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Pollution Control Board

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Environmental Conservation

Source: DTE

Context: Public policy think tank ‘Centre for policy research’ released a series of papers looking into the causes of poor performance of pollution control bodies in India.


Need for efficient pollution control boards

  • North Gangetic belts have one of the most polluted cities and rivers.
    • Of the top 30 polluted cities, 9 lie in the north Gangetic belt.
    • Yamuna, Damodar and Suvarna Rekha have been marked as biologically dead rivers, with pollution indicators over 5X the prescribed limits.
  • High fragmentation of industries lacking the ability to monitor pollution control themselves.
  • With rapid economic development and a focus on industry-led growth, pollution control becomes non-negotiable
  • Sustainable development goals
    • 6- Sustainable management of water and sanitation
    • 9– sustainable industrialization
    • 11- sustainable cities


Reasons for the subpar performance of pollution control boards in India.

  • High vacancy rates: With 40 % overall vacancies, the situation is particularly dire in Jharkhand, Haryana and Bihar where vacancies can be over 75%
  • Issues with top administration:
    • Lack of full-time administrators creates low efficiency in performance.
    • 53% of the members are part of polluting agencies themselves(local bodies, industries and PSU) creating a potential conflict of interes
    • Frequent leadership transfers create exceptionally low office terms. It hinders the development and implementation of long-term plans.
  • Low technical expertise: technical experts constitute less than 7% of member strength( as compared to the statutory mandate of 50%)
  • Poor multi-sectoral coordination.
  • Lack of detailed procedure, and quasi-judicial nature creates long-term litigation period


Methods to improve performance

  • Financial autonomy: By using the polluter pays concept, agencies must give bank guarantees, which can be forfeited in cases of non-compliance. It can form a significant portion of revenue for SPCB.
  • Fixed terms for top administrators to improve the separation of legislative and executive.
  • A detailed procedure, uniform standards and legislation to reduce litigations.
  • Specialized recruitment to improve the technical strengths and improve oversight.
  • Capacity building of all stakeholders to improve coordination


Pollution control in India

  • Pollution control boards are established as statutory bodies with powers under the Air(pollution control) act, Water(pollution control) act and Environmental protection act of 1986.


  • Constitutional mandates
  • Article 51A (g): protect and improve the natural environment
  • Article 48A: Protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”.
  • Article 21: Right to a healthy environment.



Pollution control is central to ensuring sustainable economic growth without impacting the ecosystems negatively. Pollution control agencies must not only focus on reducing negative linkages but also aid the development of positive ones.

Prelims links

  • Pollution control bodies in India
  • Environmental legislations


Mains link

Q). Pollution control agencies have failed to live up to their mandates. Comment. Also, suggest some measures to improve their performance.