President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday signed an ordinance to set up a commission to monitor the air quality in Delhi and its neighbouring states, Live Law reported. Non-compliance with the orders and provisions of the commission will attract a jail term of up to five years or a fine of Rs 1 crore or both.
The ordinance was signed a day before the Supreme Court’s hearing on air pollution, according to NDTV.
The commission will be tasked with research and the identification and solution of problems related to air pollution. It will replace the Environment Pollution and Prevention Control Authority as the top body for monitoring air quality.
The 18-member commission will have representatives from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana. It will be headed by a government official of the rank of secretary or chief secretary, who will be chosen by the Centre. The commission will also include the secretary of the Ministry of Environment and five other secretary or chief secretary-level officials. They will be ex-officio members, or members by right of the office they hold elsewhere.
The commission will monitor stubble burning, dust pollution and vehicular emissions. It will also submit annual reports to the Parliament, according to News18.
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On Monday, the top court had suspended the appointment of a committee to monitor stubble burning, after the Centre promised to create a permanent body through legislation to battle air pollution in Delhi and its neighbouring states. The Supreme Court had appointed retired Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur as the head of the committee.
The air quality of Delhi-NCR typically deteriorates massively in the winter. Earlier this month, the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority had asked the Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments to be ready to shut down thermal power plants that do not meet requirements laid down in 2015. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had urged Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar to hold monthly meetings on pollution with the chief ministers of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.
In October, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee had banned the use of electricity generator sets of all capacities – whether running on diesel, petrol or kerosene – in order to curb the pollution. The committee had also declared the whole of the Union Territory of Delhi as an Air Pollution Control Area.
In November last year, the top court had passed a slew of directions to check air pollution. The court had asked Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to formulate a plan to purchase stubble, ensure it is not burnt anymore, and make the entire state administration responsible to combat air pollution. It had also ordered the states to pay small and marginal farmers an incentive of Rs 100 per quintal to handle the residue of non-Basmati rice crops.