The President Wednesday signed an ordinance brought in by the Centre for a Commission to manage air quality in the National Capital Region.
As per the ‘Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020’, the body will be chaired by a government official of the rank of Secretary or Chief Secretary, and will include the Secretary Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and five other Secretary/Chief Secretary level officials as ex-officio members.
The ordinance comes within days of a statement made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in the court of the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Monday — on a matter related to stubble burning in the NCR — in
which he had said the Centre was considering bringing a legislation on “Air Quality Management in the National capital Region and adjoining areas”.
The Commission is to have exclusive jurisdiction over the NCR, including areas in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, in matters of air pollution, and will be working along with CPCB and ISRO, apart from the respective state governments.
Talking of more environment related Bills and ordinances being brought in, environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta had said after Mehta’s statement in court: “The multiplicity of laws and institutions will create more confusion on the one hand and friction on the other. There will be a tendency to pass on the blame –– that is exactly what we see today. Between the Supreme Court, EPCA, NGT, CPCB and SPCB no one is clear as to what needs to be done.
If the government is keen to resolve the issue, it must undertake a thorough review of the various laws and institutions in order to look at their efficacy and utility; it must have detailed consultation with all relevant stakeholders, especially those outside Delhi, which includes farmers’ groups and small scale industries and the public at large.”
Dutta said such consultations should ideally be held during the period when the pollution levels are not very high, so that an informed discussion can take place, and any draft Bill should be put up for public comments.
Air Quality researcher Polash Mukherjee said any provision to deal with stubble burning should look at the country as a whole, and not just pockets in Punjab and Haryana.
“Prima facie, the lack of law is not a problem in India, whether it is about paddy stubble burning, providing subsidies or penalising the polluter. The problem lies in the fact that political will is missing
when it comes to implementation. Having said that, it will be welcome if there is a specific provision to deal with crop residue burning at a national level, and not leave it contained as a problem in Punjab and Haryana only.
Satellite images from central and southern India show the extent of crop residue burning in these parts as well, which have an impact on local climate resilience,” said Mukherjee.
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