The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has slammed the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) over its report on the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which proposes 20-30% reduction of air pollution by 2024.
The Indian government launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) in January 2019, as a long-term, time-bound, national-level strategy to tackle the air pollution problem across India in a comprehensive manner, with targets 20-30 percent reduction in Particulate Matter 10 (PM10) and PM2.5 concentrations by 2024, keeping 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.
The NGT disapproved the submission of the MoEF that a committee, upon further deliberation, has concluded that 20-30% pollutant reduction under the NCAP seems realistic.
The Environment Ministry told the tribunal that 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 might be conducted and targets updated if required.
A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A.K. Goel said the MoEF’s stand that pollution could not be controlled except to the extent of certain percent was directly hit by the constitutional and statutory mandate.
Failure to address air pollution is denial of right to life: NGT
“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 percent in the 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.
“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.