The President of India has signed a new ordinance i.e. Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region, and Adjoining Areas Ordinance 2020. This statutory body will keep track of the pollution level in Delhi and its adjoining regions and give suggestions to improve the air quality.
This commission will supersede bodies such as central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP, and Rajasthan and can also direct these governments in issues related to Air pollution.
Though there is already an existing body of such nature which is the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), this body lacks any legal framework. It was constituted after the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of M.C. Mehta Vs Union of India (1988). Whereas the new authority is backed by a legal framework and also the new authority has the state representation which the EPCA lacked.
This body will have exclusive powers on issues related to Air Pollution. The commission will mainly supervise the coordination among the states, planning and execution and interventions, research onto the causes of pollution, operations of industry, etc.
But not everything in this ordinance has been welcomed with open arms. One of the issues in this ordinance is similar to other ordinances this country has witnessed in recent times and that is of Federalism. The states have raised the concern that this ordinance compromises on the basic principle of federalism as the commission is full of officers from the Central Government and there is only one member for each of the State Governments. This will disable the state governments from putting forth their concerns in the commission effectively.
The quality of Air has reached dangerous levels in the NCR region and there are several factors involved contributed by a number of states in and around Delhi. In such a scenario having such an effective body is definitely going to help but the real challenge still lies with the implementation and not the policy, for which we still lack some concrete plans on the ground.