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Proposed Law to Tackle Air Pollution in Delhi-NCR Likely to Be Presented Before Cabinet this Week

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is likely to present the proposed legislation to deal with air pollution in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) before the Union Cabinet this week. The ministry has been working on the proposed legislation in close consultation with the Prime Minister’s Office, senior ministry officials in the know of developments said requesting anonymity.

Earlier on Monday in Supreme Court (SC), Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed Chief Justice SA Bobde’s bench that the Centre is contemplating a new legislation for Delhi-NCR and that it would be ready in four to five days.

At least two sources in the ministry confirmed that the government will not amend the existing Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, and the proposed legislation has been drafted from scratch. Following the union cabinet’s approval, the legislation will be enacted either through the ordinance route or later in the winter session of Parliament. Ministry sources added that a statutory authority specifically in-charge of monitoring and enforcement will be an integral part of this proposed legislation and it will draw powers from Environment Protection Act, 1986. This statutory authority will be multidisciplinary in nature, a senior ministry official said.

On being asked why a separate legislation was needed instead of amending the Air Act, 1981, the ministry official said, “Multiplicity of agencies has become one of the impediments in managing and enforcing decisions related to curbing of air pollution. This statutory authority is proposed with an aim to effect better coordination in implementing policies and anti-pollution measures,” said the senior ministry official.

The senior official was alluding to the role local municipal corporations, Delhi government, central government and the SC-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) play in handling different aspects of implementing anti-pollution measures. Besides the agencies in Delhi, urban local bodies in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan too play a role in implementation of anti-pollution measures. However, ministry sources were not forthcoming on where will members of the statutory authority be drawn from and what will be the penal provisions in the proposed legislation. It was also not clear at this moment if the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for Delhi-NCR that was constituted upon orders of SC will be wound up or it will be subsumed under the new statutory authority.

In the matters of controlling pollution, in the recent past, the government transformed the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) into a statutory authority under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, from a registered society. The NMCG is the implementing agency of the Namami Gange or Clean Ganga Project and making it a statutory authority gave it wide-ranging powers to prevent pollution in the national river.

Under the environment ministry itself, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), a statutory organization already exists, with powers and functions under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air Act, 1981.

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