About the Commission
- The Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Act, 2021, was recently passed by the Parliament. It replaces the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance.
What is the Act all about?
- The monitoring and management of air quality in the Delhi-NCR region has been done in pieces by multiple bodies, including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the state pollution control boards, the state governments in the region, including Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, and the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) of the National Capital Region.
- They, in turn, are monitored by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF), and the Supreme Court which monitors air pollution as per the judgment in ‘M C Mehta vs Union of India’ case in 1988.
- The Act, however, seeks to create an overarching body – Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas – to consolidate all monitoring bodies, and to bring them on one platform so that air quality management can be carried out in a more comprehensive, efficient, and time-bound manner.
- The Centre also seeks to relieve the Supreme Court from having to constantly monitor pollution levels through various cases.
What will the new commission replace?
- Apart from consolidating all agencies that monitored, investigated and planned mitigation of air pollution in the region, the commission has replaced the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) which had been running for 22 years.
- Over the years, the EPCA’s powers had been waning. While dissolving the body, the Centre felt that the EPCA had become redundant and had been ineffective in addressing issues related to air pollution. The EPCA also did not have penal provisions that the commission will now have.
What are the powers of the commission?
- The Commission is the most powerful air pollution monitoring body set up by the Centre to date. The rulings by the commission on air pollution will override anything contained in any other law.
- The powers of the commission will also supersede that of any other body in matters of air pollution. Therefore, in cases where conflict may arise between orders or directions issued by the other state governments, state pollution control boards or even the Central Pollution Control Board, the orders of the commission will prevail.
- The Commission will have the power to take measures, issue directions and entertain complaints “for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of air in the National Capital Region”.
- It will also coordinate action taken by states on air pollution and will lay down parameters for air quality and emission or discharge of environmental pollutants. It will also have powers to restrict industries in any area, carry out random inspections of any premises including factories and be able to close down an industry or cut its power and water supply in case of non-compliance.
- It will also be monitoring the measures taken by the states to prevent stubble burning.
What will be the composition of the commission?
- The Commission will be headed by a full-time chairperson with experience of not less than 15 years in the field of environmental protection and pollution control or having administrative experience of not less than 25 years.
- The members of the commission will also comprise of an official from the Environment Ministry, five ex-officio members who are either chief secretaries or secretaries from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, one full-time member who is or has been a joint secretary, three full-time independent technical members who are experts in air pollution, one technical member each from the Central Pollution Control Board and Indian Space Research Organisation, three members from non-governmental organisations who deal in air pollution and one representative of the National Institution for Transforming India.
- The commission will also have three members, being stakeholders from sectors such as agriculture, industry, transport or construction apart from representatives of several ministries, including Road Transport and Highways, Power, Housing and Urban Affairs, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Commerce and Industry. There will also be representatives of any association from the commerce or industry sector.
- The Chairperson and members of the Commission will have a tenure of three years or till the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier, and shall be eligible for re-appointment.
- The commission will have at least three sub-committees —monitoring and identification, safeguarding and enforcement, and research and development.
- The Act further says that no civil court will have jurisdiction to entertain any suit, proceeding or dispute pertaining to or arising out of the actions taken or directions issued by the commission and that orders of the commission can only be contested before the National Green Tribunal.
Why in News?
- The Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) convened a crucial meeting on an emergent basis in wake of deteriorating air quality of the Delhi-NCR region.
- The adverse air quality scenario in Delhi-NCR as a combined result of paddy stubble burning, vehicular pollution, post-Diwali pollution, dip in temperature and other local factors, was also greatly impacted by a dust storm moving in from the South-Westerly directions of the Thar desert which brought in huge quantities of dust that further amplified the PM2.5 / PM10 levels significantly.
- The Commission has identified 5 different areas contributing to the prevailing adverse air quality of Delhi-NCR that need better focus with intensified efforts by the concerned agencies of the State Governments of National Capital Region (NCR) and GNCTD. These areas are:
- Control of paddy stubble burning incidences;
- Control of dust from Construction and Demolition (C&D) activities;
- Control of dust from roads and open areas;
- Vehicular Pollution; and
- Industrial Pollution