NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal has slammed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) over its report on the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which proposes a 20-30 per cent reduction of air pollution by 2024. The report, submitted by a committee formed by the MoEFCC, said that a 20-30 per cent reduction in air pollution under the NCAP by 20204 is a realistic goal. The report was quashed by the NGT on grounds of being ‘baseless’. It also said that the MoEFCC’s view is against the constitutional mandate under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
MoEFCC told the Tribunal that in order 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, may be conducted and targets can be updated, if required. A bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson, NGT, said that the Ministry’s stand that pollution cannot be controlled except to the extent of a certain percentage is directly hit by the Constitutional and statutory mandate. “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 bench said.
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. “Under the NCAP, target is to achieve norms in 10 years and reduce load to the extent of 35 per cent in first three years with further reduction of pollution later.
“It means for 10 years pollution will remain unaddressed which is too long period of tolerating violations when clean air is right to life. Further, it is not clear what type of pollutants or all pollutants will be reduced,” the bench said. It added that Non-Attainment Cities (NACs) cover cities where standards are not met for five consecutive years. There is no data on how much pollution has been reduced in the last two years. Infact, in 2019, the number of NACs has increased from 102 to 122.
The bench said that violation of laid down air pollution levels are resulting in large number of deaths and diseases and this needs to be dealt with expeditiously. “Targeted time of reduction of pollution loads needs to be reduced and planned steps need to be sternly implemented on the ground. MoEFCC may take further action as per law,” the bench said.