Bringing much needed urgency to measures to combat air pollution in Delhi-NCR, the central government has brought in a new law through the ordinance route, to fight surging air pollution in the region
For Delhi-NCR, which is staring at a fresh battle on two fronts, the new Covid-battle, and the more familiar air pollution in the winter months especially, there is a new law to back efforts. The new ordinance promulgated yesterday empowers an 18member commission to take tougher measures, ensure better coordination to fight the menace of air pollution. The powerful commission will be a ‘super’commission, with its decisions superceding all other stakeholders, including state governments, and other bodies, including previously set up judicial bodies.
In short, respond faster to the developing situation. In previous years, we have seen seen both bureaucrats and politicians take shelter behind deadlines where they knew an improvement would happen naturally, by abatement of farm stubble burning, or even windy conditions., for instance.
The new ordinance effectively recognises the futility of many of the stop gap arrangements made so far, and looks for a concerted, unified approach to provide long term succour to the region. While the government does not recognise the numbers yet, many expert studies have pinned air pollution as the reason behind a higher mortality rate, and now, possibly, an impact on Covid mortality rates too. With the latest spike in numbers, mortality rates for which will play out in the near future, it is clear that there is some appreciation of the challenge finally, and the high risks of business as usual.
The 18 member commission is likely to have wide ranging powers to act under existing laws like the air Act of 1981 or the Environment Protection Act of 1986, and considering the involvement of the Supreme Court with its own set of recommendations, court backing for some even tougher measures beyond these two acts. The present ordinance was also under court pressure, after the the top court had directed that its October 16 decision ordering formation of a one-man committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan B Lokur to deal with the issue, be kept in abeyance, only if a law to deal with the issue was coming.
The commission, which will be headquartered at Delhi, will comprise representatives from the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. It will be empowered to issue directions to control air pollution and take cognizance of complaints. besides the authority to slap fines and will be responsible for laying down parameters to curb emissions and keep air quality under control.
Importantly, this commission will supersede all the other bodies and authorities formed through judicial orders or otherwise on the aspect of air quality management with “exclusive jurisdiction” in the air pollution domain.