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 per cent reduction of air pollution by 2024.
The NGT disapproved the submission of MoEF that a Committee upon further deliberation has concluded that 20-30 per cent pollutant reduction under NCAP seems realistic.
It said that MoEF’s view is against the constitutional mandate under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Environment Ministry told the tribunal in order to assess 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 NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said the stand of the MoEF that pollution cannot be controlled except to the extent of certain percent 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 also said that Non-Attainment Cities cover cities where standards are not consecutively met for five years.
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. Infact, in 2019, number of NACs has gone up from 102 to 122, the bench said.
The tribunal said that NCAP for reduction of air pollution does not fully meet the mandate of sustainable development.
Violation of laid down air pollution levels resulting in large number of deaths and diseases needs to be addressed expeditiously.
Targeted time of reduction of pollution loads needs to be reduced and planned steps need to be sternly implemented on the ground. MoEF may take further action as per law, the bench said.