Commission for Air Quality Management in the NCR and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021

Topic

The Commission for Air Quality Management in the NCR and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021

 

Context
The Bill was recently introduced in Lok Sabha. The focus is on better coordination, research, identification and resolution of problems surrounding the air quality index.
• The bill will establish the commission and replace an ordinance.
• The Bill has taken into consideration the concerns of the farmers following several rounds of negotiations, after they had raised concerns of stiff penalties and possible jail terms for stubble burning.

Applicability:
The bill will apply to the NCR and the areas adjoining the NCR in the States of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, where any source of pollution is located, causing adverse impact on air quality in the NCR.

About
The bill provides for the constitution of:
1. The commission for air quality management in NCR and adjoining areas.
2. Three sub-committees to assist the commission, including sub-committee on monitoring and identification; sub-committee on safeguarding and enforcement; and sub-committee on research and development.

Need for the Bill
Sources of air pollution particularly in the NCR consist of a variety of factors which are beyond the local limits. Therefore, a special focus is required on all sources of air pollution which are associated with different economic sectors, including power, agriculture, transport, industry, residential and construction.
• Since air pollution is not a localized phenomenon, the effect is felt in areas even far away from the source, thus creating the need for regional-level initiatives through inter-State and inter-city coordination in addition to multi-sectorial
synchronization.

About the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM):
The Commission was first formed by an ordinance in October 2020.
The erstwhile Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, or
EPCA had been dissolved to make way for the Commission.
• The Commission will be a statutory authority.
• The Commission will supersede bodies such as the central and state pollution control boards of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.

Composition:
Chairperson: To be chaired by a government official of the rank of Secretary or Chief Secretary.
• 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 Organization (ISRO) and Civil Society.

Powers and functions:
1. It will have the powers to issue directions to these state governments on issues pertaining to air pollution.
2. It will entertain complaints as it deems necessary for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the air in the NCR and adjoining areas.
3. It will also lay down parameters for control of air pollution.

4. 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.
5. 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.

Other key provisions of the bill:
1. It has decriminalized the act of stubble burning and withdrawn the clause for possible jail time.
2. It proposed to levy environmental compensation fees on those who are found to be engaged in stubble burning, including farmers.

Status of Delhi Air Quality
Delhi’s air quality deteriorated from ‘moderate’ to ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’ according to the SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research) system of the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences.
• In the World Air Quality report 2020, Delhi has been listed as the 10th most polluted city and the top polluted capital city in the world.
o However, it shows a boost in Delhi’s air quality by approximately 15% from 2019 to 2020.
• In July 2020, Greenpeace (non-governmental organization) found out that of the 28 global cities studied, Delhi bore the highest economic cost of air pollution with an estimated loss of 24,000 lives in the first half of 2020 despite a
strict Covid-19 lockdown.
• Long-term exposure to outdoor and household (indoor) air pollution contributed to over 1.67 million annual deaths from stroke, heart attack, diabetes, lung cancer, chronic lung diseases, and neonatal diseases, in India in 2019 (State
of Global Air 2020).

ABOUT SAFAR
• The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR) is a national initiative introduced by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) to measure the air quality of a metropolitan city, by measuring the overall
pollution level and the location-specific air quality of the city.

• The system is indigenously developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune and is operationalized by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
• It has a giant true color LED display that gives out real-time air quality index on a 24×7 basis with color-coding (along with 72 hours advance forecast).
• The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among the general public regarding the air quality in their city so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up.
• It organizes awareness drive by educating the public (prompting self-mitigation), and
• It also helps the policy-makers to develop mitigation strategies keeping in mind the nation’s economic development.
• SAFAR is an integral part of India’s first Air Quality Early Warning System operational in Delhi.
• It monitors all weather parameters like temperature, rainfall, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction, UV radiation, and solar radiation.
• Pollutants monitored: PM2.5, PM10, Ozone, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Benzene, Toluene, Xylene, and Mercury.
• The World Meteorological Organization has recognized SAFAR as a prototype activity on the basis of the high-quality control and standards maintained in its implementation.
• SAFAR system would benefit cost savings to several other sectors like agriculture, aviation, infrastructure, disaster management, tourism, etc. which directly or indirectly gets affected by air quality and weather.

 

National Air Quality Index (AQI) in India
• AQI was launched in 2014 with outline ‘One Number – One Color -One Description’ for the common man to judge the air quality within his vicinity.
• It has been launched for monitoring the quality of air in major urban centers across the country on a real-time basis and enhancing public awareness for taking mitigative action.
• AQI has six categories of air quality.
These are:
o Good
o Satisfactory

o Moderately Polluted
o Poor
o Very Poor and
o Severe.
The measurement of air quality is based on eight pollutants, namely,
1. Particulate Matter (PM10),
2. Particulate Matter (PM2.5),
3. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2),
4. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2),
5. Carbon Monoxide (CO),
6. Ozone (O3),
7. Ammonia (NH3), and
8. Lead (Pb).