Panel to monitor air quality in Delhi-NCR reconstituted
The Union environment ministry has reconstituted the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas after having disbanded it in March, just five months after it was created.
On April 13, the Union government promulgated the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2021 and on April 23 issued a notification to constitute the commission.
The chairperson of the commission continues to be MM Kutty, former secretary in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas and former chief secretary of Delhi.
Mukesh Khare, a full-time technical member (before the previous ordinance lapsed) and IIT Delhi professor, and Ajay Mathur, director general of the International Solar Alliance, who was an independent member from an NGO, are not part of the commission anymore.
Ashish Dhawan of the Air Pollution Action Group is the only NGO member, while Ramesh KJ, former secretary, earth sciences, is the only full-time technical member in the commission now.
Among the associate members inducted in the commission are Soumita Biswas, joint secretary, agriculture ministry; Amitabh Kumar, joint secretary, commerce and industry; Kailash Chand Gupta, additional secretary, ministry of road transport and highways; Vivek Kumar Dewangan, additional secretary, power ministry; and Navneet Mohan Kothari, joint secretary, ministry of petroleum and natural gas. A member of the commission said these associate members have been inducted to represent views of farmers, industry bodies, and the transport sector.
Initially, the Commission for Air Quality Management ordinance was promulgated by the President on October 28, but the bill to replace the ordinance was not passed in the budget session of Parliament, as a result of which the commission ceased to operate from March 12.
Since Parliament is not in session, the President has promulgated another ordinance to bring the commission into action.
After the previous ordinance lapsed, and the commission was shut down, independent environmental experts criticised the Union environment ministry for not being serious about tackling air pollution in Delhi-NCR. The issue has gained even more importance in recent days with reports of farm fires in certain parts of the northern plains.
The newly constituted commission continues to have sweeping powers in controlling air pollution in Delhi-NCR.
“It’s good news that we are back in action. Now members from farmers bodies, construction sector and industries have also been included in the commission. A provision has also been made so that serving professionals can be appointed as members. Earlier only retired professionals were to be considered. The Centre had assured farmers’ groups that the clause regarding penalising farmers will be withdrawn. So, it has been withdrawn now,” said a commission member on condition of anonymity.
“This new ordinance is as much an opportunity as it is a mirage. While there are powers to take all measures, issue directions and entertain complaints, it is left to what the discretion of commission considers expedient and necessary,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher, Centre for Policy Research.