Two days after the Centre told the Supreme Court that it used to be coming up with a composite law to tackle air pollution in the Capital, the apex court-mandated Surroundings Pollution Keep an eye on Authority (Epca) released a copy of a September 11 outline it had submitted to the court .
“The September 11 Epca outline is the first status outline on actions taken and those who remain to be taken in Delhi-NCR on air pollution; it used to be submitted to a new bench that took over the matter. Between September 11 and now, two more short, issue-specific reports on crop stubble fires and diesel vehicles were submitted to notify the apex court on what must be done,” said an Epca member who did not need to be named.
“This outline is being shared now because most action in Delhi-NCR has been taken based on SC orders, including enforcement of pollution regulate in hot spots, implementation of radio-frequency identification technology, closing of thermal power plants in NCR, the closure of Badarpur power plant in Delhi, implementation of graded response action plan and the Comprehensive Action Plan. Now what remains is very stringent enforcement to meet the air pollution crisis. We don’t need to remark on anything else,” the member added.
The Centre informed the top court on Monday that it has drafted a comprehensive law to regulate air pollution, particularly in the Delhi-NCR region. This triggered hypothesis that a new agency or body created by the government could replace Epca.
All the way through Monday’s hearing, the Supreme Court suspended its order issued on October 16 appointing former apex court pass judgement on Madan B Lokur in a one-man committee to enforce strict ban on stubble burning in Delhi’s neighbouring states Haryana, Punjab and also Uttar Pradesh (UP). The order used to be “kept in abeyance” by a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, after solicitor general (S-G) Tushar Mehta informed the court approximately the new law.
On Wednesday, senior surroundings ministry officials said the new law proposed by the Centre will pave the way for the creation of a new commission for air pollution regulate in Delhi-NCR.
“We cannot say at the moment whether it is going to replace Epca because Epca used to be created by SC. We also cannot say how the new body will have an effect on the role of CPCB (Central Pollution Keep an eye on Board). Those details will be in court very soon,” a senior surroundings ministry official who did not need to be named said.
RP Gupta, secretary, surroundings ministry, said: “I can’t divulge any details approximately the law or the commission until it’s in court. I have not said anything approximately Epca being replaced. We need to wait a couple of more days.”
Santosh Harish, fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, said: “Air quality management in India, and NCR in specific, is certainly to be tackled at the regional ‘airshed’ level. Whether this legislation ends up in institutional changes to achieve this, it would timely set a blueprint for other parts of the country. That would be progress. But Epca (a statutory body created in 1998 with a similar mandate and remarkable powers) and the Comprehensive Action Plan in 2018 have attempted to do precisely this.”
In the September 11 outline, Epca famous that the top court has already passed instructions on all large sources of air pollution. A Comprehensive Action Plan (CAP) aimed at reducing air pollution levels used to be notified by the Union surroundings ministry in 2018 following the court’s instructions but it is yet to be implemented by the ministry totally, the outline suggested.
Epca has really helpful that the surroundings ministry expedite the implementation of the plan through augmentation of public transport, non-motorised transport and inter- and intra-NCR transport connectivity. This includes time-bound and pressing implementation of the apex court’s instructions, also specified in CAP, on the Phase IV of the Delhi Metro, construction of the different phases of Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTs), which will supply seamless connectivity between NCR towns, and the augmentation of buses in Delhi.
In its outline, Epca referred to findings of an emissions stock for Delhi developed by the ministry of soil sciences based on data from 2018. It has found that there was a 40% increase in vehicular pollution between 2010 and 2018 in the Delhi-NCR region and that vehicles contribute to around 41% of the pollution in the national capital.
Reducing emissions from vehicles requires further restraint on trucks entering Delhi and on ensuring that there’s discount in overall personal vehicle and that even taxi use is controlled through expanded bus and metro products and services, the Epca outline said.
The stock also showed that 1.1 million vehicles entered Delhi each day at just eight entry points including trucks, taxis and personal vehicles which underscores that all the NCR region requires better connectivity through public transport.
The stock has also found that industrial pollution contributes around 18% of Delhi’s particulate pollution and industrial emissions have increased by 48% between 2010 and 2018 in the region. Epca said this used to be because burning of coal is rampant and requires enforcement of the sulphur dioxide (SO2) emission standards for industries and thermal power plants issued following instructions by the top court.
Santosh Harish said for a new authority to be more successful, it is going to should be well-funded, well-staffed, endowed with multi-sectoral technical expertise, and have representation from the entire state and native governments, applicable Union ministries, and the civil society. “We don’t yet realize why this needs new legislation, and how this legislation will interact with existing laws like the Air Act and the Surroundings Protection Act,” Harish said.