- Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to modify the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which proposes 20-30% reduction of air pollution by 2024.
- The timeline to reduce air pollution by 20-30% by 2024 needs to be reduced.
- The target of reduction needs to be increased.
- It suggested the Ministry to review and action in terms of shift to e-vehicles and CNG vehicles, intensifying public transport system, mechanical cleaning of roads, enhancement of public parking facilities, improvement in fuel quality, and traffic management.
- It directed the state pollution control boards to ensure the assessment and installation of the requisite number of real-time online continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Systems within six months.
- It also directed an expert team of the Central Pollution Control Board to design a model for source apportionment and carrying capacity assessment within two months which may be replicated for all the non-attainment cities.
- Right to clean air stands recognized as part of right to life and failure to address air pollution is denial of right to life.
- The tribunal said the enforcement of ‘Sustainable Development’ principle and ‘Public Trust Doctrine’ require stern measures to be adopted to give effect to the mandate of international obligations for which the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and other laws have been enacted.
Back to basics
National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
- It was launched by the MoEFCC in January 2019.
- It is the first-ever effort in the country to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
- It seeks to cut the concentration of coarse (particulate matter of diameter 10 micrometer or less, or PM10) and fine particles (particulate matter of diameter 2.5 micrometer or less, or PM2.5) by at least 20% in the next five years, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
- The plan includes 102 non-attainment cities, across 23 states and Union territories, which were identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.
- Non-attainment cities: These are those that have fallen short of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for over five years.
National Green Tribunal
- Established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
- The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
- The Tribunal’s dedicated jurisdiction in environmental matters shall provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts.
- The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavour for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same.
- Initially, the NGT is proposed to be set up at five places of sittings and will follow circuit procedure for making itself more accessible.
- New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai shall be the other four places of sitting of the Tribunal.
- The NGT deals with civil cases under the seven laws related to the environment, these include: The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977, The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 and The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 have been kept out of NGT’s jurisdiction.
- The Tribunal comprises of the Chairperson, the Judicial Members and Expert Members. They shall hold office for term of five years and are not eligible for reappointment.
- The Chairperson is appointed by the Central Government in consultation with Chief Justice of India (CJI).