Air panel won’t resume ‘for now’, CPCB is in focus
- The job of tackling air pollution in Delhi-NCR will once again be entrusted to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and state pollution control boards (SPCBs), according to the central government.
The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) for the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas, which became non-functional last Saturday after an ordinance constituting it lapsed, will not resume its work for now, the Union environment ministry said on Tuesday.
The commission replaced all ad-hoc committees and bodies created under court orders, including the Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority, to monitor the air pollution control plan in the Capital amid alarmingly bad air quality in October last year.
The job of tackling air pollution in Delhi-NCR will once again be entrusted to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and state pollution control boards (SPCBs), according to the central government.
“When the CAQM was not there, CPCB and SPCBs were there. They were entrusted this job. The only difference was that CPCB and SPCBs have nationwide and state-wide jurisdictions. We wanted focus exclusively on air pollution in this Delhi-NCR region because air pollution has interstate ramifications. That was the whole purpose of the commission. It’s not that the commission will not come back, but not now. The commission will be coming back slightly late,” said RP Gupta, secretary, ministry of environment, forests and climate change.
Ordinances must be approved by Parliament within six weeks of the House convening or they cease to be functional. The ordinance on the commission lapsed on March 12, five months after being launched.
“We have not been told anything about when the commission will resume. Our allowances will also stop coming. It’s not clear as to how the commission members should proceed. There is a feeling that there has been a change of mind in terms of scope of work of the commission possibly behind this delay. The bill had been drafted and a cabinet nod was awaited. Maybe the government wants some changes in the provisions. The government was in such a hurry to bring in the commission and now they seem indifferent,” a member of the commission said on condition of anonymity.
Legal and environmental experts said shutting down the commission showed the Centre was not serious about tackling air pollution in Delhi-NCR.
“Re-promulgation of an ordinance is not permitted under law. So now they have to get the bill to constitute and empower the Commission in Parliament and not through an ordinance. An ordinance is issued under extraordinary circumstances. Why did they take the ordinance route in the first place? All they needed to do is to lay the bill in Parliament within six weeks of its convening. It could have been debated later. It’s an abuse of law to let the ordinance lapse. The Commission cannot be reconstituted immediately,” said Ritwick Dutta, environmental lawyer.
A senior CPCB official said that with the formation of the CAQM, the air quality monitoring body’s special task force was legally rendered defunct.
“We did issue a few advisories and directions in November-December last year, but that was on the directions of the CAQM. Now that the ordinance has lapsed, there is no clarity on the existence of the special taskforce. These details will have to come from the Union government,” the official said.