The National Green Tribunal (NGT) disapproved of the submission of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) that 20-30% pollutant reduction under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) seems realistic. The NGT was of the opinion that the said view by the MoEF was against the constitutional mandate wherein right to clean air stands recognized as part of right to life and failure to address air pollution is denial of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
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. The tribunal said the enforcement of the ‘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.
The National Clean Air Programme is an initiative of the Union Environment Ministry to reduce pollution by at least 20% in 102 cities (2017 level). 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.
The bench also remarked that there is no clear monitoring mechanism for enforcement. There is no data on how much pollution has been reduced in the last two years. It also said that Non-Attainment Cities cover cities where standards are not consecutively met for five years. Violation of laid down air pollution levels resulting in large number of deaths and diseases needs to be addressed expeditiously.
The bench, therefore, seeks to enhance collaborative, multi-scale and cross-sectoral coordination between relevant Central Ministries, State Government and local bodies to get necessary data for mitigating the environmental issues and giving effect to the mandate set at the international level for environmental protection.