March 25, 2023

Syllabus– General Studies 3(environment)


The Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021, was recently passed by the parliament.

Current status of monitoring the Air pollution:

  • The monitoring and management of air quality in the Delhi-NCR region have been done in pieces by multiple bodies, including:
    • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 
    • The state pollution control boards, 
    • The state governments in the region, including Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan, and 
    • The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) of the National Capital Region.
  • They, in turn, are monitored by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEF), and the Supreme Court which monitors air pollution as per the judgment in ‘M C Mehta vs Union of India’ case in 1988.

About the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill of 2021:

  • The Bill, however, seeks to create an overarching body to consolidate all monitoring bodies.
  • To bring them on one platform so that air quality management can be carried out in a more comprehensive, efficient, and time-bound manner.
  • The Centre also seeks to relieve the Supreme Court from having to constantly monitor pollution levels through various cases.
  • Both the central, as well as state governments, stand on the receiving end every winter as air pollution levels start rising in the National Capital Region.

About the Commission for Air Quality Management:

  • Background:
    • The body first came into being in October 2020 on the back of an ordinance (a temporary measure).
      • The law requires that a formal Bill be presented to Parliament within six weeks of its reconvening in this case January 29 when the Budget Session began.
      • Before a Bill is tabled in Parliament, it needs to be approved by the Union Cabinet.
      • However, in spite of several Cabinet meetings since January, it wasn’t taken up for discussion due to which, the tenure of the body expired, without ever making it to Parliament.
    • The members who were part of the Commission said they were taken back by the sudden dissolution of the body.
    • The dissolution happened despite the nodal Union Environment Ministry submitting the paperwork to the Union Cabinet Secretariat, required to give legal backing to the Commission.
    • The Commission was revived on April 13 after another ordinance was promulgated by the President.
  • Current status of the Body:
    • The Commission will be a statutory authority.
    • The erstwhile Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority or EPCA had been dissolved to make way for the Commission.
    • Composition:
      • The body has a full-time chairperson:
  • Chairperson with experience of not less than 15 years in the field of environmental protection and pollution control or
  • Having administrative experience of not less than 25 years.
  • 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 various stakeholders from States & sectors and independent experts such as:
    • Agriculture,
    • Industry,
    • Transport or construction apart from representatives of several ministries, including:
      • Road Transport and Highways,
      • Power,
      • Housing and Urban Affairs,
      • Petroleum and Natural Gas,
      • Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare,
      • Commerce and Industry.
    • It will have experts from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Civil Society.
    • Three members from non-governmental organisationswho deal in air pollution and one representative of the National Institution for Transforming India.
    • The commission will have at least three sub-committees i.e.,
      • Monitoring and identification,
      • Safeguarding and enforcement, and
      • Research and development.
    • Power and Function:
      • It will have the final say on evolving policy and issuing directions to address air pollution in Delhi and the adjoining regions.
      • The new organisation would be a ‘permanent’ body to address pollution in the National Capital Region Delhi.
      • It will also address sources of pollution in Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
      • It will also lay down parameters for the control of air pollution.
      • The all-powerful body assumed several powers to coordinate action among States, levy fines (ranging up to ₹1 crore or five years of prison) to address air pollution.
      • While the Central Pollution Control Board and its State branches have the powers to implement provisions of the Environment Protection Act for air, water and land pollution;
      • In case of dispute or a clash of jurisdictions, the Commission’s writ would prevail specifically on matters concerning air pollution.
        • The rulings by the commission on air pollution will override anything contained in any other law.

The rationale behind the bill:

  • The Centre, facing flak earlier this year from farmers protesting the farm laws, had committed to removing a clause in the Air Commission Bill that would penalise farmers for burning stubble.
    • It is an important contributor to noxious air quality. The text of the Bill does away with this clause.


  • A section of the Bill that proposes penalization for stubble burning had started during the farmers’ protests when unions had raised their voices against it.
    • The Centre had conceded to their demands by decriminalizing stubble burning for farmers, or any other means of polluting.
    • These offences earlier had a penal provision of imprisonment of upto 5 years and a fine of Rs 1 crore.
    • The stiffest penalty that the Ministry has issued on air pollution offences so far.
  • Penalty for other sectors:
    • The penalty still exists for other sectors and individuals.
    • Imprisonment is no longer imposed on the farming community.
    • These changes were made in the April ordinance after negotiations with farmers and carried through to the Act.
  • Clause 14 of the Act:
    • It says that “the provisions of this section shall not apply to any farmer for causing air pollution by stubble burning or mismanagement of agricultural residue”,
    • The very next clause says that the commission “may impose and collect environmental compensation from farmers causing air pollution by stubble burning, at such rate and in such manner, as may be prescribed”.
  • The concentration of power with the Central Government.
    • The overwhelming number of bureaucrats in the commission, with “only a token representation” of environmental bodies and non-governmental groups.
  • No civil court will have jurisdiction 
    • To entertain any suit, proceeding or dispute pertaining to or arising out of the actions taken or directions issued by the commission.
    • The orders of the commission can only be contested before the National Green Tribunal.
    • This restricts legal action that can be taken on environmental matters as citizens so far could approach the Supreme Court and other courts directly with these issues.

The Indian Express link-

Question- How far you think can Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas help in curbing the issue of pollution in NCR region?

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