Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 29
The Centre’s decision to bring in an Ordinance for setting up a Commission for Air Quality Management in the “National Capital Region and Adjoining Area” has been welcomed by experts and environmentalists, including members of the now-dissolved EPCA Sunita Narain and Bhure Lal.
The statutory authority replaces the 22-year-old Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) or any committees’ body constituted so far for air pollution matters in the NCR region.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar called the permanent commission a “consolidated”, “collaborative” and “participatory” approach between Centre, States, local bodies and other stakeholders for monitoring, tackling and eliminating the causes of air pollution. “Air pollution is not a problem of Delhi and its corporations alone but of a big airshed that includes the NCR. The Centre and the four NCR states have to work together to tackle the problem,” he said, calling it a holistic approach, a special new regime for special region spread over five states.
Regarding whether states, including Punjab, may have issues given its jurisdiction, Javadekar said the issue of paddy stubble, which contributes anywhere between 4 to 40 per cent to air pollution, “will not remain a problem in next three-four years with the kind of research, innovations and solutions in the pipeline”. The Commission will have jurisdiction in adjoining areas beyond the NCR in Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.
There are also strict repercussions for default— a jail term up to five years and penalty up to Rs 1 crore.
According to officials the aim is to replace “inadequate, haphazard and temporary commissions, authorities, etc., appointed either judicially or administratively. For the first time a regulatory mechanism for stubble burning is put in place. It will identify, specify and rigorously enforce measures for eliminating and mitigation of air pollution included, but not limited to, controlling or eliminating activities of stubble burning, vehicular pollution, road dust and urban construction”.
The government is expected to replace the Ordinance with a Bill in the next Parliament session. The CPCB, SPCBS will continue to deal with the subject. However in the case of conflict the orders of the commission will prevail. CPCB’s nationwide powers will stand
Studies show that north Indian states in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (IGP) region face the twin challenge of high population density and heavy concentration of air pollutants round-the-year, both urban and rural areas. Any substantial reduction in pollution is possible only if the administrative approach includes regional pollution sources and regional coordination mechanism among States
Chairperson and member of now dissolved EPCA Bhure Lal and Sunita Narain said the move showed the intent and determination of the union government to mitigate the high levels of air pollution in the Delhi-NCR region.
Prof S N Tripathi from IIT Kanpur and member, NCAP steering committee welcomed the “much-needed move. The key problem was how to coordinate among these states. There was no single body, authority, ministry or state which was empowered or dedicated to do that. This ordinance is an excellent example of learning from what the US did in California”.
Prof Navroz Dubash, Lead Coordinating Author, IPCC said the “new Commission could bring focused and sustained attention to air quality, and help solve inter-departmental coordination problems. But equally, without clear benchmarks of progress and without ways of devising creative solutions, it could reproduce old deadlocks”.