The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is set to table the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021 in Parliament during the Monsoon Session.

New Commission for Air Quality Management

  • Background and New Changes:
    • Initially, the Commission for Air Quality Management ordinance was promulgated by the President in October, 2020 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 in March, 2020.
    • Subsequently, the MoEFCC brought a second ordinance in April 2021, with modifications due to the farmers’ protest.
      • Farmers had raised concerns of stiff penalties and possible jail terms for stubble burning (as stated in the first ordinance).
      • The government has decriminalised the act of stubble burning and withdrawn the clause for possible jail time.
      • However, environmental compensation fees are levied on those who are found to be engaged in stubble burning, including farmers.
  • About the Bill:
    • It provides for the constitution of a Commission for better coordination, 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 the states of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh adjoining the NCR where any source of pollution may cause adverse impact on air quality in the NCR.
    • It also dissolves the Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority established in the NCR in 1998.
  • Composition:
    • The Commission will be headed by a full-time chairperson who has been a Secretary to the Government of India, or a Chief Secretary to a State government.
      • The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until s/he attains the age of 70 years.
    • It will have members from several Ministries as well as representatives from the stakeholder States.
    • It will have experts from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Civil Society.
  • Functions:
    • Coordinating actions taken by concerned state governments (Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh).
    • Planning and executing plans to prevent and control air pollution in the NCR.
    • Providing a framework for identification of air pollutants.
    • Conducting research and development through networking with technical institutions.
    • Training and creating a special workforce to deal with issues related to air pollution.
    • Preparing various action plans such as increasing plantation and addressing stubble burning.
  • Powers:
    • The new body will have the power to issue directions and entertain complaints as it deems necessary for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the air in the NCR and adjoining areas.
    • It will also lay down parameters for control of air pollution (such as permissible levels of emissions and discharge of pollutants).
    • It will also 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.
    • It will also have the powers to overrule directives issued by the state governments in the region, that may be in violation of pollution norms.

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