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Experts welcome Centre's move to set up new commission to curb pollution in Delhi-NCR

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 30-10-2020 00:59 IST | Created: 29-10-2020 23:07 IST
Experts welcome Centre's move to set up new commission to curb pollution in Delhi-NCR
Representative Image Image Credit: ANI

Environment experts on Thursday welcomed the Centre's move of setting up a new commission to curb pollution in Delhi-NCR but said it could reproduce old deadlocks without clear benchmarks of progress. Professor S N Tripathi, Member (Steering Committee), National Clean Air Programme, said there was no single body, authority or ministry which was empowered or dedicated to coordinate among states in the national capital region (NCR).

"Setting up of the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Area will provide a single entity which can coordinate with these states to tackle the extended airshed," he said. "However, we must add a word of caution that this move will not change things overnight. So don't get euphoric just yet. Changing things on the ground takes time," Prof Tripathi he said.

Faced with rising air pollution in Delhi-NCR, the Centre has introduced a new law through an ordinance that puts in place a powerful oversight body and provides for up to five years of jail term and Rs one crore fine for violators with immediate effect. Under the ordinance released by the Ministry of Law and Justice on Thursday, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has been dissolved and replaced by a commission comprising over 20 members.

Dr Ajay Mathur, the director-general of TERI, said, "There was an urgent need for institutional fora that could bring together states into an airshed to undertake and implement coordinated actions." According to the ordinance, the areas where it shall be in force include Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, adjoining areas of the NCR and Delhi where any source of pollution is located which is causing an adverse impact on air quality in the national capital region. The participation of these states in the commission is extremely important as it sets up a forum for collective decision making and implementation amongst different political bodies, he added.

Dr Navroz Dubash from Centre for Policy Research said the new commission could bring focussed 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," he said.

Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, said the major issue with the ordinance will be when it comes to implementation, as EPCA had almost similar powers but failed miserably in cleaning the air even after being in force for more than 20 years. Tanushree Ganguly from the think tank Council for Energy Environment and Water said the commission will have representatives from all NCR states and relevant departments and the jurisdiction also goes beyond NCR. "However, the Ordinance only sets up a dedicated authority to curb air pollution in NCR and adjoining areas and does not outline the sectoral mandates," she said.

Environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta said the main purpose of this Ordinance was to improve the air quality only in the National Capital Region. "Unless the central government sets up similar committees in other polluted regions of the country, it violates the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution and discriminates against those who are not in the NCR," he said.


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