Lack of political will, not the absence of an overarching body looking at issues of air pollution, is what plagues the region’s fight against bad air, the Delhi government said Thursday.
Reacting to the passage of the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020, the Delhi government said it was hardly any different from existing bodies and action on the ground is more important.
“Political will is what is required to combat air pollution, which has been lacking. We don’t see how the new commission is any different from existing bodies like EPCA, CBCB. What is needed is actually a body to be headed by the Union Environment Minister with representation of all state CMs. This body should meet regularly and agree on a measurable, time-bound action plan. We need to fix targets and accountability, else we will keep passing the buck from one commission to the next and the result will be the same,” a Delhi government spokesperson said.
Field experts, meanwhile, have cautioned against hope for immediate results as well as the dynamic that the composition of the Commission might throw up. “This is a very welcome step and much needed as 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. While the US Environment Protection Agency was an autonomous and empowered body set up to manage air pollution across the country, California posed a singular challenge as a hotspot. That’s when the California Air Resource Board was set up to tackle that particular airshed,” said S N Tripathi, member of the steering committee, National Clean Air Programme.
“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 ways of devising creative solutions, it could reproduce old deadlocks. The new Commission is a bureaucratic vessel. Its effects will depend on its contents and how the pot is stirred,” said Navroz Dubash, Professor, Centre for Policy Research.
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