This article on ‘5 States to answer SC for: Air Pollution Control Measures’ was written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.
Air pollution in India, particularly in the northern states, remains a persistent and alarming concern. Despite various measures taken to curb this menace, the situation continues to deteriorate, adversely affecting the health and quality of life of the citizens. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the Supreme Court of India has recently directed the state governments of Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, UP, and Rajasthan to submit affidavits outlining the steps taken to control air pollution.
This article explores the legal dimensions of this directive, analyzing its potential impact, and examines the broader context of air pollution control measures in India.
This article critically examines the recent directive issued by the Supreme Court of India to five northern states, namely Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (UP), and Rajasthan, requiring them to submit affidavits detailing the steps they have taken to combat air pollution.
The article delves into the complex issue of air pollution in India, particularly in the northern regions, and evaluates the legal and policy measures aimed at mitigating this environmental crisis. In this context, the article analyzes the significance of the Supreme Court’s intervention, discusses the legal and regulatory framework governing air pollution, and assesses the effectiveness of previous measures.
The Supreme Court’s Directive
A three-judge bench led by Justice SK Kaul issued a directive to the five states, instructing them to file affidavits within a week detailing the measures they have implemented to combat air pollution. This directive came in response to the worsening air quality in Delhi and the northern regions, even though various measures have been in place to mitigate air pollution.
Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and PK Mishra identified crop burning as a significant contributor to air pollution in Delhi, emphasizing the urgency of addressing this issue. The Supreme Court had previously requested a report from the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) to assess the steps taken to curb pollution in and around Delhi.
Air Pollution in Northern India
Northern India, particularly Delhi and its surrounding regions, experiences severe air pollution during the winter months. Crop residue burning is a major contributing factor to this environmental crisis. Despite efforts to reduce such burnings, the problem persists, as evidenced by Punjab’s report of 1,068 farm fires in a single day, a record high for the season. The adverse effects of air pollution are evident in Delhi’s air quality index (AQI), which has consistently been in the “very poor” category. The deteriorating AQI reflects the impact on public health and the environment.
Air Quality Index and Classification
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) monitors and publishes AQI data to inform the public about air quality. The AQI is categorized as follows: “good,” “satisfactory,” “moderate,” “poor,” “very poor,” and “severe.” Delhi’s AQI consistently falls in the “very poor” category, with specific areas, such as Rohini, Wazirpur, and Mundka, registering in the “severe” zone with an AQI above 400. The surrounding regions, including Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Gurugram, Noida, and Greater Noida, also face air quality challenges.
The Persistence of Air Pollution
Despite previous efforts to address air pollution in Delhi and the northern regions, the problem persists, and the air quality continues to deteriorate. Slow wind speed at night and a drop in temperatures were cited as factors contributing to the recent deterioration of air quality. According to the Centre’s Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi, the city is expected to remain in the “very poor” category for an extended period.
The Role of the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has actively taken up the issue of air pollution in Delhi, particularly during the winter season when it exacerbates. The top court acknowledged the rising air pollution and crop residue burning, which is a recurring issue, and scheduled a hearing for October 31. In the interim, the Court tasked the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) with filing a report on the measures taken to combat air pollution. Senior advocate Aparajita Singh, who assists the Supreme Court as amicus curiae in a public interest litigation (PIL) related to pollution control, played a pivotal role in highlighting the issue.
Legal Framework for Air Pollution Control
The legal framework governing air pollution control in India is a combination of legislation, policies, and regulations at the central and state levels. The primary legislation addressing this issue is the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, which aims to prevent and control air pollution and improve the quality of air. The Act empowers the central and state pollution control boards to implement measures to achieve these objectives.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) are the regulatory authorities responsible for enforcing the Air Act and related rules. The CPCB is tasked with coordinating activities at the national level, while SPCBs oversee pollution control measures at the state level. Additionally, the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) was established to address the specific challenges of air quality management in the Delhi-NCR region. It has been assigned a key role in coordinating efforts to control air pollution.
The Role of Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been a vital tool in addressing environmental issues, including air pollution. In the case of air pollution in northern India, amicus curiae, appointed by the Supreme Court, play a crucial role in representing the public interest and offering expert advice. Senior Advocate Aparajita Singh’s active involvement in the Supreme Court’s proceedings regarding air pollution underscores the importance of PIL in shaping legal interventions and policies aimed at mitigating air pollution.
The directive issued by the Supreme Court to the states of Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, UP, and Rajasthan represents a significant legal intervention in the ongoing battle against air pollution in northern India. This article has provided a comprehensive overview of the prevailing air pollution crisis, the legal framework in place to combat it, and the role of the Supreme Court and CAQM in addressing the issue. While air pollution remains a formidable challenge, it is through such legal actions, regulatory measures, and public interest litigation that the hope for a cleaner and healthier environment is sustained.
In conclusion, the timely submission of the affidavits by the states and the Supreme Court’s vigilance in monitoring the situation offer prospects for positive changes in the fight against air pollution in the northern regions of India. Addressing this multifaceted challenge requires a collaborative effort from all stakeholders, including the government, regulatory bodies, and civil society. The Supreme Court’s directive, supported by the legal and regulatory framework, is a crucial step in the right direction towards achieving cleaner air and improved public health.
List of References
- ‘SC Asks Delhi, Four Other States to File Affidavits on Steps to Curb Air Pollution’, The Wire, 1 November 2023, available at: https://thewire.in/law/sc-asks-delhi-four-other-states-to-file-affidavits-on-steps-to-curb-air-pollution
- Ashish Tripathi, ‘SC laments air pollution in Delhi, directs 5 states to file affidavits on remedial efforts made by them’, Deccan Herald, 31 October 2023, available at: https://www.deccanherald.com/india/delhi-punjab-haryana-up-rajasthan-asked-to-file-affidavits-on-steps-taken-to-control-air-pollution-2749494