A study released by Delhi-based Centre for Chronic Disease Control (CCDC), on Monday highlighted that while State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) have expanded the scope and scale of their work over the last two decades, their budget and manpower does not meet the transitory demands.
Titled ‘Strengthening Pollution Control Boards to achieve the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) in India’, the study attempts to understand the barriers hampering the goal of achieving NAAQS across the country and provides recommendations to address these gaps.
Primary research for the study was conducted in eight sample cities — Lucknow, Patna, Ranchi, Raipur, Bhubaneswar, Vijayawada, Goa and Mumbai. Qualitative in-depth interviews were also conducted with members of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the respective SPCBs.
Poornima Prabhakaran, head of environmental health and deputy director at the centre for health at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said, “Acute and chronic exposure to air pollution are a leading risk factor for ill health in India. Exposure to Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) and ozone alone contributes to over 1.2 million premature deaths annually. In an effort to establish minimum acceptable levels for ambient air quality, India established its own NAAQS in line with interim targets suggested by the WHO. Since most regions in India fail to meet the relaxed national air quality standards, compared to the more stringent global ones, it is crucial to understand these gaps at the ground level of implementation.”
The study reveals several key structural, informational and institutional barriers that inhibit the effective implementation of existing regulations and subsequently, the broader achievement of ambient air quality standards, as per a statement issued on Monday.
As per the study, the leadership of these boards is staffed by officials who lack the domain expertise necessary to deliver on their mandate and are primarily seen as holding administrative positions. Often, state board officials have a diminished view of their own roles, which has shifted their perceived role from that of regulators to technical advisors, stated the study. Many are unaware of the full scope of responsibilities accorded to them under the existing laws.
PHFI’s Bhargav Krishna, one of the authors of the report, said, “While interventions for legislative framework are welcome, they’ll be ineffective unless regulatory bodies are strengthened with technical and financial resources. Protecting human health is why we have these laws. To ensure that this goal is achieved, public health must feature at the core of policy making.”
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