a government official of the rank of Secretary or Chief Secretary.

It will be a permanent body and will have over 20 members.

Members include:

  1. A representative of the Secretary of the MoEF, five Secretary level officers who will be ex officio members, and two joint secretary level officers who will be full-time members.
  2. Representatives of the CPCB, ISRO, air pollution experts, and three representatives of non-government organisations (NGOs).
  3. As associate members, the Commission will have representatives from various other Ministries including the Ministries of Agriculture, Petroleum, Power, Road Transport and Highways, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Commerce and Industry.

Key points:

  • The Commission will be a statutory authority.
  • The Commission will supersede bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.
  • It will have the powers to issue directions to these state governments on issues pertaining to air pollution.

Jurisdiction:

Exclusive jurisdiction over the NCR, including areas in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, in matters of air pollution, and will be working along with CPCB and ISRO, apart from the respective state governments.

Will this new body also have penal powers?

Yes, the Commission will have some teeth. If its directions are contravened, through say, the setting up of an industrial unit in a restricted area, the Commission will have the power to impose a fine of up to Rs 1 crore and imprisonment of up to 5 years.

We already had EPCA, was it not sufficient?

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) was not a statutory body but drew legitimacy from the Supreme Court, which has been looking at cases of air pollution as part of the judgment in M C Mehta vs Union of India (1988).

  • The EPCA was not, however, supported by a legal framework in the form of a law.
  • It did have the authority to issue fines or directions and guidelines to the governments in other states.
  • It had no state representatives, just two permanent members.

Criticisms and concerns associated with this move:

  1. The multiplicity of laws and institutions will create more confusion on the one hand and friction on the other. For eg, we already have EPCA, NGT, CPCB and SPCB no one is clear as to what needs to be done.
  2. The lack of law is not a problem in India, whether it is about paddy stubble burning, providing subsidies or penalising the polluter. The problem lies in the fact that political will is missing when it comes to implementation.

What needs to be done?

If the government is keen to resolve the issue, it must:

  • Undertake a thorough review of the various laws and institutions in order to look at their efficacy and utility.
  • Have detailed consultation with all relevant stakeholders, especially those outside Delhi, which includes farmers’ groups and small scale industries and the public at large.”
  • Draft a Bill and it should be put up for public comments.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About EPCA.
  2. About NGT.
  3. About CPCB.
  4. Overview of the ‘Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020’.

Sources: the Hindu.