NCR Air Quality Ordinance, 2020

#GS2 #Governance #GS3 #Environment

With the President signing the Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020 recently, a statutory authority to track and combat air pollution in and around the National Capital Region has come into existence.

 

Objective of the Commission 

  • The Commission will supersede bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan and will have the powers to issue directions to these state governments on issues pertaining to air pollution.

 

What has been changed by the ordinance?

  • The one body with powers similar to the new Commission’s was the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).
  • It was not a statutory body but drew legitimacy from the Supreme Court, which has been looking at cases of air pollution as part of the judgment in M C Mehta vs Union of India (1988).
  • The EPCA was not supported by a legal framework in the form of a law. It did have the authority to issue fines or directions and guidelines to the governments in other states. It had no state representatives, just two permanent members. The Commission, on the other hand, will have representation from the state.

 

Role of the Commission 

  • The ordinance makes it clear that state as well as central bodies will not have jurisdiction over matters related to air pollution.
  • The ordinance says the Commission will look at coordination between states, planning and execution of policy and interventions, operations of industry, inspections, research into the causes of pollution etc. Experts say the ordinance means that the power to issue fines may also lie with the new Commission.
  • Officials in the Delhi Environment Department said the Commission will, in a way, erase the relevance of state pollution control bodies since they do not have the powers to make any autonomous decisions anymore.
  • In case the directions issued by a state and the Commission clash, the decision of the Commission will be implemented.
  • As per the Ordinance, only NGT, and not civil courts, is authorised to hear cases where the commission is involved.

 

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