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Commission for Air Quality Management in the NCR and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    19th Aug, 2021

Context

The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021 is set to be tabled in parliament to replace earlier promulgated ordinance with some changes.

About

  • The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021 aims to replace earlier promulgated ordinance with same changes.
  • The changes have been devised following several rounds of negotiations with farmers of the region.
  • The farmers had raised concerns of stiff penalties and possible jail terms for stubble burning.
  • Decriminalized Stubble Burning: The bill has decriminalized the act of stubble burning and withdrawn the clause for possible jail time.
  • Environment Compensation fees: The bill has provided for an environment compensation fee to be levied by on those who are found to be engaged in stubble burning, including farmers.
  • New commission for environment regulation: The bill will replace the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority or EPCA with a commission having more powers.

Functions of the newly proposed commission:

The bill has defined functions of commission as:

  • Coordination with state governments: The commission will coordinate with concerned state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh as per provisions of the bill for taking actions taken by them.
  • Pollution control: It includes planning and executing plans to prevent and control air pollution in the NCR.
    • It will also provide a framework for identification of air pollutants.
  • Collecting Environment Compensation fees: The collection of such fees will be exclusively done by the commission.
  • Identification of Violators: The commission will be in charge of identifying violators, monitoring factories and industries and any other polluting unit in the region.
    • Further, it will have the powers to shut down such units.
  • Overruling directives of state government: The Commission will also have the powers to overrule directives issued by the state governments in the region that may be in violation of pollution norms.
  • R&D on air pollution in NCR: The commission is mandated with conducting research and development through networking with technical institution.
  • Preventive Measures: The commission has been mandated to take preventive measures such as increasing plantation and addressing stubble burning.
  • It will have authority to issue directions on matters including inspections, or regulation which will be binding on the concerned person or authority.

Significance of the Bill

  • Eases penalties norms: In contrast with penalties and jail terms as proposed in original ordinance, the bill has decriminalizes the act of stubble burning but kept alive the penalties in form of Environment Compensation fees.
  • Ensuring uniform regulations across NCR: The power of the commission to overrule directives issued by the state governments in the region that may be in violation of pollution norms will ensure uniform application of law throughout National Capital Region across five states.

Way Forward

  • During winters every year National Capital Region is encompassed from all sides by thick smog caused due to amalgamation of climatic factors, smoke due to stubble burning, Vehicular and industrial pollution.
  • The government’s Graded Response Action Plan to combat this menace has been effective to some extent but there was a need for a strong executive authority to regulate pollution norms across NCR.
  • The bill will help to combat the menace of air pollution effectively.

Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)

  • The plan was approved by the Supreme Court in 2016 after consultation with the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA).
  • EPCA coordinates with 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan (NCR areas) to implement GRAP.
  • Only Emergency Measure: It works only as an emergency measures during winters when pollution level in the country soars very high.
    • It aims to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions when the air quality moves from ‘Poor’ to ‘Very Poor’ as per National Air Quality Index.
    • If air quality reaches the ‘Severe+’ stage, the response under GRAP includes extreme measures such as shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.
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