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Commission for Air Quality Management in NCR Bill

Context:

The Parliament approved a Bill that seeks to set up a commission for air quality management in the National Capital Region and its adjoining areas.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution, Pollution Control Measures, Conservation of Environment and Ecology), GS-II: Governance (Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. CAQM in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021
  2. About the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM)
  3. Powers and Functions of the CAQM
  4. Criticisms of the CAQM
  5. About the recent changes in Delhi’s Air quality

Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021

  • The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021 provides for the constitution of a Commission for better co-ordination, research, identification, and resolution of problems related to air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjoining areas.
  • Adjoining areas have been defined as areas in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, adjoining the National Capital Territory of Delhi and NCR, where any source of pollution may cause adverse impact on air quality in the NCR.
  • Sources of air pollution particularly in the NCR consist of a variety of factors which are beyond the local limits. Therefore, a special focus is required on all sources of air pollution which are associated with different economic sectors, including power, agriculture, transport, industry, residential and construction.
  • Since air pollution is not a localised phenomenon, the effect is felt in areas even far away from the source, thus creating the need for regional-level initiatives through inter-State and inter-city coordination in addition to multi-sectorial synchronisation.
  • The Bill has taken into consideration the concerns of the farmers following several rounds of negotiations, after they had raised concerns of stiff penalties and possible jail terms for stubble burning.

About the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM)

  • The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) will be a Statutory body which will have Three sub-committees to assist the commission:
    • Sub-committee on monitoring and identification,
    • Sub-committee on safeguarding and enforcement and
    • Sub-committee on research and development.
  • The CAQM will be chaired by a government official of the rank of Secretary or Chief Secretary. The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until s/he attains the age of 70 years.
  • The CAQM will also will have members from several Ministries as well as representatives from the stakeholder States and experts from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Civil Society.
  • The erstwhile Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, or EPCA had been dissolved to make way for the Commission.
  • The Commission will supersede bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.

Powers and Functions of the CAQM

The CAQM will:

  1. Have the powers to issue directions to these state governments on issues pertaining to air pollution.
  2. Entertain complaints as it deems necessary for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the air in the NCR and adjoining areas.
  3. Lay down parameters for control of air pollution.
  4. Be in charge of identifying violators, monitoring factories and industries and any other polluting unit in the region, and will have the powers to shut down such units.
  5. Have the powers to overrule directives issued by the state governments in the region, that may be in violation of pollution norms.

Criticisms of the CAQM

  • The Commission is set to have a large number of members from the central government, which may not go down well with the states, as the States, on the other hand have much lesser representation and voice.
  • States may not be happy with the overarching powers being vested in the Commission. Political differences may also play a part in the functioning of the Commission.
  • The Commission is said to take the issue of air pollution out of the purview of the judiciary even as the old laws have not even been implemented completely.

About the recent changes in Delhi’s Air quality

  • Delhi’s air typically worsens in October-November and improves by March-April every year due to weather amongst other reasons.
  • Current weather conditions are not unfavourable, unlike in winter. Hence, apart from local emissions, the deterioration in air quality is being attributed to an increase in fire counts, mostly due to burning of wheat crop stubble in northern India.
  • Fires were also spotted Lahore, Gujranwala and Hafizabad in Pakistan which can contribute to deterioration of air quality.
  • Deteriorating air quality is worrying amid an increasing number of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and deaths. Medical experts have, from time to time, raised concerns about how high pollution levels can worsen the situation and aggravate respiratory conditions of the public.

-Source: The Hindu

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