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 MoEF told the tribunal that to assess the impact of technological and policy interventions on air quality levels, a midterm 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 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.

Apart from this, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) also directed to establish 175 air quality monitoring centres across the country within six months. The Tribunal directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to monitor this work from time to time by meeting online with the member secretaries, chairpersons of state pollution boards or other authorities. He added that work in this regard can start in a month and the State Pollution Control Board can use the funds available under the ‘Consent System, Environmental Compensation’ (EC) for this.

“It will be preferable that out of the above, 25 stations are set up by CPCB/State PCBs/PCCs jointly (with CPCB financing out of its EC funds), following an appropriate procedure to ensure best price and quality,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel noted.

What is the National Clean Air Program?

In April 2018, the environment ministry released a draft of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). This is a comprehensive and time-bound five-year program for the prevention of air pollution. It will focus on all sources of pollution and coordination between the concerned central ministries, state governments, local bodies and other stakeholders. Its main goal is to work for the prevention, control and elimination of air pollution. To tackle the severe air pollution in most cities of the country, a target has been set to clean the air of 102 polluted cities in the next five years under this nationwide scheme of the Ministry of Environment. An estimated national target of reducing the PM 2.5 and PM10 particles in the air by 20 to 30 per cent too has been kept, considering 2017 as the base year.