Air pollution constitutes the most critical environment health risk facing our global population. It is estimated to contribute to seven million premature deaths every year. For 92% of the world population, it is estimated to breathe toxic air quality (WHO 2016). India has been endeavouring to reduce air pollution in the country since decades. Enactments and guidelines of courts to reduce air pollution includes Air (Prevention and control of pollution) Act, 1981, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, L.K. Koolwal v. State of Rajasthan case upholding the Constitutional right to a clean environment, MC Mehta’s case Union Carbide corporation v. UOI propounding absolute liability principle and so on.
Regardless of the profuse of statutory and administrative framework, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR), the quality of air remains a cause of concern on account of the absence of vigorous implementation of measures and policies. In July 2019, India formally joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CACC) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate change Mr Prakash Javadkar underlined India’s commitment to combat air pollution with a solution oriented approach.
In the World Air Quality Report, 2019, six out of the 10 most polluted cities of the planet were in India, all located in the NCR. In order to provide a permanent solution and establish a self-regulated, democratically-monitored mechanism for tracking air pollution in Delhi and adjoining states, the President of India, in exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (1) of Article 123 of the Constitution of India promulgated the ordinance “The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020, on October 28, 2020.
About The Ordinance
Composition of the New commission
The Commission will be chaired by a full-time chairperson who has been a Secretary to the Government of India or Chief Secretary to a State government.
The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until they attain the age of 70 years.
The Commission will have members from several Ministries as well as representatives from the States.
The Commission will have experts from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)and Civil Society.
In matters of air quality and pollution management, the Commission will supersede all existing bodies such as the CPCB, and even the state governments of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It will have the power to give instructions to the states.
The CPCB and its public power has the power to enforce provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, for air, water and land pollution. Their power will continue. However, in case of dispute or a clash of jurisdictions, the Commission’s writ will prevail specific to matters concerning air pollution.
The Commission will also coordinate efforts of state governments to reduce air pollution and lay down the parameters of air quality for the region.
It will have the power to restrict the creation of industries in vulnerable areas and be able to conduct site inspections of industrial units.
In the event of non-compliance with its instructions, the Commission may impose a fine of up to Rs 1 crore and imprisonment for up to five years.
YKA, 22 March 2021