NGT slams Ministry’s report on clean air programme

MoEF proposes 20-30% reduction of air pollution by 2024

August 25, 2020 11:11 pm | Updated 11:18 pm IST - New Delhi

A view of the Natoinal Green Tribunal in New Delhi. File

A view of the Natoinal Green Tribunal in New Delhi. File

The National Green Tribunal has slammed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) over its report on the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which proposes 20-30% reduction of air pollution by 2024.

The NGT disapproved the submission of the MoEF that a committee, upon further deliberation, has concluded that 20-30% pollutant reduction under the NCAP seems realistic.

It said the MoEF’s view was against the constitutional mandate under Article 21.

The Environment Ministry told the tribunal that to assess the impact of technological and policy interventions on air quality levels, a mid-term nationwide review with the help of identified technical experts might be conducted and targets updated, if required.

A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A.K. Goel said the MoEF’s stand that pollution could not be controlled except to the extent of certain per cent was directly hit by the constitutional and statutory mandate.

Right to Life

Right to Clean Air stood recognised as part of Right to Life and failure to address air pollution was denial of Right to Life, the Bench said.

The tribunal said the enforcement of ‘Sustainable Development’ principle and ‘Public Trust Doctrine’ required stern measures to be adopted to give effect to the mandate of international obligations for which the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and other laws had been enacted.

Under the NCAP, the target was to achieve norms in 10 years and reduce load to the extent of 35% in first three years with further reduction of pollution later.

It meant for 10 years pollution would remain unaddressed which was too long period of tolerating violations when clean air was Right to Life. Further, it was not clear what type of pollutants or all pollutants would be reduced, the Bench said.

It also said that Non-Attainment Cities (NACs) cover cities where standards were not consecutively met for five years.

No data

“What about other cities. It is not clear as to what is monitoring mechanism for enforcement. There is no data how much pollution has been reduced in the last two years. In fact, in 2019, the number of NACs has gone up from 102 to 122,” the Bench said.

The tribunal said the NCAP for reduction of air pollution did not fully meet the mandate of sustainable development.

Violation of laid down air pollution levels resulting in large number of deaths and diseases needed to be addressed expeditiously.

Targeted time of reduction of pollution loads needed to be reduced and planned steps needed to be sternly implemented on the ground. The MoEF might take further action as per law, the Bench said.

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