Air air pollution legislation: Specialists say sufficient legal guidelines in place, lack of political will most important problem


Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 27

As the Centre prepares to roll out a comprehensive law to tackle air pollution in Delhi-NCR, environmental experts do not appear too optimistic about the prospect.

Stating that there are enough laws to deal with the situation, they feel multiplicity of laws and institutions may end up creating even more confusion and friction.

Besides, both the State and Centre has enough powers under existing laws and the biggest struggle is the lack of political will to implement them. Therefore, more than new legislation there has to be actual action on pollution sources while implementing existing rules and regulations, they say.

While it is not clear as to what the Centre means by the new law, an Ordinance, Act or Notification, environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta says Ordinance is not the best route to take for enacting environmental legislation.

“As of now, the Central Government has been using its powers under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 in order to issue directions to control pollution. In case it intended to issue a Notification under the Environmental Protection Act, it needs to seek public comments which is 60 days. Both the State and Centre has enough powers under existing laws, the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to take preventive and remedial measures to deal with air pollution.

“In case the Centre intends to enact a law regulating farming practice, it will have to ensure that it does not encroach on the domain reserved for the state – agriculture is state subject, while the environment is in the concurrent list. In case it directly impacts agricultural practices, it is likely to face both social opposition as well as legal challenges.

Dutta says that between the Supreme Court, EPCA, NGT, CPCB and SPCB no one is clear as to 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. Enacting laws or issuing directions without any assessment, consultation only ends up as a way to divert attention from long term comprehensive solutions to short term myopic intervention.”

Polash Mukerjee, Air Quality Researcher, also says 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. Having said that, it will be welcome if there is a specific provision to deal with crop residue burning at a national level, and not leave it contained as a problem in Punjab and Haryana only. Satellite images from central and southern India show the extent of crop residue burning in these parts as well, which have an impact on local climate resilience.”

According to Sunil Dahiya from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, “biggest struggle is the political will to actually implement the existing laws and notifications, which is clearly shown with the implementation level of all the regulation existing today on the environment and air pollution”.

“So, coming up with new legislation alone is not going to help clean the air, it has to be actual action on pollution sources while implementing the rules and regulations, which will help us clean the air, Dahiya adds



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